Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sheikh Tariq al-Fadli, a former leading figure in the ruling General People’s Congress Party in Yemen and current leading figure in what is now known as the Southern Mobility Movement, denied that he or the Southern Mobility Movement has any connection with Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
He also denied his involvement in the “security lawlessness” that prevails in some parts of the Abyan Governorate where he resides. He accused the “Commission for the Defense of Unity” of carrying out some acts to give the authorities justifications to suppress the “peaceful” Southern Mobility Movement.
In an interview with the Asharq Al-Awsat in Sanaa, Al-Fadli expressed surprise at the accusations that were leveled at him after he left the authority and the ruling party and joined the Southern Mobility Movement, which he asserts is “peaceful.” He called for setting up an impartial fact-finding committee to verify the official charges against him.
Al-Fadli is one of the sons of the sultan of the Al-Fadli Clan in southern Yemen. He participated in the Afghan war during the Soviet invasion before returning to Yemen. After the civil war that broke out in the summer of 1994 in which he participated alongside President Ali Abdullah Saleh, he became member of the shura [consultative] council and member of the general committee (the political bureau) of the ruling party. Finally, he became one of the leaders of the Southern Mobility Movement, which has been calling for “disengagement” between north and south Yemen.
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al Awsat] The Yemeni authorities say that armed men from your supporters caused the security lawlessness that prevails in some parts of the Abyan Governorate. What is your response to this charge, especially after the killing of a leading local socialist figure?
[Al-Fadli] First of all, the killed man is Said Ahmad Abdullah Bin-Dud, a member of the Socialist Party and one of the activists of the peaceful Southern Mobility Movement. According to eyewitnesses, he was kidnapped by two masked armed men who took him to the Abyan square near the corniche where they shot him in the back of his head, and the security authorities did not investigate the incident.
Second, the current security lawlessness in Abyan is the result of reaction by a group of youths whose number is estimated at 600. The authorities promised to recruit and send them to Sa’dah war and as such a large number of them traveled to Sanaa at their own expense and sold their poor families’ belongings to cover the travel costs.
When they arrived in Sanaa, the authorities made them disembark from the buses and separated them, placing the blacks at one side and the whites at the other side. Then the people who received them told them: “Abyan residents, we brought you to sweep (clean) the Sanaa streets and lavatories.” This action angered the youths who staged a demonstration in Sanaa. Some 15 of them were arrested and the rest returned to the [Abyan] Governorate and told the citizens there what happened. This caused the current chaos and security lawlessness in Abyan and we have nothing to do with what is going on.
[Asharq Al Awsat] Do I understand from your statement that these youths are implicated in the killing of the leading socialist figure?
[Al-Fadli] No. The killing incident took place before the problem of these youths.
[Asharq Al Awsat] The Yemeni authorities accuse you personally and your armed men of being behind the security lawlessness and forcing citizens to shut down their shops and participate in the general strike or civil disobedience.
[Al-Fadli] This talk is rejected. We have no armed men and we do not spread or impose disobedience on anyone. The media can come and ask any citizen, be he an employee, student, or shop owner. In addition, the strike has not been observed only in the Abyan Governorate. It has been observed in more than 20 cities in the south. Besides, the security lawlessness did not begin today, and it is not in Abyan alone, but in many southern governorates and directorates.
[Asharq Al Awsat] In that case, what are the causes of this security lawlessness in your opinion?
[Al-Fadli] The cause is the confusion that was created by the “Janjawid” [reference to Sudanese government-backed militia in Darfur] who are called “the Commission for the Defense of Unity.” The authorities armed and gave them funds to cause chaos so that they may find justifications to suppress the peaceful [Southern Mobility] Movement and its leaders.
They accuse me of anything that happens in Abyan and I am innocent in this whole issue because our struggle is peaceful, our movement is peaceful, and our stands are clear and well known. We declare them in festivals and through the media.
[Asharq Al Awsat] But the Yemeni authorities accuse the Southern Mobility Movement of which you are a leading figure of having a relationship with Al-Qaeda. On the other hand, the official media describe your activity as “the movement of Al-Qaeda,” and some people do not rule out the possibility of you being targeted just as some leaders of Al-Qaeda in Abyan were targeted. What is your comment?
[Al-Fadli] I do not hide in caves or mountains. I reside in Zinjibar in the Abyan Governorate and demand my right and the rights of millions of southerners. They demand their right in spite of suppression and arrests by the security agencies. In the latest crime, youngster Faris al-Tammah was killed in the Aden Prison after he was detained and tortured several days. When he refused to wake up for the dawn prayer, an officer shot him in the head in the prison, and his body is now in the morgue of a hospital in Aden.
[Asharq Al Awsat] Recently, was there any kind of communication with the authorities or a mediation and attempt by certain people to persuade you to renounce the Southern Mobility Movement?
[Al-Fadli] Never. This has not happened since I joined the movement nearly 10 months ago. However, there were pressures on my family and sheikhs to press me to change my decision to join the movement, but I asserted to them that the issue of the Southern Mobility Movement is the issue of every southerner and that it is a just cause. I stood by them to be fair and just and it is my duty to stand by my kinsfolk and brothers because I have been wronged and harmed too.
I add to the readers’ information that I stayed in the authority and in the ruling party for 15 years as member of the general committee [of the party] and member of the shura council. I was one of the close persons to the presidential palace and these charges were not leveled at me then.
But when I joined the Southern Mobility Movement, a long list of charges appeared against me. These charges are inconsistent because Al-Qaeda does not meet with the national movement or with separatists, socialists, and sultans, as the authorities describe them, or with others. These are false and unfounded charges and I demand through your newspaper that an impartial committee come to investigate the facts in Abyan. All facts on the ground will confirm that what we say is true or the authority is lying in its claims against us.
[Asharq Al Awsat] You are accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda, but to what extent is Al-Qaeda present in Abyan?
[Al-Fadli] Of course, the only link with which the authority makes a connection between the Southern Mobility Movement and Al-Qaeda is me. They talk about me and my past in Afghanistan, which is well-known.
The authority levels accusations at any one it wants. With regard to Al-Qaeda, however, it exists everywhere in the land. It is present among us in some of the directorates of Abyan, Shabwah, and Sanaa, and in the army itself and the security agency. Both we and the authority know this fact, and Al-Qaeda’s relationship with the authority, from the head of the government to the head of Al-Qaeda itself, is not a secret or a new information.