Tawakkol Karman interview on Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper

First of all, do you think that Yemen’s popular revolution as part of the Arab spring has failed or succeeded? In your opinion, what are the signs of failure of success?

We are concerned with our people’s aspirations, ambitions and struggle for a State of order, law, equal citizenship, justice and democracy. Had any revolution put in minds fear of reprisal by the targeted regime and its beneficiaries, there would have been no change throughout history. Upon the outbreak of popular revolutions, there was no guarantee for a safe change or guaranteed results. We were believing in our right to live in dignity, our right to justice, our right to democracy, our right to equality, and our right to a State under the rule of law. We took to the streets equipped with our non-violence and belonging to humanity, no matter what would happen. Brutality is not the law we should obey. The struggle for a safe nation governed by the rule of law, equal citizenship and democracy will remain our overarching goal. Many forces have joined efforts to be against our revolting peoples, and the final word hasn’t said yet, though. The counter-revolution and its allies abroad have put our country and its state, unity, existence in jeopardy, and therefore our struggle against them is a battle of existence. We have no choice but to fight, as the counter-revolution carries to us nothing but devastation, division, militias, and foreign guardianship. But eventually, they will be defeated because our people and Yemen are two facts that cannot be canceled and erased.


The average citizen in Yemen believes that the youth has laid waste to the country through their revolution, especially given fighting, strife, division of the country and even a loss of the state, how do you explain this?

The average citizen asked nobody to speak on his behalf, and such claims are raised by the counter-revolution. The one who took revenge on Yemen and brought the Houthis to it is the fallen regime (Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime). The one who opened the door to the Saudi aggression is the coup by the Houthis and the ousted Saleh. The one who declared war on Yemen from abroad is the center of counter-revolution, that is Saudi Arabia and UAE. Change was a popular demand, which is a legitimate right. You cannot monopolize power and use it to destroy your country and then say to people: after me, the flood. The ousted regime had hollowed the state out, and the consequence is what we are seeing today. The 2011 revolution was long overdue and was not premature.


Arguably the revolutionaries succeeded in overthrowing the late President Saleh, but they failed to bring his regime down, and power fell into the hands of “demons”, how do you justify this?

This needs explanation, not justification. Sometimes questions are the key to answering, while other times questions are designed to control the answers, if not due to the interviewer’s poor choice of words. Generally speaking, demons you mentioned belong to Ali Abdullah Saleh's legacy left for us. For over three decades, he used the state as a tool to provide a breeding ground for such demons until the whole country became a time bomb that eventually exploded in the face of all. The existing situation is a harvest of tyranny, not due to its overthrow. Had he laid even the minimum foundations of a State, the situation would have been different, even if the revolution were subject to a coup from inside this State, like, for example, the military coup against Egypt’s democratically-elected president. Indeed, it’s the worst military dictatorship regime, but the deposed Saleh’s regime has caused very deep destruction to our country, which is not only limited to the pre-revolution phase but also to revenge on everything. Nevertheless, the revolution is continuing and will have more and more rounds until the dreams and aspirations of its people are fulfilled. This is the fate and law of revolutions.


What do you think are the reasons for the regional hostility and international transformation towards the Arab spring in general and the Yemeni revolution in particular, despite moral encouragement and support for those revolutions in the beginning?

Supported by the deposed Saleh and the leaders of counter-revolution Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a sectarian coup has ravaged the country. We have faced two regional axes led by Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which are hostile to the popular revolution in Yemen, both from their respective positions. However, as I told you, the final word hasn’t said yet. They have targeted our country and its existence and unity, and accordingly our struggle against the counter-revolution is a battle of existence, especially for Yemenis. Yemenis will never accept the Houthi sectarian coup, nor submit to Saudi guardianship. They will never allow their country be divided or its islands and coastlines be taken over by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Although both Houthi sectarian coup and the Saudi-Emirati aggression serve each other, the six-year all-out war on our people has failed to achieve its goals.


As country run by three heads: an exiled legitimate president, a hidden coup leader, and a silent separatist leader, where is the collapsed Yemen heading now?

The Saudi-Emirati coalition is the one who has wreaked havoc on Yemen and is managing, directly or indirectly, all these puppets. The legitimacy remains powerless and hijacked in Riyadh, while the separatist Southern Transitional Council is subject to the UAE that helped found it for its purposes and ambitions in Yemen. Regarding the Houthi militia, it led a coup with the complicity of Saudi Arabia and the UAE that had planned to use such coup later as a pretext to wage their war, destroy infrastructure and conduct a direct intervention in Yemen under the cover of supporting legitimacy. Undoubtedly, Iran supports and employs the Houthi militia, but its support alone was not enough for the success of the Houthi coup. The counterrevolution coalition’s complicity with the Houthi militia decisively contributed to the Houthi coup and takeover of the Yemeni capital, cities and state institutions. To get out of the tunnel of militias and coups in Sanaa and Aden and restore the State, it is crucial first to confront the coalition and end foreign guardianship over Yemen.


Is it possible to reach a solution to everyone’s satisfaction, especially under conditions where all are against all and everyone claims having the right to the rule of the country?

