Mrs. Tawakkol Karman in an interview with Al Jazeera TV

First, how do you assess the situation in Yemen after eight years of peaceful youth revolution?

Yemen, like the other Arab Spring countries, has been subjected to a counterrevolution that was a product of the alliance composed of the ousted president Ali Saleh,

who was supported by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in a strange paradox. As is well known, the counterrevolutionary states felt affected by the comprehensive change promised by the Arab Spring and for which popular uprisings erupted.

Later, the partners of the counter-revolution entered into a long conflict, where the war broke out and Ali Saleh was killed. The war has extended to devour, among others, the partners of the counterrevolution until Riyadh and Abu Dhabi has entered into a quagmire while they still think to be immune to the systematic destruction they wanted for Yemen.

Yemen was subjected to systematic destruction of both the parties to the conflict, i.e. the coup’s alliance and the Arab coalition, which turned out to have supported the coup to overthrow the Yemeni revolution and the resulting transition process that was only a few months away from the referendum on the new constitution according to which various elections would have been organized.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates later went on carrying out their hidden agendas in destroying and occupying Yemen and imposing guardianship on it under the pretext to restore the legitimacy and overthrow the coup.

But one can argue that the counter-revolution, along with its states, capitals, forces and extensions in Yemen, is being eroded and is heading for defeat and failure, and that all counter-revolutions will fall as an event of emergency that is foredoomed to disappear. Eventually, it is our revolutions’ destiny to win and prevail, and achieve their great goals.


You, along with the students of the University of Sana'a, were among the first to take to the streets to demonstrate. Could you please bring back your feelings and wishes of those moments?

We had come to the firm conviction that all the means of reform and change reached a dead end, and there was no choice but to overthrow the failed, corrupt and despotic regime of Ali Saleh.

We continued to demand the the regime’s overthrow and hold demonstrations and rallies calling for its fall and departure. We wrote “the first statement” in mid-January 2011, and on the following day we led the first protest march to topple the regime. Our daily marches went on in the morning and evening until demonstrations swept across the other provinces starting from the province of Taiz, where people came out in mass demonstrations in conjunction with the announcement of the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. It was a great feeling that we were making history and making a radical change in Yemen.


As for the youth who accompanied you during the revolution, what is their fate now?

The outputs of revolutions should not be measured against what is going on right now, as any revolution is an inevitable necessity and the achievement of its goals is also an inevitable result, but this does not have to be take place in the near following day or year or maybe not even in the next decade. Next generations will inevitably enjoy the fruits of these revolutions, freedom, dignity and well-being. Let history judge! I am sure that the final say of history will be in our favour because we wanted our country to enjoy freedom and dignity and we were always on the right side of history.


Today, some say that those triggering the revolution have left Yemen to settle abroad. How could you respond to them?

First, the revolution was not exclusive to those who are at home. Everyone inside and outside Yemen participated in it. Secondly, those who participated in the revolution are not obliged to remain within the country, as leaving the country is not an abandonment of the revolution or a failure to remain loyal to it. In case of voluntary departure, advocating for the revolution and contributing to supporting its issues and objectives can simply also take place from inside or outside the country. On the other hand, in case of forced departure, keeping struggling for the revolution from abroad reflects a high level of commitment to and a great sacrifice for the revolution.

Actually, it is immoral to gloat over exiling or displacing freedom fighters and revolution leaders to abroad, as such exile and displacement are simply a new chapter of the struggle and an evidence that those exiled and displaced are still on the right side of history.

Such thing happens very often, and revolutions are often faced with counter-revolutions, where revolution leaders and supporters are subjected to exile, forced displacement, abduction, forced disappearance, assassination and murder, which indicates their belonging to the revolution and their adherence to the promise and pledge but not vice versa. It also reflects that they are still on the right side of history. This is what can be said in general. As for the Yemeni case in particular, things are much clearer. The militia-led coup backed by the deposed Saleh, who for decades of his rule had led his country to the abyss, has been further strengthened by a betraying, external coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. So, when we remain targeted by what I call the internal and external occupation, this is indeed in our favour rather than the reverse.


You call them an occupation?

Yes, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have brazenly occupied vital parts of the country and imposed domination and guardianship over the other ones. Whoever governs the country by force and oppression is, in my view, an internal occupier.


During four years of the war, the humanitarian situation in Yemen has been further aggravated, who you think should be blamed for that?

This is the responsibility of the parties to the counter-revolution, along with their forces at home and abroad, and they are known to all; i.e. the Houthi-Saleh coalition at the domestic level and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran externally. These bear full responsibility for everything that has happened in Yemen from the eve of the coup in 2014 until today, and bear the historical, moral and legal responsibility for for the widespread devastation they have caused to Yemen.

All this destruction is the result of the counterrevolution. We can easily argue about it. During the two and a half years following the fall of Ali Saleh until the eve of the coup, Yemen witnessed a great openness to freedoms and human rights, while the economic situation remained the same without any deterioration. All the subsequent armed conflict and the terrible economic deterioration have occurred as a result of the counter-revolution.

In Egypt, the same story repeated itself after the military coup occurred, accompanied by an alarming decline in the level of rights and freedoms and by an escalating economic collapse; all that followed the counter revolution but not the January revolution.

