Today, across every corner of Yemen, we celebrate the 33rd anniversary of "Islah." This momentous occasion marks the founding of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah) on September 13, 1990. The establishment of this political party occurred just months after a historic agreement on "political pluralism" in Yemen, a significant milestone following the unification of Yemen on May 22, 1990. The birth of Islah emerged as a continuation of the Yemeni reform movement's longstanding struggles over decades, proclaiming "Islah" as a crucial political current drawing its inspiration, programs, and discourse primarily from the rich legacy of Yemen's reformist history.
This year, the commemoration holds special significance, as our country faces a pressing need to revitalize its political practices, democracy, and national political engagement. Emphasizing political pluralism at this stage is of paramount importance, especially considering that the tragedy in Yemen and the ongoing war are rooted in the Houthi coup against the political process. This coup took place just as Yemen was on the brink of adopting the constitution that had emerged from the UN-sponsored National Dialogue Conference in 2013 and 2014. Yemen was poised to hold a referendum to ratify this constitution, a document that all Yemenis had actively contributed to drafting. However, the Houthis chose to obstruct this path by resorting to violence and armed aggression, plunging Yemen into one of its darkest periods in history.
The ultimate objective of the Houthis has become evident: they aim to revert Yemen to theocratic rule, claiming a "divine right" that endows them with exclusive governance authority from God. They insist that Yemenis must submit to their rule and accept the confiscation of the freedoms and achievements that the republic has offered since its inception on September 26, 1962, and the subsequent October 14, 1963, revolution. However, Yemenis have steadfastly rejected this stance, both in the past and in the present. Islah's position remains resolute in rejecting the coup and the use of armed force against the state. Instead, it aligns with the state, opposes the militias, and works towards ushering Yemen out of its darkest times.
Islah and Democracy
Islah has actively participated in every stage of Yemen's political journey, including its involvement in parliamentary elections in 1993, 1997, and 2003, presidential elections in 1999, 2006, and 2012, as well as local elections in 2001 and 2006. Throughout these endeavors, Islah has consistently worked to foster people's engagement and to advocate for the democratic process as both a means and a catalyst for transformative change.
The objective of Islah has been to inclusively involve Yemeni men and women in public life, transcending narrow affiliations based on tribal, territorial, sectarian, or religious divisions. Instead, it strives to empower individuals to champion broader national aspirations, including freedom, comprehensive development, and the equitable distribution of power and wealth.
As I reflect on Islah's 33-year journey as a member, it is evident that our party consistently aligns itself with the right side of history. Throughout this period, Islah has steadfastly upheld its core principles, including the support of state institutions and alignment with the people.
Following the inaugural post-unity elections in 1993, Islah emerged as the second-largest party in terms of parliamentary seats. However, recognizing the potential for crisis and discord between the two ruling parties—the General People's Congress and the Yemeni Socialist Party— and the risk to the nascent unity and democratic experiment, Islah made a significant decision. It graciously stepped aside, allowing the Socialists to take the lead, and entered a three-party coalition government.
In 1994, a critical moment arose for Islah when the unity of Yemen, which it had helped establish, was endangered. One side opted for war, while the other pushed for secession. However, Islah stood for the preservation of Yemen's unity, recognizing it as an invaluable national asset that should never be compromised. It viewed this unity as the foundation for the nation's political work and future.
Islah boasts a robust track record of forging genuine alliances, whether in government or opposition. In 1997, when the post-1994 regime failed to respond to the reformers' appeals, persisted in its policy of exclusion, and marginalized developmental efforts, Islah took a principled stand. It withdrew from government participation to assume the role of the opposition. This decision stemmed from the belief that an effective opposition is vital to represent the concerns of the people and act as a force to exert pressure on the ruling party.
Our accomplishment lies in the formation of a significant and comprehensive political force with a Yemeni national vision and agenda that is steadfastly committed to the nation's future and aligned with the global landscape.
Islah and Political Alliance
Islah, in its political journey, formed crucial alliances and took the helm of the Joint Meeting Parties coalition, a pioneering initiative comprising a range of Islamic, nationalist, and regional political orientations. This coalition brought together Islah, the Socialist Party, the Nasserists, the Baath Party, and other political factions. Over the years, this distinctive collaboration earned praise and recognition from observers. In the 2006 elections, the coalition fielded a formidable candidate, the late Engineer Faisal bin Shamlan.
