By Asma Al-Mohattwari
After a considerable delay in the announcement of the start of the National Dialogue Conference, President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi announced that the conference would begin on 18 March, the two-year anniversary of the Day of Dignity.
The Day of Dignity marks the day when over 245 pro-democracy activists were gunned down, 45 of them killed, according to Human Rights Watch. Most of the martyrs were university students. The angry resulting from the blood-bath added further moment to the protest movement which eventually forced Yemen’s 33-year ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down, and many prominent officials to declare their support for the uprising.
The choice is a bold one and it has many supporters who believe that Hadi is honoring the dead and wounded of Yemen’s uprising by choosing the day of their deaths as the start to a dialogue that is suppose to bring the country together to decide on a new political future. Choosing this day, supporters say, signals the success of the revolution.
But the decision also has its critics; many of whom say they resent the appropriation of that day and see Hadi’s choice as ‘gimmicky’. Adding insult to injury, some say, is the fact that there have been no consequences for those behind the massacre or part of the ruling regime. In fact, Saleh was offered immunity in the GCC-sponsored deal that formally ended his rule.
Human Rights Watch says that “there is no guarantee that justice will be served for these killings. Instead, Yemen’s transition government is basing its prosecution of the case on a deeply flawed investigation by Saleh administration. Rather than bring the change that protesters died for, the proceedings could perpetuate the impunity of the past.”
Abdualhameed Ali Al-Ghafari believes that the Hadi’s choice of the Day of Dignity anniversary confirms the success of the peaceful revolution; with a new political leadership that will engage in dialogue, the conference marks the beginning of a political modernization that will build a ‘civil state’.
National Dialogue representative and Nasserite Party member Manea Almatary says the choice is an acknowledgment that the martyrs and revolutionaries were they change makers – it is because of them that change is coming.
In his part, Mr. Manea Almatary, Nasserite Party representative in the national dialogue, said that the ND’s day is recognition from the Government, the Presidency of the Republic and all the forces that martyrs are the change makers and they are the ones who imposed all these national entitlement that the political forces are seeking to put forward in the ND.
Hameed Razq says whether the choice is appropriate or not depends on the Hadi’s motivations. If the message is that killing and repression don’t solve problems, dialogue does, than it is a good move. If it is to divert attention away from the anniversary of the massacre so that the day will forever be remembered as the start of the conference, then he is not in favor. Hadi risks trivializing the day by taking attention away from the “killers and criminals who committed the massacre,” Razq said.
Change Square Revolutionary Al-Haimi believes the choice is another crime gifted to Yemen by the same people who brought the country the GCC initiative, letting Saleh off the hook for a bloody massacre carried out by gunmen loyal to him and his regime.