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From its inception in September 1990 to the present day, the Yemeni opposition Islah Party has managed to play a significant and influential role in the face of terrorism and drying up its sources, while ousted president Ali Saleh used terrorism as a tool to extort his political opponents at home and some neighboring countries and Western countries.
Someone might say: how could Islah, as a political party that has neither means nor tools, fight terrorism by drying its sources, while the responsibility lies primarily with the ruling authority to combat terrorism and root out its source, as it has power and capabilities to stop the spread and expansion of terrorist groups?
The question raised makes sense, but when we go deeper into this issue, we will find out that Islah Party’ role has been effective in combating terrorism and drying up its sources and yielded positive results, unlike ousted president Ali Saleh who used to feed terrorist groups whose moves and activities were - and are still – designed to serve the carefully planned coup, despite the political changes in the country.
To root out terrorism’s sources:
The moderate intellectual and religious discourse adopted by Islah-Party has represented the most important means to fight and root out the sources of terrorism. Through moderation and non-violence, the opposition party has been able to attract people, especially young ones, and civilize society so that they are more rationally when dealing with others, defending religious values, or opposing tyranny and corruption of political power. Doing so has prevented young people from falling into the trap of terrorist and violent groups.
This is mostly evidenced by the fact that directorates and areas where Islah enjoys widespread support have the lowest ratio of elements recruited by terrorist groups, while the ratio is high in those areas where the party’s intellectual and political activities are absent or limited; in some of these places, terrorist groups have built recruitment camps and have public activities.
However, the above applies not only to the Yemeni situation, but also to all Arab countries. For example, countries where moderate Islamist movements and parties were allowed to engage in political and social work and religious guidance have had the lowest ratio in terms of the number of individuals joining terrorist groups. On the other hand, countries where moderate Islamic actors were banned from practicing political and social action have experienced high rates of individuals joining terrorist organizations. Perhaps this explains why terrorist groups hate moderate Islamists much more than ruling regimes.
Countries such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Tunisia - whose governments banned moderate Islamic currents from political and social action- found themselves, after the Arab Spring revolutions, confronting many terrorist and extremist groups. For instance, a country like Tunisia, which was seen as the secularism’s stronghold in the Arab world’s and one of the first Arab countries that banned the activity of moderate Islamists, turned out to be one of the most places from which a large number of terrorists including female elements, who joined ISIL.
In the Egyptian case, the terrorist groups have emerged exclusively in the Sinai Peninsula, which is the only geographical region in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood has had no enough presence, leaving open the possibility for terrorist groups to attract young people and exploit their energies in violence and terrorism.
In addition, the political despair experienced by many Arab peoples because of counter-revolutions against the Arab Spring revolutions and the displacement of moderate Islamists from the political scene by force in some countries are all in the interest of terrorist organizations, which have hastened to exploit this by prompting that the peaceful struggle is no longer the best means of change, and the only solution is what it calls "jihad" against corrupt regimes and the use of the same means used against their opponents: violence, murder and others.
Although all governments worldwide recognize that moderate Islamists are more capable than others to combat and root out the sources of terrorism, they do not want to admit this, as these governments use “terrorism” as a political card. To distort the image of Islam among their own citizens and have an excuse to lead military interventions in the Arab world under the pretext to combat terror, they are keen not to eradicate terrorism in the war on terror. Arab governments, for their part, do not want to give moderate Islamists any role in the war on terror, as they know that such contribution would lead to the elimination of terror they use to justify repression against them and continue their undemocratic policies.
To dry out sources of terrorism, Islah-Party did not only pursue the strategy of attracting the youth via political and intellectual activities, it worked also on revealing the role of the deposed Ali Saleh in supporting extremist and terrorist groups. This has contributed to lessening the former president's support for terrorism, and as a result, terrorist activities significantly declined.
The party's media outlets, along with other ones close to it, used to expose Saleh's tricks in favour of terrorism and how he used it as a tool for political blackmail. Doing so angered Saleh and made him accuse the Islah-Party itself of terrorism.
Islah-Party’s role in uncovering Saleh's involvement in terrorism contributed on alerting the neighboring countries and some Western countries to the seriousness of this matter. Consequently, these countries’ media began to focus on this point. In recent years, a number of US officials have confirmed that Ali Saleh was neither in fighting terrorism, nor an active partner in the international community’s war on terrorist organizations.
When taking a look at activities of terrorist organizations in Yemen, we will find that they are usually in favour of ousted president Ali Saleh and target his political opponents. This may be due to the nature of the beginning of the relationship between the two parties (Ali Saleh and the terrorist groups).
Ali Saleh was the only Arab president who received what was known as the "Arab Afghans" whose countries refused to receive them after they returned from participating in the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Some of them were integrated into the security services, while others were allowed to form what was known as Aden-Abyan Islamic Army.
Ali Saleh took advantage of the returnees from Afghanistan to liquidate leaders of the Socialist Party against the backdrop of a political crisis arising among the ruling elite after Yemen’s unification, which ended up with “1994 civil war”. They were assassinated for ideological reasons, as leaders of the then Socialist Party were thought to be part of the Soviet Union’s socialist ideology that had been fought in Afghanistan.
Upon breaking out the revolution of February 2011, Ali Saleh handed over large parts of Abyan province to al-Qaeda and the whole province of Sa’ada to Houthis with the purpose to make the international community be afraid of the peaceful popular revolution.
With the start of the transitional phase following the signing of the Gulf initiative, activities of terrorist groups were brought to the capital Sana'a, in an attempt to thwart the government of national reconciliation led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. After the coup d'état had taken place and President Hadi left the capital, Sana'a, fleeing to Aden, terrorist groups suddenly stopped their activity in Sana'a and moved to Aden. So, are not the terrorist groups in Yemen working to serve Ali Saleh and his family?!
Thus, it turns out that Islah Party has succeeded contributing to drying up the sources of terrorism via its moderate speech. It has attracted religious and enthusiastic young people, rationalized their efforts and guided them in the right direction, instilling in them a culture of "peaceful struggle" as a civilized means of gaining rights and freedoms. And blackmailing the inside and outside of the terrorism paper.