Mohammed Muftah, head of the Omma Party, speaks to the YT
Mohammed Muftah has recently become known as one of the scholars for the Zaidi sect in Yemen. In addition to being a religious scholar, he is also a brilliant speaker and an influential politician.
He was arrested in 2005 when he led a demonstration demanding an end to the war in Sa’ada. In the same year, he and his colleague Yahia Al-Dailami were put on trial, largely perceived to be unfair, and Muftah was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on charges of spying for Iran. In 2006, however, former president Saleh ordered that Muftah and Al-Dailami be released.
Muftah had previously joined the Al-Haq political party, and was head of the party’s Shura Council, however, two years ago he quit. On Jan. 1, 2012, he and a group of friends set up the Omma, or Nation, political party. Ahmed Dawod from the Yemen Times sat with Muftah to find out more about this new party.
What is the Al-Omma Party and what are its objectives?
As far as I’m concerned, the Omma Party is the first patriotic party in Yemen. This is because it is national in origin, thought and association. It had not been cloned from any experience outside of Yemen. Its advantages are that it is not possessed by any other political party, since it was not formed by authority as is the case with the General People’s Congress, and it came after a massive popular revolution, thus it was inspired by Yemeni people’s expectations and the high spirits of the youth of the revolution. It’s a party that considers institutionalism as its best structural asset in order to work for an institutional state, because those who don’t have organized institutions within their parties, will not be able to do so when assuming leadership of the state.
It’s a patriotic party and when we say patriotic, we mean an Arab and Islamic party. This is because the Yemeni people are Arabs and Yemen is a Muslim nation.
As for the party’s objectives, we can sum these up by saying we wish to build Yemen into a powerful, fair and institutional state, that respects the human rights and dignity of Yemenis, provides freedom and dignity to all, and preserves the interests of the Yemeni people both inside and outside of Yemen.
Four days after the party was announced, your house was attacked with two grenades. Whom do you accuse of this act?
I accuse those who are loyal to foreign hegemony, because we want to free political decision making from supremacy and dependency. There’s no doubt that people of subordination are the parties that bother us. Thank Allah that the two bombs did not go off, not by the culprit’s will, but by that of Allah’s. Explosive experts who came to my house were surprised that the grenades did not explode. So far, the security forces have not come forth with further details, although we have informed them about the incident, and despite the fact that the police station officer from nearby came with the explosive experts. Unfortunately, we have not achieved any results so far.
Have you received any threats?
Yes. The matter didn’t end at that. Another incident followed when one of our staff, who was standing in the party building’s yard, was shot by a sniper. A bullet from an unknown source hit him out of the blue. It was a lethal shot by any standards, but Allah saved his life and the bullet didn’t hit the heart or lungs, but somewhere between. Thanks to all, a successful operation was conducted and now he’s back at work.
Does Mohammed Muftah have any enemies?
Mohammed Muftah? No.
And the Al-Omma party?
Anyone who works with a foreign agenda will undoubtedly show hostility towards the Al-Omma party and its staff.
Some believe that the Al-Omma Party represents the Houthis.
We have heard that many times. But I wish to affirm that Al-Omma represents all Yemenis, and is responsible for reflecting their grievances wherever they are. So if our brothers in Sa’ada have been oppressed, killed, injured, have been disabled by the thousands, been displaced by the hundreds of thousands, had their houses demolished, then unquestionably, the Al-Omma Party will take it upon itself to lift such oppression from their backs and adopt their cause. It will do the same for our brothers in the south as well as all areas in Yemen.
Do your positions correspond a great degree with those of the Houthis?
If our positions are identical, then this means that our stance is not abnormal and that we have partners who share it with us. This is a blessing and an additional credit – we have others who share the same viewpoints.
The Gulf Initiative is rejected because it has wasted the sacrifices made by Yemenis, put Yemen under absolute foreign dominion, and brought together political powers that used to represent the former regime with its two branches – the authority and the opposition – in the same cast. It brings subordination to foreign hegemony and the forming of a single authority and the sharing posts and power, while leaving behind the Yemeni people to suffer from injustice and oppression.
Where do you get your financing?
We have only the funds provided by those who are convinced by our ideas. These are a group that believes in the party’s views and principles. Every one of us have shared a part in the responsibility of bringing some money to establish the party. So far, we still suffer from a shortage in resources. This includes the party’s head office furniture, a part of which was borrowed until a week ago, and some which was bought on credit. However, we believe that free Yemenis, men and women, will not give up their pride and dignity, which our party supports, and that they will pay money and make even greater sacrifices.
Some say that Iran is the main supporter of your party.
