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11. March 2010

People Need Alternatives

Yemen: Nadia al Saqqaf is the only female editor-in-chief in a country dominated by men. She believes that Yemen needs to be saved from Al Qaeda.

By Livia Klingl
Nadia al Saqqaf is 33 years old, and has a daughter, a Jordanian husband, and no social life. Yemen, her home country and the poorest on the Arabian Peninsula, is far too traditional for her liking. The Kurier interviewed the humorous expert on security issues in Vienna.

Kurier: What is your assessment of your country?
Nadia al Saqqaf: Yemen was isolated for a long time. There is a political tendency to isolate the people from their future and their surroundings.

Because it is easier to govern isolated people who are kept in the dark?
Definitely. Yemen is tribal. The tribes are only interested in their immediate surroundings. If they were interested in the world, they would be more civilized. That would pose a number of challenges to those in power.

Is Yemen on its way to becoming a failed state?
There has been a great deal of speculation that Yemen will be the next Somalia. I doubt that. But now is certainly the most dangerous moment, because we are facing so many problems simultaneously, in addition to a weak state.

You mean the Sa’ada War in the Northwest; the southern part of the country that wants to secede; the terrorism that is bringing tourism to a standstill; and a million refugees from Somalia?
The southern movement was much stronger in the early 1990s, during the civil war. The northern Houthi rebellion is peaking; they have been fighting for years. Both sides are weak, then they recover, and then they go to war again. It is different today in the sense that earlier, there were no intermittent periods of healing. The number of displaced persons grew, and the infrastructure was increasingly damaged.

The USA and Saudi Arabia were also involved.
Their involvement is very artificial. Saudi Arabia came on board because the Houthis moved into Saudi territory to internationalize the war. Since 2004, the Houthis have never received international attention for their issues, and President Saleh always said that they were only of national concern.

Who gives money and weapons to the Houthis?

Analysts say that the money comes from Iran. They get weapons from the warlords, who are even present in the government. The government created the Houthis. It is the same as when the US faced the USSR as an enemy, and they invented Bin Laden. Then you have to feed the self-created group, or it will turn against you.
Our President used the Salafis, whose leader worked with Osama bin Laden and who presumably still works with Al Qaeda, against the Houthis, who belong to another sect of Islam. Sometimes he uses the socialists against the Islamists.

How many followers and camps does Al Qaeda have in Yemen?
Those figures are not publicized, but the decision-makers most certainly have them. The President’s half-brother oversees a camp in Sa’ada. He trained a number of Yemeni jihadists, and he received them after they returned from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Chechnya. Everybody knew about it, including the Americans.
One of the West’s biggest misinterpretations is that Al Qaeda is stronger today than it was before. In 2001, everyone named their son Osama. But when the people realized what kind of influence Al Qaeda had on their lives by killing tourists and the subsequent collapse of their businesses, everything changed. Today, the people say that it is ruining us. We want modernization.

What was the community of states supposed to achieve in Yemen?
There was an article in the New York Times that described how the President only cares about himself and his family. That’s correct! The international community and the donors should be somewhat ashamed of themselves. They should support the country, not the regime. They should view Yemen as a nation, not as ruling individuals. The West in particular supported the corrupt government, instead of avoiding them and working with civil society, the private sector, and NGOs. Why do the Yemenis chew qat (a drug) for six hours every day? Because they have nothing better to do.

SAVE, Sisters Against Violent Extremism
Women Who Protect Their Sons from Extremism

SAVE, the first female counter-terrorism platform, invited sixteen female security experts—from Northern Ireland to Pakistan—to Vienna to take part in a conference. The goal is to identify methods for providing alternative paths to those which include the bombing of as many people as possible to young men without perspective.
Growing numbers of men are getting involved in the initiative, says Edit Schlaffer, a social scientist and chairperson of the organization “Women without Borders”: “The women’s movement began through its work combating domestic violence. Twenty years later we can move the struggle from the home to the street” in the search for solutions to extremism and violent conflict.
Among other things, SAVE works on media campaigns against violent extremism. Women must be activated to exert influence on at times extremely violence-prone youth. SAVE further seeks to take advantage of New Media, which Al Qaeda also employs to recruit new members.

To read the German orginal in the Austrian newspaper "Kurier", please click on the link below.


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