Asharq Al-Awsat talks to Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar
London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar, head of the Hashid tribe in Yemen, has denied that his tribe was involved in the attempted assassination of President Ali Abdullah Saleh who also belongs to the same tribe.
Sheikh Al-Ahmar asserted in the interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that what is happening in Yemen is a peaceful popular youth’s revolution and not a political crisis between the authority and opposition and that the tribes left their weapons in their houses and entered the peaceful sit-in squares without weapons to reflect the peacefulness of the revolution. As to the real reasons for the recent battles in al-Hasbah area and other neighborhoods in the capital Sanaa between fighters loyal to him and the Central Security and Republican Guards forces, Sheikh Al-Ahmar said the reasons “were our siding with the peaceful revolution for change and our support for it out of our belief in its noble values and great aims.” He added that he did not have confirmed information about the Yemeni president’s health but added “I do not believe and I do not advise Saleh to return to Yemen” because his return would cause, according to him, sedition between the Yemenis.
Following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Sheikh Sadiq, what is the tribal relationship linking Al Al-Ahmar in Al-Usaymat (Hashid) to Al Ah-Ahmar in Sinhan, President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s tribe?
[Al-Ahmar] Al Al-Ahmar in Sinhan is the name of a small village there and is part of the Hashid tribe. Al Al-Ahmar in Al-Usaymat is a famous family that is three centuries old.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you tell our readers the real and direct reasons for the fighting in Sanaa, in particular in Al-Hasbah neighborhood, between your supporters from the Republican Guards and Central Security?
[Al-Ahmar] The real and direct reasons were our siding with the peaceful revolution for change and our support for it out of our belief in its noble values and great aims. Ali Saleh tried to drag us into marginal battles so as to divert us from our real interests and the Yemeni people’s demands for change. When he failed to do this, he launched his unjust aggression and sent mediators to us with the missiles behind them. He killed and wounded many mediators. The war on Al-Hasbah continued and we waited for his forces and taught them harsh lessons because we were defenders and they were aggressors.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your opinion, why was the sharat Muawiyah between you and President Saleh’s regime severed? Did relations deteriorate because of the competition between you and the president’s relatives or in particular between Hamid al-Ahmar and Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh even though your father Sheikh Abdullah Bin-Hussein al-Ahmar was keen about the special relationship with the president of the republic?
[Al-Ahmar] It was shedding blood and killing peaceful demonstrators in the freedom and change squares which severed sharat Muawiyah. We had warned him repeatedly against shedding blood but he was stubborn and persisted with his tyranny and crimes. We had to take a clear stand to exonerate ourselves before God from the crimes of Saleh’s regime against the Yemeni people demanding change.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Reports are saying the Hashid tribe has sided with the protests movement. Does this mean that the entire tribe supports the youth’s revolution or are there different opinions of the events in Yemen inside Hashid regarding your support for the youth’s revolution and the others’ support for the regime?
[Al-Ahmar] The fact of the matter is that Hashid and other Yemeni tribes are with the Yemeni people’s peaceful revolution and with change. There are always individuals benefiting from the regime and its gifts and they are from Hashid and other tribes.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you view the attempt to assassinate President Saleh who was with several political and legislative leaders in the president palace’s mosque? In your opinion, which side was behind the attempt, especially after the presidency withdrew its accusations that you were behind it?
[Al-Ahmar] Much mystery continues to surround the attempt to assassinate Ali Saleh. There are leaks indicating that the attempt came from inside and within the framework of the power struggle by the wings around the president. You might have heard that the regime one time accused the United States, another time “Al-Qaeda, and another time the conspirators, and so on.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the implications of the attack on your house which claimed the lives of several tribal leaders during the battles between you and government forces? Did you contact the tribes some of whose leaders were victims of the attack? What are you going to do about the blood that was shed? Are you going to consider it blood shed for the sake of change or are you going to view it as tribal revenge?
[Al-Ahmar] The attack was Ali Saleh’s treacherous act against the mediation committee. He was targeting all those present in the house. We are in contact with the tribes whose sons were martyred in this treacherous attack. The blood is not forgotten until the killers are punished or pardoned by the victims’ families. Those involved are known to the Yemeni people.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some believe that what is happening in Yemen is a youth’s revolution and others that it is a political crisis between the authority and the opposition. What is Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar’s view of the nature of the protests in the country that have been continuing for almost five months?
[Al-Ahmar] It is in fact a popular youth’s revolution and a divine will. Anyone visiting the change and freedom squares sees the marvelous cohesion of the Yemeni people’s entire sectors, their patience, and their confrontation of the killing and repression with bare chests. The tribes left their weapons in the houses and went to the squares seeking freedom and change. The issue is not a political crisis between the authority and opposition but a revolution by a people against an oppressive regime whose era is over and its page closed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The WikiLeaks leaks said your brother Hamid al-Ahmar was preparing to get rid of President Saleh’s regime by using the popular demonstrations if the president did not deal positively with the opposition’s demands at that time. Is there is direct connection between Hamid and the protests against President Saleh’s regime? Is it true that Hamid is financing the protest movements in many governorates?
