OP-ED

Qat: Let’s see if it Works!

National Yemen

Fakhri al-Arashi

By Fakhri al-Arashi

Banning qat chews at the work place is the demand of all private and public organizations. The newly appointed Minister of the Interior, Abdo Husein Attarb, has issued a decree banning qat at police offices and during working hours. It is very encouraging, and we look forward to seeing it implemented.

Yemen’s major social, economic, and health problems begin and end with Qat. If this decree works, then Yemen would look much better. I am still with the motion, as National Yemen is a non-chewing workplace.

As far as I know, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh issued a similar decree by late 2007, and went so far as saying that they shouldn’t even enter qat markets. It didn’t work because of the total ignorance of high ranking police officers and the absence of real punishment.

I am afraid that this decree may be intended to achieve a professional goal rather than tangible change. Political opposition against the decree is coming from policemen who are serving outdoors, such as at checkpoints, to keep security during the fragile situation.

When it comes to qat, Yemen is not even like Ethiopia, in that the law is not respected and implemented before the chewing. I was in Ethiopia, recently, and my taxi driver rejected my offered leaves because he said that if the police caught him, they would take his license. It would also prevent people, especially sheikhs, buying qat for police officers and staffers to keep them loyal.

2011 was known as the Year of the Qat, due to how qat was used to buy soldier loyalties. Let us hope that it is a new beginning without such things. If the decree works, then credit goes primarily to al-Buhra, which took the first step to replace their Haraz Qat farms with coffee instead. Activist Hind Al-Eryani also deserves praise for fighting against qat chewing, especially among youth and women.

We hope to one day see a Yemen free from qat, but that does not happen overnight. It requires honesty and goodwill to make it happen.