A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
There is a pressing question lingering in the minds of those calling for peace in Yemen. Have the disasters of war taught Yemenis how to accept each other? And can Yemenis adopt a faith in equal citizenship?
Intolerance is, in my opinion, the reason why our country is in a destitute state, caused by this war, which is fueled by vile forces inside and outside of it. Intolerance fuels certain socials groups and oppressive political parties’ beliefs in their own superiority, as they take advantage of social diseases such as illiteracy, sectarianism, tribalism and regionalism.
This negative invitation is to all member of society; however, others call for the opposite, for tolerance. Abdulaziz al-Makaleh did so early on through his poetic writings, calling for freedom, justice and equality. I noticed others taking this route, such as the writer Nawal al-Kelaisi, who wrote an article entitled ‘The ghost of sectarianism in Yemen’, where she explained the religious disputes that had been devised by some religious entities, which were utilized to stoke the war. Al-Kelaisi called for knowledge and education to be the common ground for people in Yemen; in her opinion, apart from these two things, nothing should evoke feelings of superiority. Pursuing this goal will help us head in the right direction, towards the global cultural trend of common humanity.
Disagreeing with people should be based on knowledge-based discussion, not because of political, racial, tribal, regional or wealth matters. This differentiation should be based on the positive input individuals add to the common good of humanity. Yemen reached this point of illiteracy and conflict because rulers were electing decision makers based on personal connections. Hence, the emergence of thieves, opportunists, profiteers and social climbers, who do not have a moral compass, qualifications or experience. All they have is the ammunition of intolerance as a reference for dealing with people.
Now that we have reached this point of destruction and difference, is it possible for Yemenis to use rationality? And start accepting one another, making good citizens their role models, uniting against those who have brought us woe and hatred and conspired against our civilization, destroying all our resources?
Yemenis must learn from this war by stepping back and reflecting: was this war to cleanse our mistakes, which have increased over the years? Our lethal mistakes like corruption, cheating, deceit and racism. We have to believe that the country can accept us all, its resources are for everyone and so are its calamities.
The rise of Yemen’s old civilizations was based on cooperation, sharing and equality – or Muasha’a, a term embodying all those attributes in the Himyarite language. It was known throughout history that Yemen never attacked another country or any geographical space outside its territories. It was also known that all Yemenis, from different sects, have also been able to live together and integrate with each other, and during the last 20 years, cities such as Sana’a, Aden and Taiz saw many racial, tribal and regional differences bridged as they mixed with each other. The new modern age of openness and cooperation has arrived, and the age of isolation and empty arrogance is over.
It is time now for us to become one body against those who transgress against our country and destroy it, those who destroy its historical landmarks, and drag it from modernity back to the past. We can do that through our commitment to the values f peace, justice, tolerance, dialogue and acceptance of diversity. It is time to believe in equal citizenship and dignity for every human being living amongst us, and it is time to unite our vision and goal as Yemeni people, ridding ourselves of small projects that bring only woe and shame to our present and future generations.