Yes. Some say that, but only to cover up their subordination to foreign powers. We challenge them to declare the enormous funds they have had to establish huge companies, banks, hospitals, universities and schools across Yemen. Where did they get such finances? I can even claim that some of them still wear the clothes they had from outside Yemen. They are known to all, and when they hear that we wish to set Yemeni politics free from foreign subjection, they feel butterflies in their stomach and see others as if they are seeing themselves. They’re asking for alms from foreign countries and wish to convince people that we are the same. Praise be to Allah that we’re of the Yemeni people, and that we’re not reaching out our hands to Iran, Saudi Arabia, America or any other country. We will depend on Allah, on the will of Yemenis, and on what we can accomplish.
You boycotted the presidential election. Why?
Because there was no election. What happened was that Yemeni people were tricked into voting on the Gulf Initiative under the pretext of voting in the election, when there was none, because there were no candidates. There should have been more than one candidate in order for us to elect one. Also, there was no registration of candidates including the only nominee. His file was not submitted as a candidate to the parliament, nor did he come forth with an electoral program or anything else. There was only the so-called election that persuaded Yemenis to adopt the Gulf Initiative because it gives immunity to those who have corrupted the country, looted its resources, and shed blood. They have exercised a large-scale deception over the Yemeni people to vote on the initiative.
If there were other candidates beside President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, would you have participated in the election?
If it was a real election, yes. At any elections that have proper standards, we will be the first to participate. Rather, we are calling for genuine elections in the future; elections that respect the will of the Yemeni people, because this will was confiscated by all means including extension for the bygone President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the bygone parliament that still claims legitimacy that it does not have, which is another deception against Yemenis.
Some parties say that those who boycotted the election had no political or popular weight. How do you respond to that?
If we have not had weight, why did they resort to the largest rigging process in the history of Yemen? They have taken fingerprints of people who did not participate in the election. They even used children and non-Yemenis and some people who were not registered in voter records. At some centers, where only 200 people showed up, there were fingerprints for 1,370. So this this is the largest manipulation of an election in Yemeni history. This is evidence of our existence and influence.
Were there any talks between you, the Joint Meeting Parties or the GPC to persuade you to take part in the presidential elections?
Regrettably, no. But foreigners did. The parties here are merely instruments. The ones who talked to us were the EU, the American embassy, the German ambassador and others. As for the local parties, they have submitted themselves entirely to foreign countries.
How will you deal with president Hadi and the reconciliation government?
We will deal with Mr. Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi and the fait accompli government as an observer who thoroughly follows their performance. We warn them – you have put yourselves in a difficult situation, so you either prove that you are with the Yemeni people, or that you are only an instrument to foreigners. If they do well, we will praise them as a de facto authority. But if they bungle, the revolution is still alive and they will have no choice but to leave.
There are currently preparations underway for a national dialogue conference. How do you see such a step?
We don’t know what this so-called national dialogue is, who is preparing for it or who will run it. We, at the Al-Omma Party, are calling for a dialogue that would include all national powers and all influential players. We also call for the opportunity to be given to Yemeni people to have their say on their future, instead of conducting talks between political parties that have confiscated the will of the Yemeni people. The parties that have divided power, posts and money among themselves, and paved the way for future foreign hegemony in Yemen.
The government says that the dialogue will not exclude anyone, including the Houthis and the Southern Movement.
If you browse websites, you’ll see pictures of Mr. Yassin Saeed Nu’man and Mr. Abdul Wahab Al-Anesi, along with Mr. Yahia Badruaddin Al-Hothi, who’s abroad (I don’t know in what country). Anyway, I saw the picture with captions to the effect that the first two went abroad to persuade the Houthis to participate in the dialogue, which is a good initiative. I wish that a dialogue would be conducted with the Houthi leaders here in Yemen. I wish also that someone from the de facto government would have given us an idea about the dialogue, but so far, nothing has happened.
What if you are asked to mediate to persuade the Houthis to participate in the national dialogue conference?
It seems that the government needs the Houthis to mediate and persuade us to participate. Our demand is to prepare a solid ground for the dialogue. Such ground hasn’t been prepared yet and as soon as it is, we will go everywhere to encourage Yemenis to engage in the dialogue. But with the case as it is now, this is out of the question.
Your meeting with the American ambassador irked the Houthis.
Our meeting was with the third secretary. They called several times asking to see us. Because our decisions are collective, we convened, deliberated and agreed to meet any diplomat who is in the diplomatic corps in Yemen to show that we don’t mind dealing with the diplomatic corps in Yemen. We received the secretary and expressed our views including those on American interventions in Yemen, and the American policies that have led to insecurity and instability in Yemen and the region, and that we rejected such policies. We also told him that Yemeni people had a right for revenge for the blood shed in Abyan and other areas by American aircraft, and that Yemeni people will not forget such crimes.
