RECOMMENDED READING: “Yemen’s Opposition May Be Caught by Its Own Double Game”


The New York Times has reported on the prospects for the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen in an article titled “Yemen’s Opposition May Be Caught by Its Own Double Game.” The article begins:

A young Yemeni watching a march from the Islamist movement Islah against President Ali Abdulah Saleh on Nov. 17 in Sana.Its shifting alliances, reflecting different currents within the movement, helped keep Islah ahead of its opposition rivals in Yemen. That strategy also kept Islah out of power, unable to credibly offer an alternative to a government it was seen to be in league with.Now, with the increasing likelihood of Mr. Saleh’s exit, Islah, like Islamist organizations around the region, should be poised to win a strong showing at the polls. But that outcome may be in doubt: The strategy that kept the party afloat through the Saleh years may have undermined its credibility. Unlike the largely untested Islamist parties that are rising to power in the wake of the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, Yemen’s Islamists may find that their long record in politics here, stretching over two decades, is a liability, analysts said. Islah’s leaders — even if they hold strong positions in the interim unity government — will have to contend with the party’s mixed record of governance, confusion about its ideological goals and the continued dominance of Mr. Saleh’s ruling party, which remains intact, analysts said. Like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Yemeni movement has been dealing with increasingly visible divisions as it edges closer to greater power. Days after Islah’s leaders signed on to an agreement that required Mr. Saleh to hand over his executive powers in exchange for a promise of immunity, many of the group’s members were still protesting in the streets and fuming at what they saw as an unacceptable compromise. “This is politics,” said Ali Mohammed al-Hadda, an Islah member sitting in Change Square, where protesters, including thousands of party members, have camped out for 10 months pressing for Mr. Saleh to resign. After the signing the deal, fights broke out between youth activists also furious at the agreement, and Islah members, who in turn, blamed their leaders. “The revolution’s goals have not been met,” Mr. Hadda said. “We told them we are very angry.”

Read the rest here.

A previous post reported that Al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki, recently killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, had been residing in the homes of various Islah leaders.

An Israeli research center has identified the Al-Islah party as the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen:

….the al-Islah (Reform) party, generally described as the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. This party was created in September 1990, bringing together Islamist figures, tribal leaders, and businessmen.[5] From its foundation until late 2007, it was headed by Shaykh Abdallah al-Ahmar, chief of the most prominent tribal confederation (the Hashid, of which Ali Abdallah Salih’s tribe, Sanhan, itself is a member) and speaker of parliament.[6] More than a year after Shaykh Abdallah al-Ahmar’s death on December 29, 2007, the tribal and political consequences are still unclear. The party loosely brings together individuals with different agendas and strategies and has proven its ability to adapt to the changing internal, and international, context.[7] The party has taken part in the democratization process since its inception, competing in free elections and participating in the parliament. While debate over whether the democratic system holds religious legitimacy may exist inside the party, al-Islah overtly accepts the multiparty system and has never supported direct armed confrontation with the government. It collaborates with the regime and could even be considered an integral part of it. In 1994, during the secession war opposing Southern elites to the North, militias supported by al-Islah assisted the government in defeating the socialist-led secessionists.[8] Today, al-Islah is well-implanted in numerous regions of the country (including in the former Marxist South, where anti-socialist reaction is strong and favors Islamist candidates and platforms). Nationally, it won an average of 18 percent of the vote during the 1993, 1997, and 2003 parliamentary elections (though the elections’ lack of transparency reduces the significance of this data).[9]

The Gloria report also discusses Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, discussed in the article and designated by the U.S. as a terrorist:

Aside from its deceased leader Abdallah al-Ahmar and his sons (including Hamid, a successful businessman), the most prominent figures of al-Islah include Yahya Lutfi al-Fusayl, Muhammad Qahtan, Muhammad al-Yadumi (who took over the leadership after the death of al-Ahmar), and Abd al-Majid al-Zindani. Al-Zindani is likely the most famous of all and is said to embody the radical component of al-Islah. This former comrade of Zubayri, heads the al-Iman religious university in San’a and spent many years in Saudi Arabia. In the 1980s, he organized for Yemeni fighters to be sent to Afghanistan and thereby gained stature. In the post-September 11 context, Zindani has frequently been described by the American administration as a close partner of bin Ladin. His historical role has protected him from direct government repression.[13] He plays an ambiguous role, acting both as a mainstream popular figure (his criticism of American foreign policy is commonly accepted by Yemenis) and a marginal one, as he represents a bridge to a type of violent militancy that does not appeal to many.

A previous post discussed Sheikh al-Zindani’s ties to Al Qaeda as well as to the global Muslim Brotherhood.

Previous posts discussed the awarding of a Nobel Peace prize to an Al-Islah figure.

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