Scandal: “Yemen in Transition” event at Harvard University

A  controversy broke out today and is being dicussed  all over the social media like Facebook and also Yemeni newspapers, about an event that is scheduled to take place at Harvard University called, Yemen in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities . Topics that will be discussed at the event will be on women and youth, economic development, politics, and political reform, and the water crisis in Yemen. This event will be from October 19-21, 2012. Unfortunately, the outrage all over the soical networks and Yemeni media were directed to mainly one individual who (and who is behind her). The conference page only highlights and states, ” We also would like to thank the generous support of Huda Al-Sharifi” as a supporter and sponor of this event. Huda Al-Sharafi is a partner and deputy*  for Yahya Mohamed Saleh who is the nephew of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. What was the motive behind such note and who reached out to her and why only her?

With that being said, many say that Huda’s sponsoring towards this event was directly by Yahya Saleh or otherwise. But why was she the only one who was selected from hundreds of people and businessmen who are netural and/or supprtive of democracy in Yemen and would want to support such event? The vast majorty of Yemenis and Yemeni Americans think that this event is a scandal. To get back to all this by roots of corruption is pretty simple: the money that Yahya Saleh has is the money stolen from the People of Yemen and his hands are full of blood of Yemeni protesters and many youth are still detained by his forces and loyalists.  Yahya Saleh is still the one in control of Central Security Forces, who is linked to the killings of our innocent people in Yemen during the revolution.

While reading the PDF version of the conference program, I noticed that there were a few speaker who are supporters of the revolution and others aren’t.. I also realized some people that are speaking aren’t qualified to speak about a major issue like  the transition in Yemen.

There are three issues I and many others have a problem with:

  1. Southern issue  is one of the county’s priorities and main issues yet it was given a low priority and many southerns including myself feel insulted because no one from the south was selected to speak about this issue. Especially while we know there are many southerns who are qualified to speak about this issue.
  2. The Yemeni Americans who are active in the community and have a vision for Yemen and always contribute to the issues  were NOT even considered to be part of the panel espeically when the introducation of  the event  talks about the Yemeni American professionals involvement.
  3. Fund issue from Huda Al-Sharafi: Why here and how was she reached out to and through who?

The individual who will be speaking about the southern issue (in PDF program), is not qualified to speak on such a subject. The journalist, has spent a great deal of time in Yemen, but based in Sanaa (when working). As she did do a good job in publishing pieces in the New York Times revolving Change Square and the uprising, this does not mean that that can be a qualification to talk about the southern issue. I say this with all due respect because she is a good journalist, and a friend, but again, not qualified to speak about this subject. There are many people who I can personally name that are in Yemen and even here in the US that can speak very well about the southern issue and any questions regarding it because they have lived through it and understand its sensitivity.

Yemeni Americans based in the US have great visions for Yemen and have greatly controbuted to change in yemen; we understand how freedom works and we understand the core principles of a great nation. The diaspora have great ideas to present for a new Yemen, but sadly, we aren’t included in any type of events to express them. Some Yemeni Americans here have been part of the revolution and understand what Yemenis in Yemen go through on a daily basis during the uprising and even after it. I’m sure many of  our Yemeni American young leaders and professionals are qualified to speak on a subject such as transition in Yemen. We have spent a great deal of time on Yemen issues and have solutions to make the country better; a new change. As part of the diaspora myself, we have put efforts in protests in solidarity with the people of Yemen, media advocacy, panels that highlight the issues in Yemen such as their demands during the revolution, press conferences and also created events and panels regarding Yemen. In fact, the last panel we have created was Panel on the US Foreign Policy in Yemen: The Role of Communities and NGOs, which was held on the 28th of September.

Questions I and others have in mind:

  • What was the process of selecting the panelists?
  • What was the motive of the sponsorship by Huda Al-Sharafi?
  • Why wasn’t there a southerner representing the southern issue/questioning for the event? Lack of speakers or is it not an important issue for the creators of the event?
  • Why weren’t the Yemeni Americans who are active on Yemen related issues informed about this event?
  • Why weren’t the active Yemeni Americans and young leaders chosen to be part of the process of putting together such an important conference or at least helped with recommendations on choosing  panelists?
  • Why was the community outreach pushed away by those who created the event? Why was the community not notified or at least a public discussion about the event?
  •  Why wasn’t someone from the diaspora who are heavily involved in Yemen related issues invited to speak at the event?
  • Why were panelists who are pro the democracy movement, especially those who do not want to deal with anything that has to do with Saleh’s family and loyalist,  not told about who was sponoring the event?

* link highlighted, “partner and deputy” in first paragraph is in Arabic. This association is led by Yahya Saleh and in that specific piece, Yahya says he made Huda Al-Sharafi partner and CEO of his business after he was appointed as commander of Central Forces in Yemen.