عاجل| أبو العباس مستنكراً قرارات اللجنة الأمنية بتعز: لجنة “مفضوحة” تدار من بعض الأطراف
“أبو العباس” : هذه جبهتي وأنا مقاومة ولست دولة(2/2
– فخر العزب، وجدي السالمي
أبو العباس..من ميدان الرياضة إلى ميدان الحرب (1/2
ـ وجدي السالمي، فخر العزب
Interview with Shaykh Adel Abdu Farea/ عادل عبدة فارع (aka Abu al-Abbas)
Edited and annotated
Having written a long post on the role Salafi fighters have played in the ongoing conflict, a friend in Taiz offered to put me in contact with Abu al-Abbas for an interview. Initially, the conversation would have taken place over the phone with help from my journalist friend. But it was advised not to proceed due to security concerns on their part. The interview was conducted in person by Fakhr al-Azab in Taiz in early December 2016. I provided all the questions and the conversation was recorded. I hope to post the audio soon.
My questions may appear simple to many readers, but it is the answers to these simple questions which reveal very interesting perspectives and information about the sources of influence on Abu al-Abbas, his background and the politics of the ‘resistance’ in Taiz. We hope to follow up on this interview with more detailed questions about the conflict itself and expectations for peace. I will also post my own commentary on the answers provided by Abu al-Abbas soon.
Q 1- How would Shaykh al-Wada’i view the role of many of his students today during the civil war?
Abu al-Abbas: We don’t know if Shaykh Wada’i would have been involved in this war or not, but the Shaykh was careful to escape tribulations, once I listened to him say; “If the government came to push me out of Dammaj, even with its tanks, I would have taken my possessions and [moved] to another place begging (asking) my God.” But this approach assumes a relation with ‘Wali al-Amr’, and we follow this approach. You know that president Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi pushed us out of Dammaj, giving us a four-day deadline. Because of the approach to ‘Wali al-Amr’ we would have to accept it. For Shaykh Wada’i, the majority of his literature mentions avoiding tribulations as much as possible. But I could not know [his views on this war]….
Q 2- What led Salafis from the madrassa to the battlefield?
AA : The Rafidah (rejectionists ) Houthis pushed us to the battlefields. During the wars between the government and Houthis, we were studying and outside that war, we were going up to the mountains like Al-Qasbah Mountain ( جبل القصبة ) and Al-Baraqa Mountain ( جبل البراقة ) for safety, worried [over possible attacks. Houthis said ‘we (salafis) have no relation to this war’. And they [demanded we not interfere] in their war with the government, we were not fighting them. Shaykh Yahya al-Hajuri asked us not to oppose them (Houthis) because the government is well armed to defend itself. Houthis moved to Al-Etesalat mountain, far away from us, so [we did not interfere] as long as they stayed away from us. But in the sixth war, they (Houthis) started to be close to homes of students and attacked us with anti-air guns. An attack on our students was led by someone called Bin Rahma ( بن رهمة) who was later killed by some students in the region of Al-Hadab ( الحدب ). It was the beginning of the conflict between us; they (Houthis) were attacking us while we were in Dammaj (site of Dar al-Hadith Institute). We defended ourselves, and never moved back to the mountains. We only dug trenches around the Center of Dammaj, and responded against their assaults until the time we left (in 2014).
Q 3- Why has Taiz seen such large numbers of Salafi fighters?
AA: Salafis who studied in Dammaj are so small in numbers, half the fighters with me are supporters (Salafists) and the rest from (the general) public, but they fight along side us. They know how [dedicated] we are in fighting….. Some along many fronts bring their fighters under our control, some groups have 40 gunmen and some [have as many as] 70. I [often] refuse fighters because I don’t know them, and I fear loosening the ranks from inside. But that means people fighting [along side] Salafis know that Salafis [are dedicated to the] fight and have no another aims, except defeating Houthis (Rawafidh) from the city.
Q 4- What do you see as the root of the conflict in Taiz?
AA: For us, we know Houthis want to spoil Taiz, both in beliefs and in [relations] with people; they would insult [people], specially who ever rejects them as they [terrorize] cities, they [oppress] and humiliate people. But Taiz has never yielded to them, and this is a gift from God. We are resisting, and if they withdraw, [relieved] from their evil. Because the Iran followers want to [impose] their masters against us.
Q 5- How did Taiz go from the center of Islah’s resistance under Makhlafi to a Salafi stronghold?
