Yemen Must Not Fall into the Trap of Identity Politics
National Yemen, September 14th 2014
Ideological policies predominated during the Cold War. At that time, the world was quite literally divided in two camps. The Western allies espoused a free market economy and private property, while the Eastern Bloc favored central planning and joint ownership. The struggle between the two ended with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and ultimately, the Soviet Union.
Numerous politicians and political scientists declared the collapse of the Soviet Union to be the definitive victory of capitalism. In their eyes, communism had now been absolutely vanquished and there was no longer any obstacle to the hegemony of democracy and capitalism. Yet many subsequent events showed that this prediction was untrue. Policies of identity rather than policies of ideologies became the source of tensions between countries.
Political identity is a term used to describe those policies intended to build a "pure and specific" identity in a country or region. Resistance to this policy implemented in a country as a whole can also be evaluated within the scope of political identity. The basic element in political identity may sometimes be based on ethnic differences and sometimes on religious or sectarian ones yet the best course of action is not to keep different identities separate, but to build a civilization in which they can all co-exist within a just order.
Events in Catalonia and the Basque region of Spain or in Northern Italy can also be analyzed under the heading of political identity.
A similar state of affairs applies in Yemen. Despite President Hadi's suggestions for the Houthis to end their protests, the Houthis' demand for five ministries in a new Cabinet to be established is yet another example of this desire. The demand for different identities to be equally represented in the administration is a legitimate one, although it is wrong to seek to make this a tool for conflict and seek to achieve legitimate democratic demands through undemocratic means.
People who engage in politics of identity prefer to live in a relatively weakened state as a community based on one single characteristic rather than joining forces under different identities. That difference in perspective means that policies of identity that have multiplied since the years of the Cold War have constantly created fresh spheres of conflict. For example, the Serbs in Bosnia, the Basques in Spain and the PKK in Turkey represent the main figures in the conflicts taking place.
It is in fact impossible for identity politics to fully achieve their aims, because human societies are not made up of indistinguishable individuals like the atoms in a table. The Southeast of Turkey is not entirely Kurdish: Arabs and Turks also constitute a major part of the population in the region and all of them lived together for centuries, and ethnic divisions disappeared. The same thing applies to Yemen. Many Sunni Arabs live in those areas where Houthis are in the majority. Even if people living in a region have the same ethnic or sectarian make-up, this does not mean that these differences have been eliminated. The great majority of people living in Southeast Turkey do not support the separatist Marxist Kurds, and those who do support them only tend do so at gunpoint; likewise, it is also not possible to say that all the Zaidis in Yemen support the Houthi movement.
As we have seen, it is unrealistic to promise peace or tranquility to a region by concentrating on ethnic or sectarian characteristics. Conflicts engaged in for regional divisions simply and inevitably cause further conflicts once separation has taken place.
The Different Identities and Groups In Yemen
The Southern Movement was opposed to the unification of Yemen in 1990 and aims to revive the former South Yemen. The Southern Movement brought many people out into the streets in cities in Southern Yemen such as Aden.
Houthis and Ansar Allah
This group was founded by a group of young men who called themselves "The Believing Youth." The movement began in 1992, and is supported by the Shiite Zaidiyyah tribes of Yemen, who comprise one in five of the population.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
It has been one of the most active Islamic groups for many years. The group has committed many deadly attacks against the Yemeni security forces.
Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi
He was chosen as the president for a transitional period in 2012. Following the seizure of Hadi's presidential palace in Sana'a by the Houthis, Hadi moved to Aden.
The Islaah Movement
It combines tribal and Islamic interests. It spread all over Yemen, and had gained a lot of influence during the transition period. However, much of this power was lost with the rise of the Houthis.
Ali Abdullah Saleh
President of North Yemen from 1978 to 1990; and first President of Yemen. He was forced to leave public office in 2011 by means of public demonstrations, yet he remained in office until 2012.
Countries frequently enter into conflict with separatist forces for that reason, and these conflicts can last many years. Seeking a solution in armed struggle alone leads to heavy material losses and casualties.
Political identities are not enough to bring justice, peace, security and wealth to the north of Yemen because no matter how much they consist of people with a similar identity, it is always possible for even further divisions to appear within those identities. Conflict is just as probable within the north of Yemen as it is in Yemen as a whole. Moreover, even though they are made up of the same ethnicities or sects, there are also several impoverished communities in conflict with one another.
People being of good conscience prevents them from discriminating on the basis of ethnic origins or beliefs and the only way to be of good conscience is faith. Only people who have faith can always act in the light of their conscience. There is only one solution to the injustice, conflict, terror, killing, poverty and oppression in Yemen – the moral values of the Qur'an.
Looking in general terms at the problems in Yemen and the rest of the world, all these things are clearly the result of feelings such as lovelessness, ruthlessness, enmity, hatred and self-interest, not to mention a lack of rationality. The way to totally eliminate these negative attitudes lies in understanding and forgiveness, and acting with good common-sense and reason. It also lies in establishing such pleasant virtues as love, affection, compassion and altruism firmly in the society. These features only belong to people who fully comply with the moral values of the Qur'an.