Interviewed by Hakim Almasmari
YEMEN POST STAFF
Yemen Post: President Saleh called for a dialogue a month ago, but you have not responded to that?
Hasan Zaid: First, the call was officially directed to the opposition. There was no mechanism for this dialogue and it was just announced in media outlets. Any call that lacks details relating to time, place, mechanism and topic to be discussed remains vague.
YP: Does this mean that you did not seize the opportunity?
HZ: As I see, there must be a mechanism. For every dialogue, parties should be committed to the agreement signed by the opposition parties represented in parliament and the ruling General People Congress. The obstacle before any dialogue lies on providing the apt political atmosphere. Amidst the recent measures that target basic freedoms like confiscating newspapers, arrests of Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) leaders in Southern provinces and trials in state specialized court as well as setting up a press court which will look into 150 cases. Any call at this time is an attempt to earn these measures the required legitimacy and to make JMP share the responsibility of what is happening.
YP: Does delaying dialogue mean that there is a division among JMP?
HZ: We have not given up dialogue and we demand putting into practice the agreement signed by JMP parties represented in parliament and GPC.
YP: What is the number of Al-Haq Party followers?
HZ: This is something that cannot be revealed. Parties are not measured by the number of their members.
YP: Does the government view Al-Haq Party members to be the same like Houthis?
HZ: Sometimes, the government is capable to say the difference between Houthis and us and some other times the state loses such capacity of distinguishing. Our brothers Hussein Badr Addin Al-Houthi and Abdullah Aiydhah Al-Ruzami and what was known later to be the leadership of the Believing Youth Movement like Abdul Karim Jadban and Mohammed Salem Azan announced their resignations from Al-Haq party in 1997. They ran as rivals for Al-Haq Party during 1997 parliamentary elections. Houthis is a general term. We are a political party and our means is elections and peaceful political work and we do not believe in resorting to arms.
YP: Are there detained Al-Haq Party members?
HZ: There are too many Al-Haq party detainees and authorities claim that they are detained to prevent them from joining Houthis. There are also detained leaders from Al-Haq Party like Hussein Zaid bin Yahya, the head of the Executive Office of Al-Haq Party in Abyan, who is detained over the peaceful southern mobility.
YP: What is the difference between Al-Haq Party and Houthis?
HZ: The term Houthis needs to be disambiguated. If the term refers to those who bear arms and stand against the state, then the difference is that we believe in resorting to arms for solving problems; we believe that peaceful political work is the sole means that can lead to a positive change and resolve existing problems. In my first statement in 2004, I made it clear that arms will never resolve the existing problems; killing will lead only to more killings and bloodshed. Neither state nor citizens can resolve the existing problems or get their rights; rather this might help complicate these problems.
YP: Is this the only difference between Houthis and your party?
HZ: Apparently yes. The differences between parties can be discovered through the political programs, bylaws, objectives, etc; however, it is difficult to make a comparison between a party and movement. Houthis do not consider themselves to be a party. Most People following and fighting with Houthis now used to be GPC members in the past. We never resort to violence and we resort to laws and constitution to enforce our rights and defend ourselves. Due to the cultural fabric of Yemeni rural areas, it is easy to make some people join them.
The position of Houthis is different despite the fact that Houthi leaders were among the founders of Al-Haq party; however, the political conditions, suppressions and attempts seeking to dissolve the party led some to feel hopelessness in getting their different rights.
HM: What is the number of Houthis in Yemen?
HZ: It is difficult to give an exact number and there are no accurate statistics about population. The number of Houthis is rising and more people join them especially when those who are affected by the authorities’ policies do join them. In their last meeting meant for commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), the number of Houthis is manifold. They are increasing day by day.
YP: Does Al-Haq Party spiritually support Houthis?
HZ: We are in need for spiritual support. We do not have a newspaper and our website is blocked and a lot of our members are detained, so how come that you speak of support by Al-Haq Party. Further, the ongoing conflict is not spiritual; rather it is military. I think it is the authority which provides spiritual support for Houthis. Targeting all Zaidi and Hashimi people is the biggest support given to Houthis. Even, when some people belonging to other doctrines, the state accuses them of being Houthis to make it easy to arrest and detain them.
YP: Al-Haq Party is illegitimate and it is dissolved?
HZ: This is not right. There is no judicial ruling that states dissolving the party. It is said that Ahmed Al-Shami, the party’s leader, signed a dissolution letter while we doubt this letter and the signature stamped on it, especially when there is only one stamp and it was with me. There was just a press release by a person who cannot be officially authorized to announce such a dissolution. What happened is no more than a rumor. Any forced dissolution cannot take place only with a judicial ruling and the party institutions have never issued a voluntary dissolution decision. The person, who spoke in the name of Parties’ Committee, is not authorized to announce or not to announce the dissolution of the party. The committee also cannot dissolve any party and it can just file a law case before judiciary. We are a party like other parties and we existed before the committee came into existence. According to the laws, the committee has no right to announce dissolution. We have never been informed officially by the committee to cease work and as you can see we are still working.
YP: Some official sources describe you as the spiritual leader of Houthis?
HZ: I am small in the eyes of people to be a spiritual leader for any group. It seems the official source, if it is behind selling off such rumors, is influenced by the Christian culture or American movies. Houthis do not have a spiritual leader from inside the movement itself. Houthis are led by Abdul Malik Al-Houthi and they have Yahya Al-Houthi to represent them outside the country. They also have a media office and Saleh Habrah acts as a political officer for the movement. Our communication with brothers in Sa’ada does not go beyond the relation of any other party with people in Sa’ada. We just act once we are told to do so by the authorities, JMP or in case we would like to know some information about what is happening in the province. I hereby confirm once again that there exists no spiritual leaders for Al-Haq party, Houthi movement, institutions, groups, etc.
YP: Most Al-Haq Party leaders are Hashemite. Does this mean that your party is meant for Hashemite people?
HZ: I have said many times that when the racial affiliation of the secretary general is Hashemite, does this me