Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Yemen's Multilayered War: Al Qaeda in Arab Peninsula

This article is by

Share this article

Sailors render honors at the USS Cole Memorial | Source: Flickr

This is the 4th part of a short explainer article series on the current crisis in Yemen. To read the earlier parts of the series click on the following links.

To read the 1st part of the series click on the link.

To read the 2nd part of the series click on the link.

To read the 3rd part of the series click on the link.

The unification of Yemen in 1990 was a direct result of the military defeat of South Yemen at the hand of North Yemen forces. This military defeat and coerced unification implied that Unified Yemen could not achieve real cohesion, preventing the functioning of the nation as a democratic unit.

Meanwhile, newer elements were added to the dangerous mix of sub-nationalism, intra religious division, and tribal loyalty in Yemen. These were the Yemeni veterans of Soviet-Afghan war who fought with the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet army backing the Afghan government.

These were hardline Wahabi and Salafi fighters, following an idealogy that mandated a strict interpretation of Islam. The fighters returned to Yemen in the early 1990s, after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The local Yemeni, both the Zaidi Shias or Maliki Sunni have traditionally followed a more liberal version of Islamic and social practices. Unlike the local Sunnis who were living in peaceful coexistence with the Zaidis Shia, these hardliners were antagonistic to the Shias.

Their arrival was followed by a forceful realignment of the local residents’ religious practices, mandating the local population to strict interpretations and social practices. Osama bin Laden, who had family roots in Yemen, was a conveniently placed ideological mentor. This led to a pushback from both the government forces as well as Shia groups, especially the Houthi-led Ansar Allah movement. In time, these former mujahideen, who were battle hardened and well versed in guerilla warfare, allied themselves with Al-Qaeda to start a low level insurgency in Yemen.

The Gulf war and subsequent stationing of American forces in Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries provided another impetus for the growth of Al Qaeda in Yemen. Consequently, they demanded that coalition forces leave Arabian land, failing which would result in more terror attacks.

Al-Qaeda affiliated groups attacked many installations associated with the US-led coalition forces in Yemen and nearby countries. The most successful of those was the famous bombing of USS Cole in Aden, in 2000. It was followed by a series of attacks leading up to  9/11.

Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) is also known as the Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen is fighting to set up an emirate amidst the lack of leadership post the Houthi rebellion. It was this outfit that claimed responsibility for the attack on the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in 2015 and is now considered the most dangerous al-Qaeda outfit by the US.

The CNN reported that “AQAP set out its objectives in a May 2010 statement as the "expulsion of Jews and crusaders" from the Arabian Peninsula, the re-establishment of the Islamic caliphate, the introduction of Sharia, or Islamic law, and the liberation of Muslim lands.”

The full list of attacks and places captured by terrorist insurgents in chronological order can be accessed here.

One of the outcomes of continual terrorist attacks has been a reduction in Hadi’s popularity. He is also seen as weak for not being able to stop al-Qaeda from terrorising Southern Yemen, as well as for not being able to alleviate them from their feeling of marginalization ever since the unification.

To read the 5th part of the series click on the link.

Subscribe to the Global Views 360 mailing list for the weekly updates.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

Read More