AA: I told you our honesty, I have never said the honesty of Abu Al-Abas, I am only one [among them] “ذلك فضل الله يأتيه من يشاء”. Of course, people in Taiz started to complain because some fronts led by some persons didn’t make [any] progress, while other fronts made [did]. We were too [small in numbers], about 140 fighters, when we control many sites like the Agency (NSB) building, Bait Al-Dumaini ( بيت الدميني ), Bait Al-Ga’shni ( بيت الجعشني ), Security Department ( ادارة الأمن ), The Fourth Point ( النقطة الرابع ), Political Security Office (PSO), al-Qahira Castle, al-Makhalou’s (Ali Abdullah Saleh’s home in Taiz) home and other sites. People said that on the Eastern front, which I lead, we really fought hard… The Western front was [neglected ], and we made progress by the hand of God, and with help of the brother Adnan Ruzaiq ( عدنان رزيق ) who joined us in that period. For the Northern front, it [was abandoned] and never made progress ‘til now December 2016).
Q 6- The war has divided Yemen along many battle fronts, many political factions, how can anyone maintain Yemen’s unity?
AA: The currents and fictions exist, if you mean the political currents; they are [what] they are, some parties want division ( يريدون المحاصصة ) and gain from others’ efforts, because they saw opportunities to enforce their power (نفوذها) through strong media [outlets], and by some leaders among them who exercise power within the state to widen their control. They have simply bowed their heads in submission (منكسي الرؤوس), [fight cowardly, been defeated] and didn’t know who would rule in Taiz. But they started assigning posts to and benefits for their [own] supporters. They appoint managers and [officers] in the army, they manipulate power for decisions and appointments to their own benefit.
Q 7- Do people in Taiz want a Unified Yemen?
AA: As far as federalism, it will be the same regime as before, we want parties [owned by one man] to go away, to rule honestly and consider citizens as his sons. If he (the president) becomes so, his path will be right. But if he focuses on what others built, he will fail. The others are away about religion matters, and their interests are in this world and their own benefits. But, here, they couldn’t recover religion or world, only personal benefits and party benefits.
(Abu al-Abbas seems to have intentionally ignored the issue of fragmentation as consequence of federalism or the ongoing conflict. His approach assumes unification will not be affected by any final peace agreement.)
Q 8- The idea of a unified State was a outcome of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), supported by Yemenis and the president that you now consider Wali al-Amr?
AA: Not all things proposed or approved by the president (Hadi) are considered correct (acceptable). Decisions must be based on religious references; the religious Shaykhs (ulama) are the references for the state or Shura Council, not (tribal) Shaykhs known as [part of the] Regime Shaykhs, who gain from rulers. (he referenced al-Islah Shaykhs here) The president must be linked to [religiously inspired] Shaykhs who follow Quran and Sunnah. The reality is the dialogue outcomes didn’t bring us solutions and instead led us to war, and that is the truth. We have people saying that officials (presidents) were (influenced) politicized by religious Shaykhs toward success, but what actually happened was that no Shaykh or Da’ia ( داعية) were [truly] consulted, and led to chaos.
Q 9- People say you have good relations with Hani Bin Breik (in Aden), how does Taiz maintain good relations with a province that wants Independence?
AA: The brother Hani Bin Breik is now a minister of state (in Aden), he is one of those who helped me in relations with the alliance (UAE). The Alliance knows Abu al-Abbas only through deeds (results), but currently there are ‘vandals’ targeting Abu al-Abbas with false accusations, and for that I say that my relationship with Hani Bin Berik is based on brotherhood, “The believers are brothers “. On the other hand, he helps us in military effort to fight the Houthis as much as he can. For example, there were injured men from my front, 4 of them traveled to Sudan and returned in the same condition, and another four injured received treatment in India on their own account, and brother Hani helped them through his representative in India. As you know no “humanitarian organization” or “government” or any side has approved to treat the injured among my men (disciples), while brother Hani Bin Breik remains in contact with me and confirms his readiness to transport the injured among my followers to India. And this deed is for Taiz. It does not mean that he is a secessionist. He knows and appreciates who wants to defend their city and property of the people. He is not secessionist, he was the only one who went to visit the wounded of Taiz in Sudan and check and promised to treat them in India.
Q 10- The economy in Yemen is destroyed, how do you see the recovery in Taiz for ordinary people? the recovery in Yemen as a whole?
AA: The economy and living situation of ordinary people are affected by the war. The economy in Taiz is destroyed, however people [find a way to] live. What do we expected from the economic situation, if ordinary citizens, who have no hand in the war, can’t find a [piece of] bread to live (لقمة العيش). Factories are closed because of the war. It is impossible to [stabilize] the economy during times of war.
Q 11- What is your vision of governance in Yemen? do you see a strong role for local government, for Provincial government or Central government?
AA: For governing, as time comes it gets worse than before (he said ‘the ruler who comes is more evil than its predecessor’). There is neglect under the rule of Muslims (re: Waly al-Amr) (rulers). Of course, there is no prefect human, but the neglect is deep as seeds, ( he said ‘paying what they owe, and compare with good then try coming closed to it, a Yemeni saying) Currently appointments and (major) decisions are supposed to be postponed until the (complete) liberation of Taiz. And if they (Hadi’s government) want to appoint (officials) in Taiz, they must choose well-known graduates (educated) who are efficient. It is not acceptable to appoint a young man, a journalist, to the Office of Youth and Sports in Taiz, there are more qualified men who have more experience and more specialization in this field. In general, the appointments must stop, because they create confusion and discord within the ranks, and create problems. We didn’t come to make problems, we want to be free, then after liberation they can choose the most qualified for each field.