In your opinion, how can the Southern and Sa’ada issues be settled?
First of all, grievances should be recognized. Wronged people should be rehabilitated and compensated. Yemeni society’s real freedom should be guaranteed, and their demands be fulfilled as a means to have credibility so that people would begin to solve their problems including foreign dominion over political resolution. When this hegemony ends, we will reconcile and start building the Yemeni state, otherwise things will only get worse and new issues will emerge.
Islah party has not welcomed the Al-Omma Party yet.
We don’t need welcome from anyone. But they should have done that out of courtesy for any new component in the political arena.
How do you evaluate your relations with the JMP?
Our relations with all political entities in Yemen will be that of cooperation and dialogue as a means to serve national interests. We do not have hostility and we only have the demands of the Yemeni people and those who stand in the way of such demands will only antagonize Yemenis.
How do you read the conflict in Sa’ada and Hajja between Islahis and Houthis on one hand, and Houthis and Salafists on the other?
We consider such events with great sorrow because the blood shed is Yemeni blood and because it’s shed in vain. Why should there be such suffering and so many victims? We call upon our brothers in Islah and the Houthis as well as the Salafists, who are clearly funded by the Saudis, to respect Yemenis’ blood and to work for the interests of the Yemeni people instead of fighting. We also request them to resort to dialogue and solve their conflicts peacefully. We are ready to mediate once there is good faith on their part.
Have you made any efforts to curb such conflicts?
We’ve done our utmost. Unfortunately, arguments have reached their highest point yet and media delusion has prevented us from containing the conflict. We have contacted all sides that seek to defuse the problem and we have succeeded in some aspects and failed in others.
How about what is happening in Abyan?
What is happening in Abyan and other governorates is an appalling tragedy. Yesterday, March 9, 2012, we received information that a car loaded with arms and heading to Hajja to add to fighting between Islahis and Salafists on one side, and the Houthis on the other, caused the death of an innocent citizen. The car ran to the central prison and high-ranking mediations were launched to persuade the victim’s family to accept a settlement. The car with its Salafi-leaning men was then released with its load including some rockets. And on the same day, I was informed that American aircraft bombarded areas in Al-Baida and destroyed some houses. This will only stir up people’s emotions and lead the youth to join Al-Qaeda.
From your point of view, how can we solve all these problems?
We need to free our political decisions from foreign influence, reject any foreign interference, work to solve our problems ourselves, and the existing authority should start seeking reconciliation instead of using scarecrows, sacrificing Yemeni soldiers and settling personal accounts.
Do you intend to make an alliance with the Houthis like that of the JMP?
We have pre-coordination with Houthis and we agreed to adopt what we see is in the interest of the nation. We seek to coordinate with other powers including the Southern Movement as a means to free political resolution from foreign influence.
What are the political parties that you have coordinated with?
The coordination is still going on and we don’t want to declare anything until it is concluded. But we are seeking to coordinate with emerging parties like that of Justice and Development Party, the Free Patriots Bloc and others.
Where’s the revolution standing now?
It has reached a very high level of success. For this reason there are conspiracies against it, especially from those receiving money from other countries, after they realized that it is about to achieve its most important goals – the ousting of the family regime and building an institutional state.
Revolutionaries in freedom squares demand military restructuring. What are the criteria that should be applied in this process?
The army should be restructured on a patriotic basis where there is no influence by individuals, powerful people or sheikhs. Powerful people should be pensioned off, including Brigadier Ali Mohsen and officers who are loyal to him or his partner Ali Abdullah Saleh. Also officers from the south who were dismissed in the wake of the 1994 war in addition to other officers with the same problem from all over Yemen should be reinstated.
Finally, how does the Al-Omma Party see what is happening in Syria?
What’s happening in Syria is similar to what is happening in Yemen. It’s even more serious there. There’s an international plot to destroy the Syrian state that is standing in the way of foreign domination of the Arab World considering its position on supporting resistance movements. There is an attempt to retaliate against the Syrian regime. So as long as the Syrian government bows to its people’s demands, pressure should be exerted towards continuing political reforms to adopt political multiplicity and democracy. But those who don’t want to see a strong Syrian state work to oust it there, more than they wish to overthrow the regime itself.
The so-called presidential election was a means to trick people into voting on the Gulf Initiative.
We are calling for real elections in the future that respects the will of the Yemeni people.
Our relations with all political entities in Yemen will be that of cooperation and dialogue.
We have pre-coordination with Houthis and we agreed to adopt what we see is in the interest of the nation.
Those who don’t want to see a strong Syrian state work to oust it there, more than they wish to overthrow the regime itself.