By Asma Al-Mohattwari
The Decision Foundation for Media and Sustainable Development, in cooperation with the Afqar Foundation for Research and Consulting and the Yemeni Journalists Union, held a seminar to discuss the background, causes and effects of increasing terrorist operations in Abyan by Al-Qaeda affiliated groups. The seminar was called, “Abyan and Al-Qaeda: The Human Tragedy Continues.”
The seminar comes as Al-Qaeda’s power is increasing in the security vacuum of the southern part of Yemen. Al-Qaeda has been slowly growing in ebbs and flows starting in 2002 culminating to today. According to Mr. Abdul Rashid Al-Faqih, a representative of a human rights organization, Al-Qaeda’s recent growth is a result of an alliance of jihadist groups comprised of many from the old guard.
The most important reason behind Abyan downfall is the absence of the state there. This creates a climate for the emergence of the armed militias. “One of the reasons for the spread of Al Qaeda and the expansion of its activities under the name of “Ansar Al-Sharia” is the lack of coordination between state agencies and institutions in combating them,” says Ayesh Awas from the Sheba Center for Strategic Studies.
The growth of the armed groups has had a substantial impact on the quality of life of citizens in the area resulting in what some panelists called a “human tragedy.” There are now more than 173,000 displaced families. 23,000 of those families are residing in Aden while the rest are distributed throughout many governorates. “Yemen has seen many different wars, but it has never seen anything like Abyan’s,” said Mohammed Moafa, a panelist from Zinjibar.
However, some panelists held different opinions on the environment in which the citizens of the affected areas live. Mohammed Ghazwan said that “through my visit to Abyan, I noticed that people have no problem with the presence of Al-Qaeda, their own problem is with the government, who they say bombed their houses and forced them to leave their houses.”
In contrast, internally displaced people in Sana’a released a joint statement on the tragic situation of Abyan stating that liberation was their demand. In the statement, they also asked the Government of National Accord to fulfill its national obligations and punish the local civil and military leadership for allegedly handing over Abyan to terrorist gangs.