Two Countries Geographically Far Apart But Very Close in Heart and Soul: Yemen and Turkey
National Yemen, February 23rd 2014
Yemen has never been far from Turkey. Even when the Ottoman Empire collapsed, Yemen was close enough to express its loyalty to Istanbul. Despite their long and common history, Yemen and Turkey are today two separate countries. They have different political experiences and state structures. The problems they face and the solutions they produce are also therefore very different from one another. What is not different is the two people's feelings for one another: Love and affection. These feelings of course stem from both countries being Muslim.
Yemen occupies a privileged position in Islamic territory. Yemen is like a small laboratory; almost all the problems facing Islamic countries can be found there. So what happens in Yemen is of close concern to Turkey.
Yemen experienced its share of colonialism, it has had an experience of communism, and communist elements are still active. Arab socialists, nationalists, racists and groups with a singularly fanatical conception of Islam seem to be prevailing in the country's politics. Of course there are also foreign powers taking an interest in Yemen because of its strategic position.
Struggles between tribes and sectarianism threaten the integrity of the country. The country has natural gas and petrol, but cannot benefit from them sufficiently. On the one hand, the people desire greater freedom and democracy, while on the other they want the country to be governed better.
Yemen is like a crystal vase that is now in full view having been kept hidden away in a chest for years; a very well worked and decorated, but very fragile, vase. Since it is now in the open there is a high probability of it being struck and damaged. So how can that valuable vase be protected against potentially damaging blows without spoiling its beauty?
There is a strong demand for secession from the Southern Movement that was founded in 2007. The Southern Movement wishes to secede from the north on the grounds that "the national resources of the south have been exploited by governments that have come to power." The Spanish region of Catalonia, and Pandia in Italy, want to secede from their respective countries for the same reasons. Based on the framework of the EU and their strong democracies, Italy and Spain are keeping these demands for secession under control. In Yemen there is a factor that is far more influential than those mechanisms: Islam. If the rulers abide by the norms of the kind of moral values that God wants from Muslims, even if they come from different sects or tribes or hold different political opinions, such demands will disappear of their own accord.
"God commands you to return to their owners the things you hold on trust and, when you judge between people, to judge with justice. How excellent is what God exhorts you to do! God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing." (Surat an-Nisa', 58)
Another problem threatening Yemen is conflict stemming from sectarianism. Conflict between the Shiite Houthi tribe and Zaidis and Sunnis is a particular problem. The Yemeni administration tries to resolve this through security measures, and sometimes even by the use of force. However, the most effective thing to do will be to remind the sides that the Qur'an commands believers to treat all people, even with whom there are hostilities, in a pleasant manner. It is a grave error for some Muslims to attack one another with rage and hatred despite this explicit command revealed by God in verse 34 of Surat al-Fussilat. Muslims must at once make good that error by renouncing sectarian differences and be united in the way God commands. God reveals in the Qur'an that Muslims must act together as a single community:
"Hold fast to the rope of God all together, and do not separate. Remember God's blessing to you when you were enemies and He joined your hearts together so that you became brothers by His blessing. You were on the very brink of a pit of the Fire and He rescued you from it. In this way God makes His signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will be guided." (Surah Al 'lmr'an, 103)
Another vital problem for Yemen is tribalism. Yemen has many more tribes when compared with other Arab countries, and there are serious conflicts among them: It is even possible to say they operate as autonomous states among themselves. Indeed, someone from one tribe will not be allowed to work in a facility owned by another; this of course has a negative impact in economic and political terms. Yet Almighty God, Who creates the members of all tribes, reveals that superiority lies not in being a member of a particular tribe, but in fearing Him:
"Mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other. The noblest among you in God's Sight is the one with the most fear of God. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware." (Surat al-Hujurat, 13)
Radical elements that make their presence felt in many countries are also a serious threat in Yemen. Radical elements threaten not only internal peace through their actions, but also provide justification for drone attacks by the USA.
The false religion espoused by fanaticism is one of savagery. Nobody can freely express his opinions in such a climate; people who hold such extreme views expect others to adopt their ideas and they punish those who hold dissenting views. Yet God explicitly reveals in the Qur'an that "there is no compulsion where the religion is concerned" (Surat al-Baqara, 256). It is therefore very important for the Yemen state to tell its people that Islam is a religion that espouses freedom of thought, worship and ideas, that protects the rights of all and that, most importantly, builds true liberty for everyone.
Until recently, similar problems Yemen has faced were also being experienced at full intensity in Turkey. However, there has been a marked economic improvement and rapid growth in Turkey over the last decade. The government is bringing in various rights and freedoms intended to win over our Kurdish citizens, who represent a significant part of the population. Similar measures are also being brought in regarding our Alawite brothers, a minority compared to the Sunnis. The Turkish government's determination on democracy and freedoms is bringing peace and tranquility to the country and drawing it closer to Europe.
The main factor making all these policies possible is that Turkey has a modern, in other words, correct conception of Islam that is instrumental in people of different faiths and sects successfully living together as one. These successes of Turkey's stand as an alternative model to the false conception of Islam that prevails in fanaticism. There is no doubt that this successful model can be a guide for Yemen with various problems being faced. A prosperous Yemen that has established political stability, that is devout and also modern, and that values art and science will be a source of pride and joy for all Turks as well.