November 30 Independence: A story of glory?
Queen Victoria’s statue in the heart of Aden is one of the most important historical sites in this great city. At 106 years old it is a part of the golden age of Aden.
Forty-four years have passed but their signs are still here, in the lay of the land, the arrival of every ship, and every drop of fuel. The airport, the harbor, the oil company, the Little Ben clock tower and of course her majesty’s statue. Their shadows are everywhere, from the tiny streets of the city to the old huge palaces of the sultans.
After more than 100 years of British colonial rule, Yemen’s southern port of Aden was finally returned to Yemen on Nov. 30, 1967. Back in Yemeni hands, Aden became the capital of the new People’s Republic of South Yemen, renamed as the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1970. After Yemen was unified in 1990, Sana’a became the capital of the new, whole country, though Aden remained a strategic port and capital of its governorate.
While few people would welcome the return of colonial rule, after more than four decades, there are some who reminisce over a well-organized Aden, governed by the rule of law imported by the British.
Two women who lived through the golden age of this part of our country, reflect on how things have changed over the last four decades. One is from Lahj “the sultanate”, the other from Aden “the British colony”.
Safia Murad is 80 years old and lives in Al-Hawtah next to the sultan’s palace. She reflected on a different picture of the history of south Yemen. “When we were kids we used to hear our fathers saying that the English people are ruling our country but we didn’t really know what that meant.”
How did she feel about the British at that time? “The British were smart. We kids used to throw stones at them but they replied with candy and books. They used their strong relations with the sultans to stay as much as they could in the heart of Aden.
“When the revolution started from the mountains of Radfan and the first man, Ghalib bin Rageh Labozah, died, everyone got mad and we didn’t give up until we broke free on Nov. 30, 1967.”
Safia remembered the glory of those days, but when she began to talk about today’s situation her face looked both sad and angry.
“At least there was a system,” she lamented. “There was a train and the city was clean but now after forty-four years all I see is kids with guns and dirty streets running with bath water.
“We here dream of stability and equality. We want a fair solution to our case, we want our men to rule this land but we want them also to know its value and history.”
Om Khalid has lived in Crater since she was a child. She is a typical Adeni woman with a wonderful voice and amazing Adeni dialect.
“Oh those days were the best, I remember the Palestinian, Indian and Egyptian teachers walking together holding their books and spreading real knowledge to the students.
“I remember when the queen visited Aden she went to the sick and boor people and ordered the government to provide money and healthcare to help them.”
While Om Khalid welcomed independence she says she still acknowledges the benefits the British brought. “Yes I was sad because we were under the foreigners’ control but they were very polite and respectful to the women and children.
“What I didn’t understand until now is how safe and secure I used to feel in that period under the British rule and how afraid and insecure I’m now under this system.”
In the end nobody can deny what the British did for this part of our country. However, we must remember the sacrifices of our grandfathers to give us freedom and independence. The question today is, did we make the dreams of our grandfathers come true?