The Joint Meeting Parties' collective efforts reached their zenith when they actively participated in the peaceful youth revolution of 2011. Subsequently, they played a pivotal role in the new transitional government under the GCC Initiative and the leadership of former President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. During this period, significant progress was made, including the convocation of the National Dialogue. During this period, significant strides were made, including the convening of the National Dialogue. However, the Houthis disrupted this progress by disregarding the people's consensus through a military coup in 2014.
Even amid the ravages of war, Islah has remained unwavering in its commitment to preserving political pluralism, even in the face of attempts by militias to monopolize the political arena. Therefore, in 2019, Islah engaged in forming the National Alliance of Political Parties, a coalition comprising 17 Yemeni political parties. The initial president of the National Alliance was the current head of the Presidential Leadership Council, and subsequently, it was led by Dr. Abdulrahman Omar, the Secretary-General of the Socialist Party. Today, I have the honor of serving as its president in the current term.
What underscores Islah's dedication to upholding political pluralism and democracy is that the areas where Islah is involved in local governance stand as the last bastions of safe and inclusive environments for political activity. We not only encourage this but also strive to fortify it. We view this as the least burdensome and quickest path to attaining stability, peace, and escaping the cycles of violence that have set Yemen back for decades, transforming people's lives into a nightmare.
To reinforce these principles, I extend my congratulations to the branches of Islah in the governorates and districts that conducted internal elections to renew their leadership structures. These elections reaffirm the party's institutional traditions and regulatory guidelines. They are a crucial part of our preparation for the country's return to stability and peace, ushering in a new phase within the Islah Party and refreshing its leadership with young men and women across all corners of the country, despite the obstacles imposed by militias and de facto forces. The will of the future must not yield to these challenges.
Islah and the Region
Throughout its history, the Islah Party has consistently underscored the significance of relationships with neighboring countries, regarding them as vital partnerships driven by integration and mutual interests. These partnerships actively contribute to regional security, peace, and development. Similarly, connections with the international community and allies are equally critical, with the ultimate goal of advancing Yemen's best interests. The party also maintains good ties with all local parties, operating within the framework established by the Yemeni Republic's constitution and its participation in power as a key player in the country.
Islah remains fully dedicated to seeking a comprehensive and fundamental solution to the terrorism issue that has plagued Yemen and harmed its people, known for their moderate and centrist nature. Today presents an opportunity to reaffirm Islah's unwavering position on this matter, which some exploit for personal or political gain. Regrettably, such actions nurture terrorism under the guise of combating it and exploit it at the expense of the Yemeni people, their security, and stability. The Houthi movement's actions in this context, now widely evident to observers, once again emphasize the need for a comprehensive national strategy to address the terrorism issue, with the Yemeni state and its institutions playing a pivotal role.
Meanwhile, Islah has made tremendous sacrifices in its relentless pursuit to restore the state and bring stability to Yemen, bearing significant burdens along the way. We are immensely proud to stand as a political force representing the nation and its people, constituting a diverse civil political bloc dedicated to shaping a better future. Our members hail from various walks of life, including students, teachers, doctors, engineers, farmers, and accomplished individuals from every corner of Yemeni society.
The relentless propaganda campaigns, financed by both local and international sources against Islah, only further validate the party's stance and political significance. Our decisions and choices are made purely in the interests of Yemen and its people. Consequently, we firmly reject any form of hybrid governance, be it an imamate and Iranian guardianship under the banner of "Wilayat al-Faqih," as well as all armed and funded militia groups, calls for territorial divisions, and pre-state rhetoric.
Our vision is for a united Yemen, founded on republican principles, where every individual enjoys their rights to power, equitable wealth distribution, comprehensive development, and decent living conditions, free from any form of tutelage or subordination. This vision can only be achieved through the Yemeni national state, which encompasses the nation's civil, political, and cultural diversity, serving as a protective shield and an inclusive umbrella for all its people.
In light of these principles, Islah fully supports all regional and international efforts aimed at reaching a political settlement to end the ongoing conflict and alleviate the immense suffering of the Yemeni people. We, in Islah, have always been and will always be with the Yemenis, working hard for a solution that ends their suffering and frees them from the grip of the Houthi militias, whose actions have been aptly described by the World Food Programme as "stealing food from the mouths of the hungry".
Abdulrazzaq Al-Hajri: A member of the High Committee of Islah party, and the head of the Parliamentary Bloc of the Party.