Q 12- Do you see a role for your followers within the military after the war?
AA: We joined the army, and after the war whoever wants to remain in the ranks of the army he can stay, and whoever wants to leave he can. We joined the army because Abu al-Abas and his men are not militias or Qaeda or Daash (ISIS). And we joined so no one says we reject the army. And if we rejected the army they would tell us they are not able to support us while we fight. And we believe in the army and the state. The state in Yemen is Muslim, and so when we are in the mosques we defend the state. Whether we carry a gun, or in the mosque, we defend the state and warn anyone who opposes the state, think of why we are in the military.
Q 13- What is needed for a ceasefire to work in Taiz?
AA: The war will stop in Taiz when it’s liberated. If the people of Taiz want to achieve it, they should reject internal conflicts and be honest in relations, and all factions must be approved without being favored by one party over another.
Q 14- Would leaders in Taiz accept (UN/international) observers during a ceasefire?
AA: There are parties/persons that want a political solution. These parties have goals or political interests and they have ambitions in senior positions like ministries. But for the men under my leadership, we are with a military takeover (in favor of military council).
Q 15- What are the steps to de-escalate the conflict? (the question was changed to: are you abiding by the truce (negotiated by the UN)?
AA: When the opponent is committed to the ceasefire, we will too. We heard them speak about truce during the five previous ceasefires. If they had credibility and they wanted to stop fighting, that would be another matter, but they talked about a ceasefire while continuing to fight. The Prophet Mohammed said “the believer never gets bitten twice from same hole”/ لاَ يُلْدَغُ الْمُؤْمِنُ مِنْ جُحْرٍ وَاحِدٍ مَرَّتَيْنِ . What we suffered in Dammaj is enough for us. They (Houthis) were saying that they will abide by a truce and restore the boundaries. And as we stopped they (Houthis) advanced. And then we were complaining to the committee delegated by the presidency.
Q 16- Can Salafists create a political party like Rashad, The Salafi Party?
AA: Rashad is not considered Salafist, it is a faction of the “Muslim Brotherhood”, Salafists don’t believe in forming parties and we don’t want to form a political entity.
Q 17- Where are you in reference to al-Qaeda and Daesh?
AA: We are Salafists, and the Salafi movement is the one who works with Quran and the Sunnah of the Messenger of God, and the approach of Ancestors (Companions), and who walked in their path. We follow the Sahaba (Companions) and their followers and Muslim Scholars (علماء المسلمين) who walked in their path. Therefore, we have our Scholars in this time such as; The Shaykh Al-Albani (الشيخ الألباني), Bin Baz (بن باز), Moqbel Al-Wada’i (مقبل الوادعي), Saleh Al-Fawzan (صالح الفوزان), Yahya al-Hajuri (يحيى الحجوري), Saleh Al-Wahidan (صالح الوحيدان). And we never depart from their opinions. This approach differs from Qaeda and Daesh (ISIS). Al-Qaeda have different religious Scholars, and we follow the [enlightened] Scholars and we are guided by their approach which follows Quran and Sunnah. While Qaeda exaggerate in Governorship, and for them if a person dissents slightly they say he dissents from Quran and Sunnah, and he has deviated from religion (Din). For us, we must not accuse someone of blasphemy, but return to our Scholars who are more educated about Quran and Sunnah than us. We go back to Religious Scholars, while Qaeda and Daesh never backtrack. And they follow Scholars from among themselves, and our Scholars are all witnesses.
Q 18- What do you estimate is the financial and military support for Taiz?
AA: Support comes to Taiz from the Arab Coalition in particular, but invisible hands hide (squander) support and take shares in favor of some factions on account of another sides (based on a conflict in 2015 between him and Islah elements over the proper distribution of cash provided to pay militia salaries). For example, they (meaning the government) handed about 1,500 bullets for automatic guns and 1,500 bullets of Sheki and 15 mortar shells only for Brigade 35. It’s shameful to give amounts to a military brigade. What was given to Brigade 35 was a small amount of three small trucks full of weapons to support the fight in Taiz. There was also a million Saudi Rials given to support the injured, but Dhia al-Haq al-Ahdal (ضياء الحق الاهدل ), the leader of Muslim Brotherhood, only distributed to Adnan Ruzaiq (عدنان رزيق ), the leader of Hassam Battalions ( كتائب حسم ). They wanted to give my front 1.5 million Yemeni Rials and 5 million Yemen Rial to Adnan al-Hamadi, commander of Brigade 35. We wonder where these funds (million Saudi Rials ) went. They want to support only Al-Dhabab Front, and after an argument with them, they started treating all the injured. They are actually a gang!