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DOCUMENTARIO DEDICATO DA AL-JAZEERA ALLA LEADER RADICALE EMMA BONINO

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YEMEN RUSHES TO SHAVING

Saadeddine Ibrahim

Yemen is a charming Arab country for many Westerners, and a few Arabs, who visited it and lived there. It has a secular civilization, kind people and a striking nature. Yemen witnessed, after the 1963 revolution, violent events during two consecutive decades. However, the last two decades showed astonishing achievements, especially the unification of the country, the discovery of oil and exploiting it in order to develop Yemen and the establishment of political stability. Despite the critics of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, everybody recognizes his intelligence and the speed of coping with regional and international changes. In fact, the man kept Yemen away from the repercussions of four wars; one of which in the country itself. In addition, he expected that, one day, the wave of democracy would reach the Arab world, hence, he refused to hide behind despotism, as many Arab leaders did, and went for constitutional changes. We have no illusions about the Yemeni experience in democracy, for we know that, although it is a promising one, it did not yet reach the level of mature and complete ones. We are just praising the up-until-now incomplete democracy in order to boost it even more. Yemen lately hosted a very important conference on Human Rights, Democracy And The International Criminal Court (ICC), from 10 to 12 January 2004. Many international sides participated to this conference, in addition to many European and Arab governments and parties. The conference shed the light on the importance of the ICC, the role of which is to investigate the complaints against governments in violation of human rights or crimes against humanity. This is why the conference linked between the court and human rights, but…what about democracy? Observers, callers for democracy and human rights activists agree that democratic countries are the least violating human rights or perpetrating crimes against humanity. Although 13 Arab countries signed the treaty of establishing the ICC, only two of them ratified it. It is sad, and amusing, to know that the U.S. itself did not sign it; for it fears its soldiers abroad might be sued for violating human rights. We all know this, but it is not a justification for a country that pretends to be the sponsor for democracy. It is even sadder, and more amusing, to know that there are no declared or secret alibis for eight Arab countries not to sign the agreement and the delay of ten others to ratify it. This might stem from the fact that the leaders in these countries might be afraid of being sued for the crimes they perpetrated against their peoples, or neighboring ones. Over 800 participants attended the conference. The participation of a huge Iraqi delegation was noticeable, for everybody welcomed it warmly. The Iraqi participants blamed the Arab brothers for letting them suffer, for long and many years, Saddam's despotism. The inaugural and final speeches of President Ali Abdullah Saleh were quite memorable. He said: "there is no more place in the world, and surely not in the Arab world, for dictatorships." He added: "should the Arab leaders not take the initiative of shaving their own heads, someone else will do it." The first sentence was an amusing one, for many people consider the Yemeni president himself a dictator. What is sure is that either he disagrees with them or he intends to change this status soon. He might have used the occasion to declare it. Congratulations to Yemen for this successful conference and congratulations for the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh for he announced more democracy in his country. We pray God he would shave his own head. * Mr. Ibrahim is an Egyptian writer and Chairman of the Ibn Khaldoun Development Studies Center.





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