Friday, May 7, 2010

The Ghost of Terrorism in Yemen, by Fahmia al Fotih'

The whole Yemeni society was rocked last week when a high-school graduate blew himself up in front of the British ambassador convoy. Thank God that the ambassador was not hurt—only three passersby were slightly injured. It might be true that such a horrific act is not the first of its kind in Yemen, but the reactions of Yemeni people were outraged by such a crime that is considered a new phenomenon for Yemenis.

This looming act has occupied all the daily newspapers, TV and Radio programs, and even in ordinary people's chit-chats. Indeed, it has replaced and put off the heated debates on child brides issue that have been the most controversial topic in Yemen for weeks.

The attack was condemned nationwide by all the Yemeni society segments alike. I still remember my grandma' reaction: she held her head between her hands and exclaimed, "That young boy must be insane! He is going to hell!" At the moment, a group of students have started touring seven governorates to raise awareness about the threat that terrorism is posing among youth.

It might be true that the violent act was not the first of its kind in Yemen, but in a way it was surprising. People here were all caught up in and overwhelmed by their own problems, which has forced them to unconsciously forget about al-Qaeda and terrorists. But such time-to-time violent acts come to wake them up and remind them about the ghost that haunts us and which is more fatal!!

Until now, nobody has claimed the responsibility of the attack despite the fact that Yemeni security bodies have confirmed that the attack had al-Qaeda style. But I doubt that as first, the attacker had primitive explosive materials and second, we did not hear anything from al-Qaeda. If it was al-Qaeda, they would be boasting about it!!! It is not al-Qaeda style!! That increases our fears and worries.

Even more, it becomes obvious that it is difficult to identify what a terrorist looks like! I was staring into the photo of the young suicide bomber examining his facial features in attempt to find criminal hints. I have always thought that criminals and terrorists have “bad guy” marks and that they could be more or less recognized by their facial expressions and characteristics (I guess I am very much influenced by the bad guys in Hollywood movies). But Othman's face, the suicide bomber, had the same innocent features that I see in the majority of young people of his age! Carrying the school bag and pretending to jog had added more innocence to his character on the day of attack. That is why, I think, the master terrorists chose him for this dreadful act.

I have been reading and reading all the news related to Othman’s life and trying to analyze all stories that talked about Othman’s life. He excelled in his studies (usually terrorists tend to target and recruit smart young people). His father said that he did not know his son's friends and Othman used to spend periods away from home. It seems that there was a stage when there was no communication between the son and his parents. With whom did Othman stay in Marib, where he was supposedly trained as a terrorist? How did he end up in Marib? For sure, Othman must have gone through stages of radicalization. If a correct intervention was made at any stage, Othman might have not chosen the radical path that led to death. Othman's friends say that he did not have the guts to kill a fly!!! How was he then able to go and explode himself? Othman, according to the news, did not trigger the explosive but somebody else did it from far away.

Yet still I feel there is something missing and nobody can explain except for the ones who were close to him, like his mother. I am curious to meet his mother and learn more about him. It is essential to know and study the details and lives of these suicide bombers so we can learn how to protect more young people.

Without a doubt, there are many factors intertwined here. It is not just the family role here, there is also Othman's institute, which happens to be AL-Eman University, which is believed to be the extremists' academia. Was it a coincidence? It was reported that even the department which Othman was attending is teaching Islamic teachings and Shara'iah! The violent act carried out by one of its graduates has nothing to do with Islam. One of the core teachings of Islam is that life is valued, and taking one's own life is one of the biggest sins. Besides, the one who kills himself is guilty of a big crime.

There are ample misunderstandings about jihad and about Islam, and the majority of mosques reinforce these misconceptions. Add to that an educational curriculum that is full of jihad and calling for violence instead of highlighting the peaceful side of Islam that calls for tolerance and respecting the other. There is a dire need for overall reform for our school curricula, and our mosques need open-minded and tolerant preachers.

Yemenis already have enough problems and such violent acts only worsen the situation and make it more complicated. Strengthening security measures and carrying preemptive actions are not enough to dry up the terrorism sources and end up radicalization.

The attack of course has spread fear and terror among the foreigners as well as Yemenis but at the same time this case poses a number of question marks and challenges. Parents find themselves in a puzzle. Some wonder what the hell makes these young people finish their lives in a second at an age when they are just blossoming! Most importantly, parents start to seriously question how they can protect their young and their beloved ones from the ghost of terrorism and from falling in the hands of terrorists! Many questions that just leave one wondering: when will the day come when we can all live in a terror-free world?


  1. Already very sad, especially as the person who carried out the attack suicide a young man he has no sin except that he was brainwashed ideas of extremism

  2. Please excuse me for my ignorance; but WHY are the Yemen reacting violently towards the British? Oppression? Discrimination?

  3. Please excuse my ignorance; but why are the British being targeted now? Is discrimination so bad in Yemen? I understand women are oppressed, how about the men?

  4. Dear, sorry you cannot say YEMEN... there are just few stupid brainwashed people whose actions have tarnished Yemen reputation!! Yemenis are friendly people with other people from different cultures, religions and colors!
    You can ask many British, Americans or any other nationalities who have lived in Yemen, they would give you a clear picture about Yemen and its people. At the moment, there are many British and American citizens who roam Sana'a streets and enjoy being in Yemen.

    I cannot say it is a discrimination at all and I cannot tell that British are targets by terrorists! The violent and terrorist acts do not differentiate between American or British, and between Muslims or Christians. In many terrorist acts you would find victims from different nationalities, cultures and religions! Yemenis are victims of such violent acts as well!
    If it comes to discrimination, you could see some incidents in Europe as well when Muslims are targeted. I do not know if you heard about the Egyptian young lady who was murdered at a Germany court by a fanatic!! You could see many blatant examples here and there ! However, as educated people who have to be more sensible and we have to look for solutions and ways to live together in a harmony and in a free-terror world.
    I would recommend you to read more about terrorism to know why they carried such actions and how they justify their acts. Please be mindful these acts are taking place everywhere and please do not focus on Muslims actions but terrorism is there everywhere and in different shapes!

  5. a really interesting and in- depth analysis , all the best. Arshi


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