[Al-Ahmar] My brother Hamid has been one of the youths of the peaceful opposition very early on and he warned of a popular uprising if the regime continued with its arrogance and intransigence, closed the doors to dialogue, and refused to meet the people’s demands for change. Following the Tunisia and Egypt revolutions, the Yemeni people rose to demand their legitimate rights. If Hamid is today contributing with all the people’s sons to the success of the peaceful change revolution then this is not an accusation but an honor of which we are all proud.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] The state accused you and your brothers of forming armed groups outside the law and using force to control government facilities. How are you dealing with these accusations?
[Al-Ahmar] These are drivel and lies by Saleh’s collapsing regime. We explained that we were defending ourselves. The facilities we took from those who were inside them belong to the Yemeni people which Saleh had turned them into military barracks for attacking us and therefore our supporters had to seize control of them to defend ourselves and the people in Al-Hasbah neighborhood from the madness of Ali Saleh’s forces and their use of all types of weapons except aircraft to attack the houses in Al-Hasbah and demolish them over their inhabitants’ heads.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are fears among some youth’s circles that the declaration of your support for the revolution was to personify your desire to replace President Saleh and his relatives in power. Does Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar intend that he or one of his brothers will play a political role in future?
[Al-Ahmar] We do not intend this and I have declared this repeatedly.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] It was said that your brother Himyar al-Ahmar was in the presidential palace the day its mosque was bombed to discuss a ceasefire agreement between you and government forces. The attack took place after he had left the palace which justified the accusation against you at first. Was it true that Himyar was in the palace on the Friday of the attack on its mosque and why did he go there if this is true?
[Al-Ahmar] Himyar was not at the presidential palace on that day.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there any kind of contact between you and President Saleh’s sons and nephews who command the elite forces in the Yemeni army and security since President Saleh’s departure for treatment in Riyadh?
[Al-Ahmar] There is no contact.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you believe that Vice President Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi can calm the situations in Yemen? What problems does he face and is there any contact between you and him in this matter?
[Al-Ahmar] Yes, he can and the constitution, the law, and all the Yemeni people’s sons and forces are with him. But it seems he is hesitant and we do not know the reason for his hesitation. We are in contact with him, support and back him if he leads Yemen to the shores of safety at this critical stage. He is acceptable to all.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are fears that the south will secede if President Saleh’s regime fell. How do you view these fears and do you believe that leaders of the southern movement would declare the secession after the fall of the regime in Sanaa, particularly as there are calls to establish transitional councils in the south?
[Al-Ahmar] There are no fears of secession in Yemen or fears from Al-Qaeda. All these are tribulations planned and propagated by the regime which turned them into a bogey. The fact of the matter is that the peaceful movement in the south announced clear stands about this. It supports a unified Yemen and wants the problems of the south dealt it which were created and nourished by Saleh’s regime throughout the post-unity years, especially after the summer of 1994 war, unfortunately.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] There were several skirmishes between you and the Huthists some months ago. How do you view the Huthists’ success in seizing control of Sadah and are there fears they would spread south toward Sanaa following the attempts to spread in Hajjah and Al-Jawf Governorates? Do you believe they are still thinking of restoring the imams’ authority?
[Al-Ahmar] We overcame the skirmishes between us and the Huthists. In fact, the revolution will deal with the Huthists’ demands which will not deviate from the Yemeni people’s ones for stability, justice, security, development, and others. Sincere and serious dialogue will find the solutions for all the homeland’s issues and problems after the success of the revolution, God willing. No one today accepts restoration of the imamate authority.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you have information about President Saleh’s health in Riyadh, especially following the conflicting reports about his health condition? Do you believe President Saleh will return to the country to carry out the duties of president of the republic? What do you intend to do if he does return to Sanaa?
[Al-Ahmar] We do not have precise information but know that his health condition is not good. I do not advise Saleh to return to Yemen because his return, if it does happen, will be sedition for the Yemenis and the clashes will increase and the cycle of violence and killing between the Yemenis will widen. God Almighty found a solution for him from his heaven, so why the obstinacy and contemplating it. God chooses what is good for him.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Concerning managing the country’s affairs in the coming stage, some in the opposition circles and the youth’s movement are calling for establishing a transitional council while others believe in the peaceful transfer of power by backing the vice president. To which of the two options does Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar lean and why?
[Al-Ahmar] We stand for the second option, the peaceful transfer through the constitution. The vice president ought to work for this. If this door is closed, then the opposition and squares have no option but to establish the transitional council. The revolutionary action will save Yemen from the dangers threatening it.