News Release

U.S. in Yemen: Escalating War, Stifling Speech

Human Rights Information and Training Center in Yemen states: "An ongoing heavy and regular attack by the military forces is targeting and destroying Taiz city's peaceful neighborhoods."

AP is reporting: “Government troops and warplanes pounded al-Qaida positions in southern Yemen on Wednesday, killing at least 29 militants as part of a ramped up campaign against the group, military officials said.”

IZZA-DEEN EL ASBAHI, via Ryme Katkhouda, rymepmc at gmail.com or Kinda Mohamadieh, kinda.mohamadieh at annd.org
El Asbahi is founder and director of the Human Rights Information and Training Center in Yemen. He said today: “The U.S. military and the Yemeni government frequently launch these attacks and claim they are killing al-Qaida fighters. But the fact is quite often they are killing regular people, or political opponents of the regime who are not al-Qaida. This ends up having the effect of causing more resentment and gives al-Qaida more recruits. After the start of the uprising a year ago, the U.S. declared they would get rid of al-Qaida in a matter of three weeks. Today al-Qaida controls a region ten times the size of Bahrain with sea port access.”

This week El Asbahi is in Washington, D.C. with a delegation of the Arab NGO Network for Development, which also includes representatives from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and other Arab countries.

He added: “Military intervention and use of violence has left a negative impact and does not achieve the stated goal of eliminating terrorism. The elimination of terrorism starts with the support of local development. Airplane and drone bombings nurture terrorism as they enroll more people struggling with poverty, anger and fear with al-Qaida which gives them a salary and a Kalashnikov to empty their anger. While in city of Taiz, a stronghold of the left and revolution in Yemen, they still talk fondly of U.S. aid and the ‘Kennedy project’ of drinking water distribution.”

The Arab NGO delegation just released a paper, “Overview and Suggestions for Improving Key Areas in U.S. Foreign Policy Towards the Arab Region.” For a copy and profiles of the delegates, see here.

While most of the members of the delegation can speak English, El Asbahi would require Arabic translation, which can be provided.

The Washington Post is reporting: “President Obama issued an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who ‘obstructs’ implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.

“The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.”

IBRAHAM QATABI, Ibraham.Qatabi at gmail.com
Qatabi is a Yemeni American human rights activist and a legal worker with Center for Constitutional Rights specializing in Yemen. He said today: “The USG isn’t naming groups or people who it’s illegal to work with, so any sensible person would be very cautious about working with anyone they aren’t 100 percent sure the USG approves of. In fact, the USG’s officials have flat out told the press that the sanctions are a ‘deterrent’ to ‘make clear to those who are even thinking of spoiling the transition’ to think again — in other words, think again before you work with any democracy activists who we think are ‘spoiling the transition’ to the U.S. government’s favored candidate for leadership. It reminds me of something the government said in the 9th Circuit in HLP v. Holder — that the aim of these broadly-worded sanctions regimes, capable of criminalizing speech, is to make groups the U.S. government disfavors so ‘radioactive’ that American citizens won’t even want to go near them. That’s not democracy – either here or in Yemen.”

See on the White House website: “Executive Order — Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen.”

Background: Obama urged the Yemeni dictator Saheh to keep the journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye in prison. This was apparently because Shaye was exposing that U.S. strikes were killing civilians. See “Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?” by Jeremy Scahill.

Marcy Wheeler today notes that the new executive order could be used to target Scahill: “The Jeremy Scahill Yemen Executive Order”