This was regarding the time. Logically and objectively, those who have caused all this destruction are the counter-revolution, its orchestrators and all those involved in it at home and abroad. Our revolutions and its leaders and supporters were just victims of them, so how come to hold them accountable for the devastation and economic collapse and for severe restrictions on rights and freedoms.


Some say: were it not for the revolutions, there would have been no counter-revolutions, and consequently revolutions are responsible for the devastation caused by the counter-revolutions?

Such very incoherent logic asks the peoples to forever accept injustice of tyrants and oppression of rulers for, even if they beat them with whips over their backs, humiliate them and violate their rights and freedoms.

But if it were not for the rulers’ corruption and tyranny, there would have never been revolutions. When the regimes proved to be failures and reached an impasse, they actually but not others caused the revolutions to break out. When objective conditions and requirements of popular uprisings are satisfied, then they would be able to find those who ignite their spark and lead them.


What about the responsibility of the president and the legitimate government?

They also bear great responsibility as long as they have accepted to become a toy in the hands of the UAE-Saudi coalition, as their relationship to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi is based on subordination, but not on the principle of partnership or independence, which enables them to achieve their country’s objectives and interests. The President's acceptance to be a hostage in one of the palaces of Riyadh wherein he issues decisions and directives that legitimize the policies of the occupation coalition and its harmful agenda in Yemen is a great sin that amounts to betrayal of the supreme national interest. The president's non-objection to these destructive policies is also a breach of the national duty and legitimizes the occupation of Yemen. Every Yemeni official staying there in Riyadh does not reject or resist such tampering is also a partner in the destruction of his country.


The Houthi group was involved in the revolution against Saleh's regime, and some speak of its legitimate right to seek power, what is your response?

The Houthi group engaged in and supported the revolution through its symbolic participation in mass peaceful marches and gatherings, and abandoned armed action in compliance with the revolution’s approach and conditions. Later, however, it participated in the coup against the revolution and in undermining the transitional process brought and produced by the revolution. The Houthi militia acted as a tool of Ali Saleh, the UAE and Iran to undermine the Yemeni state and the consensual legitimacy. No one could have the right to do all this, and any attempts to take over power by force and oppression are nothing but a form of usurpation of power and internal occupation, which everyone has the right to reject, resist and overthrow by all lawful means.


What is the interest of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, as you always say, in hindering the Arab Spring revolutions, including Yemen change revolution?

Both Saudi and UAE peoples have no interest in toppling the Arab Spring revolutions. To the contrary, such thing is in fact against their own interests. What might they gain from antagonizing neighboring peoples and from the deepening of the gap between each other? The two states think they could stop an Arab Spring at home by conspiring against Yemen’s spring and revolution. But this is all an illusion, and all that appears to be a success in overthrowing the spring revolutions is a false success.


Are you in contact with any officials in the Yemeni legitimate government? If any, as you have met with the president in Riyadh, what would you say to them?

I stopped communicating with them when I came to the conclusion that there is no point in contacting with them, that they absolutely accepted to remain mere tools to legitimize the occupation, that they lack the courage and integrity to object to the Saudi-Emirati guardianship over our country, that they would never do anything to liberate the confiscated Yemeni decision from Saudi Arabia or liberate themselves from its guardianship and that they will continue to approve all what the occupying states dictate to them. My understanding of legitimacy goes beyond the people to the tasks; i.e. all those tasks that remained unfinished during the transition process that has not yet been achieved, those tasks that were interrupted or stopped by the coup and the war.


Could you please tell us about your forward-looking vision of Yemen after 8 years of war?

The war in Yemen, in fact, is a product of regional intervention more than of an internal conflict. What I mean by that is the fateful role played by the counterrevolutionary states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran, which undermined the Yemeni state, overthrew the transitional process, and caused all this war and ruins across the country. If were it not for the intervention of these countries, neither the coup nor the war would have taken place, and we would have have held the referendum on the draft constitution, have organized local, parliamentary and presidential elections and have already lived under the desired Yemeni federal democratic state, for which we ignited the revolution, as wanted and set out in the comprehensive national dialogue.

Yemen, despite all this devastation and regional conspiracy, will recover and overcome the ordeal. It will not be long before the counterrevolutionary regimes end up with the collapse or at least with more weakness and fragility they are experiencing now after Yemen has turned into a quagmire in which their illusions and dreams are buried. The Yemenis will find themselves forced to reconcile once again to complete the transition from where they left off. Together, we will build a Yemeni state that monopolizes the possession of arms and exercises sovereignty over all its national territory. Only then, Yemenis will find themselves forced to reconcile once again in order to complete the transition from where they left off. Together, we will build a Yemeni state that monopolizes the possession of arms and exercises sovereignty over all its national territory. 


What is your message to the Yemeni youth in particular and to the people in general?

The revolution of Yemen broke the monopoly of what was called the holy center of wealth and power and freed Yemenis from Ali Saleh, his family and miserable regime. It is moving forward in accordance with historical necessity and inevitable completion of the remained objectives. The February Revolution will not stop bringing about the change until all its opponents and conspirators and enemies of change inside and outside fall and until the desired Yemeni civil democratic state, for which the youth set off the February Revolution and have made great sacrifices, becomes a reality.


A final word about the Yemeni youth revolution?

The Yemeni revolution is the greatest event in contemporary Yemeni history, and will be followed by events and transformations, which will result in a state of citizenship and a state of rights, freedoms, well-being and dignity for all Yemenis. This will come out of this great revolution.

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