There is no solution but to restore the Yemeni State, adhere to the three references represented by the Gulf initiative, the outcomes of the national dialogue and international resolution that affirm Yemen's unity, security and stability, complete the transitional period and hold the referendum on the new constitution. The State’s return is the solution. Otherwise, the war will continue because the de facto authority of militias and foreign guardianship serve as a permanent state of war. Any dialogue and agreement on peace will need to end the coups and foreign guardianship and restore the State, but anything else would mean blessing the continuation of the war.


What factors have mostly complicated the Yemeni crisis, internal or external? Why?

There are two factors, represented by the Houthi sectarian coup and the military intervention and the cruel aggression against Yemen by the Saudi-Emirati coalition. Both factors are equally bad and complement and serve each other. Both are aggressions, one internal and the other external. Just as they emerged simultaneously, they will also leave simultaneously.


Do you think it is possible for the legitimate government to reconcile with the leaders of Houthi putschists, on the model of its soft dealing with the southern separatists?

The legitimate government lacks decision-making power, and has yielded to Saudi pressure aimed to legitimize the coup by the STC loyal to the UAE. The Houthi coup will most likely not accept any reconciliation or dialogue seeking a solution to end the war, restore the State and help complete the transitional period. They are seeking to establish their own imamate authority loyal to Iran in northern Yemen.


In case a reconciliation is possible, what left for the legitimate government to do, especially given the fact that both putschist parties are exercising actual control over most of Yemen?

As I previously mentioned, the legitimate government must first restore its own decision-making power hijacked by Saudi Arabia so as to be able to lead Yemen from the inside and face projects of militias in Sana'a and Aden, or to engage in any dialogue to find a peaceful solution that help restore the State and complete the transitional period, from a position of strength and presence on the ground.


On the regional level, to what extent do you think that the Arab Spring revolutions were the only means for change and getting rid of the oppressive regimes dominating the Arab region?

Before 2011, elections and democracy had been hollowed out, media outlets had been infiltrated, parties had been contained, parallel human rights organizations with pro-democracy slogans had been formed, which in fact were designed to serve tyranny and support policies that enable dictators to stay in power and hinder the building of the state governed by the rule of law. Our societies ruled by those authoritarian regimes had reached a dead end, and therefore revolutions were a natural response to the failure of smooth and gradual transition to democracy.

Democracy there was merely a formality, remained undeveloped and lacked accumulation, serving only as a cover for masked tyrannic regimes that presented nothing tangible at the level of education, development and economy, sought to make republics hereditary, impoverished the vast majority of people and threw them into shantytowns lacking minimum conditions for a decent life. Those regimes failed to deal with the Israeli occupation, failed to bring about development and transition to democracy. Actually, the Arab revolutions came late and should have taken place at the late 1980s. What is happening today is not due to the Arab Spring, but rather a consequence of our silence on despotism, allowing it to destroy our societies from within and bringing our countries to collapse. 


Some believe that the revolutions haven’t achieved the desired and expected goals, referring as a prove to the bad situation caused by these revolutions?

The Arab Spring revolutions, including our revolution as among the top ones of them, have led to two ends; they shattered the corrupt tyrant ruler’s confidence in holding on to power and made the people have confidence in their ability to revolt and bring down the tyrants. These two great ends will be decisive for the future. The Arab Spring is an ongoing revolution that will determine the direction of the entire twenty-first century. Unintentionally, of course, all your questions look like to fall within the agenda adopted by the anti-change regimes and their affiliated media machines that seek to spread despair within peoples. The genocidal regime in Syria and the militias in Yemen can be neither a success for the counter-revolution nor a solution for our people. The regime in Syria today acts as a proxy for the Russian-Iranian occupation. It brought the world to kill his people, is this a success?! In Yemen, the revolution tolerated the deposed Saleh and granted him immunity and half the government. However, driven by the desire to take revenge on his people and his country, he brought sectarian Houthi militias and co-carried out their coup against the State, and helped them take over cities and occupy state institutions. Events have proven that we were ruled by sectarian criminal gangs, and it was wrong to remain silent on unlimited stay in power like in Syria that broke the world record in this regard, and the rule there, though republican, was passed to the son.


What is the typical and successful example of the Arab Spring so far from your perspective?  

I want to say Tunisia, but I don’t want anyone to think that the prevailing situation is the end. Our peoples are subject to a global war on their popular revolutions in Yemen, Libya, Syria and other Arab Spring countries. The revolutions in Algeria and Sudan broke out years after the first wave. Similarly, the uprisings in Iraq and Lebanon were also part of the Arabs ’rejection of failed regimes that no longer had anything to offer for the future of our peoples. We have faced the war waged by the fallen regimes and their regional and international allies. This war wanted to convey a message to the Arabs that the Arab Spring have failed. They have committed genocide massacres, demolished cities above their inhabitants, and killed hundreds of thousands. They have done so just to humiliate our peoples and take revenge on them and their peaceful revolutionary spring, but they will fail.

Massacres, brutality, militias, foreign guardianships, and coups can’t be considered a success or a foundation for a project for the future. The future is ours. Living in dignity in our homelands is a sacred right. We have the right to citizenship and justice, and our aspiration for the rule of law, democracy and human rights is not a crime. All this resistance by fallen regimes and their remnants of sectarian militias and terrorist groups will fail to present tyranny once again as a project for the future, the future is ours. The future is for the state of law, citizenship, justice, democracy and human rights.

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