Saturday, May 18, 2013

Updated: No one should be above the law!

On Wednesday May 15, twenty-two year old Khalid Al-Khateeb flew from Aden to Sana'a for an interview hoping for a potential scholarship to study in Germany*.  That night,  he and his  20-year old friend Hassan Aman went out. Little did they know that this car ride would be their last.

Around 10 pm., while they were in the car, they came across a wedding procession on 50 street in Beit Boss area.  Then, according to their families, as they were trying to bypass the procession - and here details are still fuzzy - armed men got out of a car and shot them in front of police cars who were there to "protect" the wedding procession. 

The car and the armed men are reportedly linked to Al-Awadhi tribe, and more precisely to its Sheikh Ali Abd Rabo Al-Awadhi, a National Dialogue participant in the southern issue working group.  

The criminal investigation has gathered evidence and forensic reports have been conducted but not published yet, and details are still yet to be revealed.  The ministry of interior announced the plate number of the car, and stated that the motives of the killing is not yet clear and that they are still searching for the killers.

As this cartoon illustrates**, for many Yemenis, the motive is clear: those with weapons flexing their muscles and taking advantage of their power.  

Man says "There is nothing here sir, they are just some youth that the Sheikh killed... no no thank God, the Sheikh is ok"

This brutal show of force with disregard for humanity and no care for potential consequences has shocked the capital, and of course the family.   Since she heard the news, Hassan's mother has lost the ability to speak.

 The case is slowly becoming a national issue and shaping public opinion on the matter. This might be partially due to the fact that Hassan Aman is the grandson of the famous poet Lutfi Jafar Aman, but more importantly because various groups have together taken this issue as a priority.  

Today, majority of participants at the National Dialogue Conference froze their membership demanding the arrest and investigation of perpetrators.  In addition, a protest was also held in front of Parliament demanding justice.  Another protest is scheduled to take place on Monday.

Poster at rally demanding justice reads "We demand arrest of the murders of Hassan Aman and Khalid Al-Khateeb"

Online campaigns have also been dedicated to this issue.  R.I.P Hassan Aman & Khalid Al-Khateeb page has been setup to draw attention to this case.  

This case of course is unfortunately not the first of its kind.  Just a year ago, the body guard of the Prime Minister's daughter killed a guard at the English language institute Exceed.  This video taken by the Institute's camera shows the incident.   

According to local media, the Prime Minister ordered the surrender of the body guard and the case was handled by ministry of interior.  Since then, there has been conflicting information about what happened afterwards with the case.

There are hundreds of other stories throughout the country that do not make it to the the media, mainstream or alternative.  Not only about murder, but also illegal detention, land grabbing, and forced marriages.  These highlight the brutality of corruption and power in the absence of accountability and rule of law.

The issue should not be looked at as simply a problem with the "tribal" structure, because there are positives and negatives when it comes to the tribal structure.  For example, through tribal law, tribes have for a long time provided stability and security in areas far removed from governing structures.  

The main issue here is the ease at which corrupt powerful men, tribesman or others, can kill and steal, and get away with it. No one should be above the law, not a powerful tribesman, nor a rich businessman, nor a government official.  Sooner or later justice will prevail.
"We will not respond arms for arms, or blood for blood ...our weapon is the power of words" said Mohammed Aman on Facebook in response to the murder of his cousin.  

So lets spread his words by demanding Justice and equality, after all isn't that what the revolution and the calls for a civic state were all about?

campaign poster says "Stay silent today...tomorrow you will be the victim" - photos of the two martyrs Hassan and Khalid

* This post has been updated, earlier I wrote that he flew from Aden to Sanaa in order to fly to Germany, but it was revealed that he had an interview that day for a potential scholarship to  Germany.

** Cartoon was added two hours after initial post.

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