"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The big story

Obviously, the big on-going story is the fighting in Hawta between the government and al-Qaeda.  Anwar al-Awlaki may or may not be trapped, depending on who you believe less.  There have been casualties on both sides.  I don't think we'll know the full story of this battle for a couple of weeks.  Right now, it looks as if it may be a hinge moment, but those moments are recognizable only in retrospect, and what seems important now may end up being nothing.  We've been down this road before, so I don't want to jump to any huge conclusions.

But one undeniably interesting story is this, from The Yemen Observer.

A Yemeni tribal sheikh  said Tuesday  that  al-Qaeda fighters who are being cornered in a mountainous area  in   southern Yemen  threatened to kill him if he did not stop  trying to  negotiate with them.

“ I tried to contact with them for negotiations, but they told me to  stay away  from them, and they said they would kill me to closer to Allah (God) if I do not stop trying to talk to them,”   Sheikh Hassan Ba Hanhan of Al Huta said.

Again, this shows how little respect AQAP has for some Yemeni norms, even as it seeks to use others to solidify itself.  Right now, I am unsure if these threats come from a position of strength or weakness.  My instinct says weakness.  I think the ferocity of the fighting may have taken them off guard.  Another interesting part of that story is this:
Yaslem Bajanoob, chairman of the local council of Mayfa’a,  said that some people are hesitant to leave  their houses and properties because they are afraid of plundering and looting acts if the army storms the village.

Bajanoob said that the tribesmen held meetings today Tuesday and warned from any looting and plundering of their houses and properties.

Many complications in these battles.  Memories of the army looting and stealing after the 1994 war are still fresh.  Even the most secular Southerner, overjoyed at the destruction of fanatics, also is wary of the army.   I think that people tend not to want to project the messiness of their own lives to other countries.  Looking abroad, we tend to see enemy or friend, without knowing how the two can overlap, even though we see that in our politics all the time.   In Yemen, an enemy of AQAP can also be an enemy of Salih.  We have to embrace complexity instead of ignoring it. 


  1. Could you explain this part of the post: "this shows how little respect AQAP has for some Yemeni norms, even as it seeks to use others to solidify itself"?
    Is negotiating a Yemini norm? Tribal based or something? And who were you refering to as the "others" used?
    Just when I think I'm understanding this whole thing, I get confused a little more...

  2. I think what Brian is meaning here is that as tribal order is one of the key pillar oy Yemeni life, AQAP is just crazy to threaten to kill a tribal leader... Other tribes would neither do that as they know that they would open a "revenge circle" by taking this action... Yeah AQAP might know the rules but it doesn't want to play according to them.


  3. Gotcha. Thanks. That makes sense.