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Yemeni Minister of Culture: Saleh Wants to Save a Place in Any Settlement | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Yemeni boy school writes as he sits outside a school on March 16, 2017, that was damaged in an air strike in the southern Yemeni city of Taez.(AFP Photo)

Aden – Yemeni Minister of Culture, Marwan Damaj believes that the Houthi-Saleh coalition aims to return to establishing the Arab Yemeni Republic to what serves their interests as they are not willing to reach a peace agreement.

Tackling several issues in Yemen as the warn-torn country enters its third year of conflict, the minister criticized ousted president Saleh for trying to find a way to be included in any future settlement.

When asked about the death sentence issued against President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and other officials, Damaj said it can be regarded from two points of view; it represents Houthi-Saleh’s rejection of all peace options and will be used to publicity in an attempt to show the public they are still strong.

During his latest statement, Saleh tried to get out of being partner in the insurgency which Damaj viewed as his continuous tendency to maneuver his positions. By doing so, Saleh is trying to ensure he has a position in any settlement that could be reached and clear his name, according to the minister.

After four failed rounds of negotiations between Yemeni parties, the minister believes it is not possible as long as Houthis and Saleh do not accept the conditions of the settlement. They reject any form of governance that does not ensure their domination.

Damaj said that most matters have been agreed upon during the national dialogue and were also included in the Gulf initiative with an open and unfair immunity for Saleh. Yet, despite all those concessions, Houthis and Saleh went to an unnecessary war that could have been avoided.

When asked about the difficult humanitarian situation, he explained that one of the reasons behind the original protests in 2011 was the situation people were living in. Now, insurgents benefit from the black market and war economy to increase their wealth, according to Damaj, who also said that insurgents tend to take humanitarian aid sent by international organizations.

He did, however, point out that the situation requires the government’s attention which must improve the management to help alleviate the people’s sufferings.

Damaj thanked the support of all neighboring and friendly countries which would not be forgotten by the Yemeni people. He added that international organizations like the UN and others should work more to involve the citizens in receiving the humanitarian aid.

Due to the war, three million citizens have been displaced which is a great number that cannot be easily managed. The minister said that the government is under a lot of fire for this, which is both natural and understandable.

He explained that many of the relief operations for the displaced had been done socially and locally by other citizens in the Yemeni countryside. Despite the difficult conditions and poverty, Yemeni people are generous and their traditions are characterized by supporting one another. He also added that the government has been doing a great effort to deal with the crisis, yet it should improve its performance.

With all difficulties, deprivation and constant attack on it, the government is trying to overcome the obstacles that emerged as a result of the coup. The minister said that most citizens’ complaints are objective and true and should be addressed. He added that some issues and matters are delayed due to the absence of regulations and shortage in staff, yet he explained that things are getting better especially that Yemeni administration has a lot of qualified personnel.

Speaking of cultural institutions in Yemen during the war, the minister explained that all organizations are suffering from negligence and years of abandonment even before the war. He added that many regard the cultural institutions as a luxury.

The three years of war have complicated things and made the situation worse especially that many establishments were destroyed to rubble.

Damaj said that the ministry however is aware of the importance of culture and its role in helping Yemeni regain their identity and country. He added that despite shortage in funds, the ministry is trying to revive and rebuild institutions and support artists and educators.

Minister of Culture said he expects to receive support from international institutions and other organizations to help them, especially in Aden. He described the city as a hub of Yemen’s modern culture that has always been open to diversity regardless of the source.