Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Socotra’s Governor: Iranian Vessels Captured, Will Always Remember Gulf States’ Support | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Brigadier Salem Abdullah Alsaqatri , Governor of Yemen’s Socotra Archipelago, Asharq Al-Awsat

Riyadh- Meeting with Brigadier Salem Abdullah Alsaqatri, Governor of Yemen’s Socotra Archipelago, also named “The Wonder Land of Socotra” by the New York Times in 2010 proved to be a fairly difficult task to be achieved.

Two days after a scheduled appointment, discussing Socotra’s latest news was made possible.

Alsaqatri, who graduated Aden’s military academy in 1989, managed to portray the strategic significance of the archipelago which had unfortunately made it into a chief target of bandits and paralegal traffickers.

Lying some 240 kilometers east of the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometers south of the Arabian Peninsula, the island had long been a part of the Yemen, making its own governorate.

The nature’s wonder had also made the 2008 UNESCO list for world heritage sites.

Alsaqatri revealed that a group of Iran-sent vessels had been seized after illegally sailing within Yemeni waters. Violating internationally maritime boundaries, the crews were apprehended and are currently being investigated with.

Alsaqatri expressed his hopes that after Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi had granted the archipelago its label as its own and independent legal governorate in 2013, that the location will one day become a globally recognized tourist attraction.

The island of Socotra is about 95 percent of the landmass of the whole archipelago, which includes another two islands, Abd al Kuri and Samhah.

Mostly inhabited by fishermen and shepherds, the archipelago hosts a dashing population of 130,000 over a total land stretch of 3671 km sq.

Socotra, rich with a unique plant life which cannot be found elsewhere on the planet, is occupied mostly by a village-styled life. Tribes and villages spread evenly across mountains and valleys.

The island’s shore is partially populated, with most population densities being focused on mountains, said Alsaqatri.

Alsaqatri highlighted European love for the attraction, with at least 4,000 tourists visiting during what is considered a high season-usually at the end of each year. Commenting on tourism customs in effect on the island, the governor explained that taking back home samples of the island’s exotic plant life.

He also clarified that tourists are usually put under touristic police when experiencing the archipelago’s wild and sea life.

Despite Yemen’s ongoing war, the Mayor explained that the island enjoys stability and a state of calm. Overcoming the archipelago’s poor capacities, the collective effort put by locals provides a backbone that bolsters the island’s security capabilities.

Locals despise violence and crime, highly prioritizing their security, said Alsaqatri.

Cut off from its main supply route, Alsaqatri says that the island remains a safe haven to all those who come to it, despite all hardships going on in Yemen.

The archipelago was chiefly held back by the national budget cut due to the given circumstances. Alsaqatri also stressed that should the proper investment go into Socotra it would evolve into a major stabilizer and supporter for national economy.

Even though Yemen’s support of its wonder island is put on hold by a savage war, the archipelago is receiving a highly valued support from Gulf countries. The United Arab Emirates is currently supporting a port expansion project that will upgrade the harbor’s capacities, said Alsaqatri.

He also added that Kuwait is also currently in the process of studying a project on establishing an academic institution for the island.

Alsaqatri also lauded the humanitarian effort put by the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aids, especially after the island suffering two hurricanes that left untold damage to its infrastructure and power station.

Two cargo jets packed with food and medical aid along with other necessities were sent to the island, said Alsaqatri.

Concluding the interview, Alsaqatri extoled the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s efforts that saved Yemen from Iranian greed and agenda on styling the Gulf country’s future.