Friday, January 29, 2010

"A New Alliance Against Terror Cells" by Dr. Edit Schlaffer

Our fear of terrorism has once again caught up with us. It takes only one radical, who carries out his meticulous plans with deadly determination, to blow up the carefully constructed structure of secret intelligence and security measures. 

It is interesting to note the immediate reactions to the newest attempt to attack a passenger plane en route to Detroit. They include strict security measures from full-body x-rays to the expansion of the flight ban for those on the terror watch list. But: we all know that our security is not guaranteed, nor are the terror experts trying to reassure us. The images from a US training video that depict how the amount of powder Umar Abdulmutallab had hidden in his underclothes could blow up a Boeing in a matter of seconds will haunt us for a long time to come. At the very latest, they will reappear during our next overseas flight.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Empower Women to Counter Extremism, Say Activists: SAVE Sisters on the Front Page of the Yemen Times

The Yemen Times, the first and most-read English language newspaper in Yemen, recently published the following article on its front page. The article talks about the SAVE Yemen meeting that recently took place in Sana'a in collaboration with Reporters Without Chains. The Yemen Times accurately captured the spirit of SAVE: that women want to be involved in fighting terrorism and will become active agents for change if only they are given the chance. Our task is to make women's involvement in counterterrorism a reality.

SANA’A, JAN. 24 — Although women are the most vulnerable to extremists in Yemen, their voices are the least likely to be heard and their role in fighting terrorism is restricted by social and legal status, say human rights activists.

On Thursday, Sisters Against Violent Extremism (SAVE Yemen) brought together a group of women representing human rights groups, academic institutions, the press, and university students to discuss how Yemeni women can be involved in the fight against extremism and terrorism.

“The whole world is focusing on Yemen and terrorism right now, but the true Yemenis have no voice. People are talking about Yemen, but no one knows what Yemenis think or how they feel,” said Fahmia Al-Fotih, SAVE Yemen coordinator.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

News from SAVE Yemen's Second Chapter Meeting

Recently, terrorist acts and the increased presence of Al-Qaeda in Yemen have attracted the attention of the world, and Yemen is in the headlines of world media more than ever. Yemen today has become more closely associated with terrorism and extremism and as a haven for al-Qaeda. This has alerted the international community, which plans to hold a conference in London at the end of this month to discuss "Yemen and Terrorism."

In light of these events, the voices and point of views of Yemeni people, whose lives, security, and country stability are fundamentally threatened by terrorism, are missing and not heard. 

"Death, Be Not Proud" by Ali Khan Mahmudabad

Submitted by Archana Kapoor
Previously published in The Times of India, January 21, 2010

Death, Be Not Proud:
The Use Of Suicide Bombing Has No Theological Support

Suicide attacks have been used in history by various cultures, and the motivation has not always been religious. Germans, Japanese, Sri Lankans and Vietnamese have used suicide attacks as a weapon in war but, in popular imagination, suicide attacks are irrevocably and primarily associated with Islamist militancy. The death tolls of suicide attacks have been rising exponentially and recent times perhaps have been the bloodiest in Pakistan's history. This has forced members of the ulema to address the problem of suicide attacks according to Islamic jurisprudence. Jurists have come out to unequivocally state that this form of fighting is absolutely impermissible.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Latest From Yemen: An Interview with Nadia Al-Sakkaf, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Yemen Times

Women without Borders recently conducted an interview with Nadia Al-Sakkaf, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Yemeni Times and a member of SAVE Yemen. Al-Sakkaf has been internationally recognized with the first Gebran Tueni Award for journalistic integrity and demonstrated excellence in leadership, managerial, and professional standards. The Yemeni Times is considered one of the strongest forces in Yemen today for checking government corruption and influencing public policy.

How are violent extremism and terrorism currently affecting your life?

They are not. In Yemen, there is an increasing trend towards fundamental Islam, i.e. the conservative attitude towards religion, yet this trend is not reflected by the people. Yemen has always been a country of culture rather than of religion. You would find people speaking in the name of Islam while what they are talking about culture. This includes constraints on women's behavior and their participation in the public life.

Is there a real threat from terrorists on the ground?

The threat is not really in the main cities and not on Yemenis. Foreigners are a likely target in the tribal areas--if not by terrorists who want to make a point, then by tribal people who kidnap foreigners for money or to put pressure on the government to release their relatives from prison. There is an increasing threat against the government by rebellions in the North (Sa'ada) and the South (Abyan and Dhale). The insurgents in both regions want to destroy Yemeni unity and oust the current regime. What is also happening is that state-related security is terrorizing journalists and activists under the pretext of protecting national security. Now we have hundreds of Yemenis behind bars without real charges. We also currently have three journalists detained illegally because of their critical write-ups against the state.

What kind of support would be welcome in Yemen to aid in combatting terrorism? International observers seem to agree that many measures being taken today (such as full-body scanners in airports and increasing military attacks) aren't the full story when it comes to combatting terrorism--soft power approaches are completely left out. What role could and should women in Yemen play in the current tense climate?

