YSP leader Ameen Ahmed Qasim: ‘My party will rise again’
Qasim, who was one of four men controlling the Yemeni Socialist Party’s fund and a prominent businessman, said the assassination attempt was meant not only to harm him but also the nation, its society and stability.
Qasim spoke to Mohamed Bin Sallam of the Yemen Times where he offered insights as to why he was a target as well as talking about the Yemeni Socialist Party’s (YSP) vision for the country’s two-year transitional period.
The YSP was a ruling party in southern areas of Yemen including Aden, Lahj, Al-Dhala, Shabwa, Al-Mahra and Hadramout before the unity in 1990.
The assassination attempt
At 8:15 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, February 8, Qasim was attacked by armed men as he travelled home along Zubairy Street in the capital Sana’a.
Waiting to ambush him near the headquarters of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC), the men used two kinds of machine guns and Kalashnikovs. 18 bullets hit his car but he survived unscathed.
Despite the fact that the area, which houses the Police Academy, state institutions and foreign embassies including the Saudi and Emirati embassies, is heavily guarded, no attempt was made to pursue the gunmen.
Instead, Qasim was forced to stop at a Republican Guard checkpoint to replace a shot out tire – and still the troops paid no attention to the incident.
Qasim says he was shocked by the attempt on his life; he says he can think of no one who would want him dead, plus the area was manned by a large number of troops – something that did not seem to concern his assailants.
“Were my attackers protected by the troops? What does their presence in such a heavily-guarded place mean?” Qasim wondered.
He informed the Interior Ministry and security services about the incident at that time, but to date, no action has been taken, according to Qasim.
Although he says he does not know who would want to kill him, Qasim has not ruled out that the assassination attempt could have been politically motivated, recalling the killing of 150 YSP leaders before the 1994 war.
He explained that his case is about more than just himself and if the security services do not respond, he will file a lawsuit against them.
He did not accuse any party of being behind the attack, but he held the security services responsible for failing to identify his assailants, cautioning against targeting leaders of the YSP again.
A year in detention
Qasim was twice arrested in 1994 and 1995 by orders of president Saleh at the time who blackmailed him while in prison.
Qasim claimed that he was arrested because he would not yield to Saleh’s pressure to surrender his party’s money, over $350 million at the time, over which he, and three others, acted as treasurers.
A number of Qasim’ companies were looted at the time, his property confiscated and he was forced to pay $9 million to be released.
“Through forgery, the Yemeni regime withdrew large amounts of money belonging to YSP of a Bahraini Bank, and hundreds of millions of dollars were lost from foreign banks” he went on. Qasim does not think that these amounts went to the budget of the Yemeni Central Bank, but rather to the pockets of corrupt individuals.
He further said he asked Saleh about the funds, pointing out that Saleh warned of talking about the funds whether local or foreign banks.
During his one year and eight months detention, he said he was tortured until he finally decided to buy his own freedom at a cost of $9 million. His sons were also arrested several times.
“My wife was also subjected to constant harassments, and any customer that came to my office was arrested in order to intimidate me and make me give up the party’s money, which they [the regime] eventually took anyway,” he said.
After buying his way out, Qasim was put under house arrest for more than a year while the intelligence agents were roaming close to his home around the clock.
“They [security] were interested in pursuing my wife step by step even when she was going to the grocery,” he said.
The YSP’s future
Qasim stressed that the Yemeni Socialist Party is still a key player in the political arena.
He says that those who doubt the YSP’s capacities should “wait and see” as he believes his party will overcome all obstacles.
“It is unlikely that the YSP will be on the margin, it was a ruling party and has long experience in running the state, and they [people who doubt the YSP’s revival] should understand that the party’s future will be good and pioneering.”
“The party’s ties with the Joint Meeting Parties are at its best and improving day by day and what is being raised about differences among opposition is groundless,” he added.
As for the party’s ties with its exiled members, Qasim said “Communications are ongoing with all members, without exception…those people live abroad have different views and notions, but the party sees at the issues with more comprehensive and broader consideration because it is exists among the people,” he said.
With regard to the party’s attitudes about the unification and the form of the Yemeni up-coming system, he said YSP supports the creation of a centralized state with federal system, hinting that Yemen could be branched into several regions.
This is a matter that will be decided in the national dialogue conference, scheduled to be held after the presidential elections, to address all long-standing issues in Yemen.
He pointed out that Sheikh Abdul-Majeed Al-Zindani, rector and founder of Al-Eman University, a religious institute in Sana’a, denied his previous fatwa, which legalized the bloodshed of southerners and incited the northerners against them during 1994 war.
“It seems that they [Al-Zindani and other clerics] felt they committed a mistake and now they deny such statements, but they are supposed to be bold. They should admit that they issued the fatwa and explain the reasons behind it,” he said.
“They cannot deny that [it was issued], we have documents [that prove it] and their current denial is not good for them,” he said.
“In these conditions, I hope that security forces play a role that ensures the rights of others and their safety.”