Fundamentalists have taken over Yemeni revolution, activist

'Against national dialogue but dream lives on', Arwa Abdo Othman

23 June, 13:23

    Some partecipants to the seminar in Rome, with Nobel Karman witha yellow scarf in the center Some partecipants to the seminar in Rome, with Nobel Karman witha yellow scarf in the center

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - The Yemeni human rights activist Arwa Abdo Othman spoke to ANSAmed in an interview on Friday about the situation in her country, three years after an uprising against President Ali Abdallah Saleh.

    ''The demands of the revolution have unfortunately become those of others: terrorism, tribes, sheikhs, and all the armed groups and militias that took to the streets in the name of the revolution,'' she said. Othman participated in a seminar this week on cooperation between Italy and Yemen on women's rights in the country's new Constitution. ''I took part in the protests even prior to 2011,'' she said, ''when the youth took to the streets to demand and claim their rights to life, change, a civil state and citizenship without any discrimination, human right: a dream that is still alive.'' Nevertheless, she continued, ''in the streets prior to March 1,2011, fundamentalist groups entered the scene and - right in front of me - Abdul Majeed al-Zindani (considered a terrorist by the US, Ed.) from the Reform fundamentalist party came in with his armed militias.'' ''He spoke in front of thousands of protestors,'' she said, ''saying that there isn't a state, that there is an Islamic caliphate, and that every change must come from the Sharia. This basically meant Islamicizing the revolution and change. This man - who is on the list of the most wanted terrorists in the world - is now in Yemen and is holding a conference against the national dialogue.'' For almost a year until January 2014, the dialogue involved all Yemen's political parties and civil society interested in a joint process working towards a new Constitution, which a draft is now being worked on that is expected to come out in September and subsequently be put to a referendum. ''But the national dialogue has the will to change,'' underscored Arwa Abdo Othman, who called the armed militias and fundamentalists ''bandits, thieves and assassins that speak about the revolution as if it were a sacred right from God.'' The last three years have been a very difficult period in Yemen. After the ousting of former president Ali Abdallah Saleh in 2011, months of protests and clashes occurred between the various factions of armed forces and tribal militias. A lengthy crisis led to the weakening of central power and a strengthening of not only the militias linked to Al-Qaeda but also the separatists in the south and Shia Zaidi rebels in the north.

    Among the Yemenis attending the seminar - sponsored by the Minerva association and Law International with support from the Italian foreign ministry - Arwa Abdo Othman stood out for the fact that she was not wearing a headscarf and was dressed in Western attire. She said that the reason was that she is ''from Tais, a civilized area of Yemen. I do not wear a veil because I am very well educated. I studied philosophy and I love the arts, and so I made my choice. But you don't run the sort of risk that you might think. At the most you are criticized. My three daughters don't wear headscarves either, and they have the same problem, since the Islamicization of society forces woman to wear only black and to behave in a single way. You find it even in education in schools, in which women's faces and hands are a source of shame.'' (ANSAmed).

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