Women should be empowered to be part of the system that controls the resources, whether in state-related offices, local organizations, or in their own households. If the money is in the hands of women, they would be more careful about how it is spent, and studies have proven that women are less corrupt than men. Women are able to install a sense of security in their surroundings, and they are the ones to ground societies and make them more stable. Terrorism happens because people are dissatisfied. The more dissatisfaction, the more terrorism there is. Dissatisfaction happens because of injustice and inequality. Women are more just by nature.

Are there women in Yemen who are raising their voices in connection with violent extremism?

Unfortunately, not many. Most of the active concern by women in Yemen is related to the well-being of women and the empowerment of women on the local level rather than to politics. Yet gradually, some female activities do relate education to extremism and demand that education is dealt with accordingly.

Women without Borders and the SAVE Initiative unites women like Nadia Al-Sakkaf to empower and embolden them to fight terrorism on the ground. SAVE believes that women can play a crucial role in fighting terrorism in civil society, in the home, and in all other arenas of everyday life. Interested in learning more? Want to respond to Nadia or to anything else on our blog? Please comment here, visit our website, or email our office.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Perspectives on Yemen from Yemen: Unfiltered Voices from Yemeni Women on al-Qaeda, Security, and Global Media Attention

With the arrival of a new year, Yemen has arrived at a new—and critical—era.  Alarmingly, violent extremism has dramatically increased in the corner of the Arabian Peninsula and attracted media headlines worldwide.  Yemen described as a breeding ground for terrorists, especially al-Qaeda, and some have dubbed it an "Afghanistan by the Sea" that poses a new threat to global security.

Unfortunately, the world has heard just one side of the story in most Western media outlets.  After the terror attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 293 on Christmas Day, Umar Farouk's actions were linked to the extremists in Yemen. Since then, the recriminations against Yemen have only increased as several foreign embassies withdrew upon the mounting threat from al-Qaeda.

Unfiltered Voices of Yemeni Women

Every day the world tunes in to hear what the media has to say about the situation in Yemen, but they do not hear the voices of Yemeni women. Here are some Yemeni women who have expressed their views towards what is going in their country. They don’t agree on the threat that al-Qaeda poses to Yemenis, the causes of the deteriorated state of security, or possible solutions; rather, they represent a cross-section of viewpoints from their unique position at the eye of the storm.
Fahmia al-Fotih'

“First of all, I feel very agitated at the presence of such group in what was once described as a “Felix” (i.e., happy or fortunate) land. I can never rationalize the idea of targeting innocent people just for the sake of making a political statement. As much as I abhor terrorist acts and the people involved in planning and carrying them out, a part of me feels great pity for the susceptible desperate young people who find no other channel of self-fulfillment. It saddens me that our country fails to meet the needs of these groups, allowing them to become easy preys for terrorist recruiters. And as a Yemeni woman, I hate to see how we women are not doing enough to mobilize our influence in the family and the unique ability we can have in preempting, detecting, and countering extremist tendencies among our male relatives and loved ones.”
Amal. Al-Ashtal

“We all are against al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization, because it does not represent Islam. On the contrary, it tarnishes the image of Islam worldwide.”

“Al-Qaeda is a threat for the whole public and in turn it has its negative impact on Yemeni women. A number of women were among the victims due the recent raids on terrorists in Abyan for example. Women also suffer when one of her family members is a victim. Women bear a huge burden in the war against al-Qaeda and pay a huge price within the deteriorated economic situation in Yemen. Women are vulnerable, especially those who are not economically independent.”
Wadad al Badawei, female journalist

“All Yemenis are against al-Qaeda and their terrorist acts as they are hindering development, peace, and stability.”

“I think what we are really facing these days is the exaggerated image reflected by the Western media on terrorism in Yemen. Despite there may be some terrorists’ groups settling in Yemen; we as Yemenis are not facing any real threats in our country.”
Raghda Gamal, 24, Journalist

“Terrorism has never been part of Yemeni culture but it comes out due to a number of reasons like poverty, lacking of freedoms, the call-for-violence, religious rhetoric, and the Wahhabism influence coming from neighboring countries. It is really sad and a shame to see Yemenis subject to strict checks at airports. Yemen has been always a harbor for a number of religions, ethnicities and cultures.”
Huda Jafar, NGO employee

“Believe me, it is all about complicated global politics… terrorists are everywhere… and suddenly the spotlight was turned on Yemen after this failed airline attack… I was not convinced about the whole story and the exaggerated consequences.”

“Yemen is sadly a silent victim to terrorism. I personally think that the stereotypical views are just the cherries on top of all our problems. We need to nip this issue in the bud! A filter of some sort needs to be created, one that holds strong between the recruiters and the innocent youth.”
Haifa, 25, student

“Al-Qaeda is not a Yemeni thing. It is there in every country and their members are from a number of nationalities.”
Najwa, Student

“It is getting serious no matter what we believe in or what we say. They really believe we are dangerous and terrorists, and it needs all our work to change that false image and not to ignore it.”
A.M., MA Student

What do you think? Women without Borders (Frauen Ohne Grenzen) welcomes your feedback on Yemen, the global threat of violent extremism, media and terrorism, or whatever else is on your mind!

Flash Points: Edit Schlaffer presents SAVE on CBS