Thu, May 16, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Yemen emerging as unlikely Arab Spring role model

By Thomas Friedman  /  NY Times News Service, SANA’A

No party was absolutely “defeated,” Yememi Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohy al-Dhabbi said.

It gave everyone a stake in the democracy transition and “allowed for everyone to give concessions,” he said.

It also allowed time for women and the youths who started the revolution “to all get involved politically before the elections,” added Aidrous Bazara, a businessman in the dialogue.

Now no one party “can steal” the revolution, he said.

That has been reinforced by the recent decision of new Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to professionalize the army, starting by purging Saleh’s relatives from the intelligence agency and the elite Yemeni Republican Guard.

Yemen is a National Rifle Association paradise. It seems as if every Yemeni man owns a gun and many walk around with daggers in their belts. Yet this country may end up having the most extensive Arab awakening dialogue, with relatively few casualties — so far. It is a reminder for Syria’s rebels that better guns may be needed to topple their dictator, but, without a culture of inclusion, it will all be for naught.

Jamila Rajaa, a woman participating in the dialogue, told me that she still worries that some old parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are happy to let the dialogue distract the country, while they are feverishly working the streets to cultivate votes to win the election in order to dominate the next Yemeni government.

Some modern Yemeni women see how the Muslim Brotherhood is ruling in Egypt when it comes to women, and they want their own Islamists to go through a mindset shift before assuming any power.

It is all part of the dialogue — why it is really hard and why it has to succeed, otherwise, as a recent United States Institute of Peace report warned: “Yemen risks falling backward into open conflict.”

The good news is that for now, a lot of Yemenis really want to give politics a chance — you have to root for them.

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