Al-Fadhli: I’ll stay in my house and won’t leave until the Southern issue is solved, or I die”
Approached for an interview with Saudi newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, Southern separatist leader Tariq al-Fadhli discussed his personal history, the dynamics of his movement’s leadership, and the possibility of conflict with the central government.
Al-Fadhli, who has been under virtual house arrest in Zinjibar since 2009, described convening a meeting at his residence in the same year inaugurating the so-called “Supreme Council for the Peaceful Liberation of the South.”
Commenting on recent tensions, and the release of major Southern leader Hassan Ba’um, al-Fadhli noted, “after that, there were those who said that we should postpone everything until he was released, but I say we are all vulnerable to detention and exile, and the work of the committees must continue despite what has happened and continues to happen.”
Asked about a recent meeting of exiled Southern Leaders in Germany, which ended in apparent disarray, al-Fadhli acknowledged major rifts in the Movement’s leadership.
“The approach of President Ali Salem is one of ‘disengagement’ and ‘independence,’ under the premise that the South is occupied. Another approach, represented by Ali Nasser Muhammad and Haider al-Attas, proposes ‘change,’ and accepting federalism as a compromise.”
Asked whether the possibility of battles between the North and South, or a full scale civil war, frightened him, al-Fadhli admitted that such a conflict would be devastating, and should be avoided.
“Our experience with war in the South is clear. In the events of January 1986 there were two parties to an internal conflict: Abyan and Shabwa on one side, and al-Dalea and Lahj on the other. People would profile each other by asking for identity cards, or if they did not have them, based on their accents. Now this was just among Southerners – what if it were between the North and South?”
Repeating a sentiment common among Southern activists, al-Fadhli regarded with skepticism a recent campaign of assassinations against security and intelligence personnel in the Southern governorate of Abyan. He considered official implication of al-Qaeda as suspicious, and viewed the killings as a result of political maneuverings within the government, and against the Southern Movement.
Asked about the near-term prospects of the country and of his secessionist movement, al-Fadhli responded, “there are many reasons – not just security reasons – to believe that the next four months will be difficult, on Yemen’s political parties, on the Southern Movement, on the state, and those outside it. We expect an increase of unfortunate events.”