A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
‘Ana Insan Madani’ can best be translated as ‘I am a citizen’. In this regular feature, we meet prominent Yemenis from various background and fields and hear their thoughts on matters related to Yemen, being a citizen and what ‘madaniya’ means to them.
Photo Courtney of Ayla Safran and Nadwa al-Dawsari
In this first issue, we meet Nadwa al-Dawsari, a researcher and conflict practitioner with more than 16 years of field experience in conflict management and civil society development in Yemen. She has specialized in informal governance, tribes and tribal conflict resolution mechanisms. Since 2008, Nadwa has conducted extensive field research focusing mainly on security and justice and governance and political transition in Yemen from a community-level perspective, thus providing profound insights into the internal dynamics of the conflict. Nadwa is a Non-resident Senior Fellow of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). She is also the founder and former executive director of Partners Yemen and a member of the Institute of Inclusive Security’s Women Waging Peace Network. She holds a Master’s degree in Development Studies from the University of Leeds.
1. What does the word madaniya / مدنية mean to you?
To me it means secularism. It means religion cannot interfere in politics or be used by politicians to either legitimize themselves or delegitimize their opponents. It also means that I can express my thoughts freely without fear of being targeted by state apparatuses or their proxies.
2. What does homeland mean to you?
A place that I feel connected to no matter where I go or how difficult life has become there.
3. What does it mean to be a citizen to you?
Right. Well, to be able to vote, to serve your community, and to be protected by the country you are a citizen of.
4. How would you describe the advantages and disadvantages of the rule of law?
Advantages of rule of law include achieving justice and limiting crime and violence. I don’t think it has a disadvantage, but I think our perception of rule of law is limited in that we look only at the Western concept of rule of law and tend to dismiss indigenous mechanisms for justice and security, when they can offer a lot or complement the formal rule of law system.
5. When you hear the word equality, what comes to your mind?
That I both have opportunities and am subject to the same penalties that everyone else is subject to, based on my merits or faults. That no one should expect to be treated differently because of their official or social status.
6. Have you voted before?
Yes, I voted in every election in Yemen since I was 18.
7. If you had the power to make one change in Yemen, what would it be and when?
Dismantle and destroy Saleh’s patronage network for good.
8. What should the world know about Yemen today?
That the patronage network that Saleh built over his 33 years in power is the root cause of Yemen’s war and that it includes Hadi’s government and the Houthis. In other words, the parties that monopolize the ‘peace talks’ with the blessing of the United Nations and the international community.