The American Center for Justice (ACJ) held a panel discussion on Twitter concerning the role of human rights organizations and what they have provided to the victims of the ongoing conflict in Yemen, and a group of activists and media professionals participated in it.
At the panel discussion moderated by Basheer Al-Harethi, Abdulrahman Barman, CEO of the center, opened the talk about the goals of establishing the center, its activities and the issues it is working on, noting the difficulties that the center has experienced during the past two years since its launch and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the activities its activities.
He stated that the health situation in Yemen caused by the pandemic and the tragedy of Yemenis stranded abroad during that difficult period were among the urgent issues the center worked on, not to mention the suffering of Yemenis at airports and the arbitrary measures they were subjected to. Furthermore, the center focused also on adopting the cases of illegal Yemeni immigrants in the United States and launching awareness campaigns for the Yemeni community there.
For her part, the president of the American Center for Justice, Latifa Jamel, stressed the need not to drop the duty by speakers, activists and presidents of organizations just by talking about the situation of organizations and the difficulties they face, stressing the need for a deep analysis of the problems and the formation of a front of intellectuals to confront the existing state of corruption, as well as the need of the national army as a hard power to be supported by a soft power, indicating to the civil society.
She wondered whether confronting the Houthi is still a state of national consensus; or citizens have got desperate. She also discussed how the existing corruption affected the state of the civil movement and the course of the popular struggle, calling for a systematic dissection to dismantle the tools of corruption and the formation of a front that works to reinforce the system of national and human values.
Activist Riyadh al-Dubai said that Yemeni human rights organizations left the country when the war broke out, only to discover that most of the organizations were personal bags, as he described the situation. He also stated that the presidents of these organizations did not work to institutionalize human rights and civil work and were present at airports more than in the fields.
He accused the organizations of focusing on rehabilitation and training away from the concerns and aspirations of citizens, of being paralyzed, and of being preoccupied with elitist issues until this war started to reveal the fragility of these organizations so they either left the country or continued their activities according to the dictates of the political parties to which its founders belong, not to mention their lack of commitment to the principles of transparency and integrity.
Researcher Nabil Al-Bokairi was surprised by the keenness of most organizations to compete in the funding market and to obtain support from Western organizations that impose on them the priorities and interests of their countries far from urgent local issues, such as gender, legal legislation and childhood, explaining that most of these organizations were established for profit and financial gain, so the result would be a civil society that lacked real expertise and transparency.
Al-Bokairi criticized the phenomenon of the emergence of organizations to work on political and sectarian issues, to serve groups and parties, and to engage in activities aimed at sectarianizing society, and working to divide it by claiming the existence of minorities and sectarian and ethnic divisions, and at the same time the absence of actual human rights issues, which later led to the failure to convey the real grievances to international forums and present them to world public opinion. In the context of his intervention, he presented the transformation of some organizations linked to the putschists into donor organizations that are influential in providing grants and funding in a very short period.
As for the researcher, Mustafa Naji Al-Jibzi, he touched on the subject of the dispersion of the organizations’ efforts and the lack of their effectiveness compared to their numbers and spread on the country’s map. He also criticized the absence of large and senior organizations at the outbreak of the war and the expansion of the area of violations. This represented a huge loss suffered by civil society, which lacked experience with the emergence of new organizations competing to obtain funding and working according to the dictates of the funder, turning the human rights activity into a show to draw attention with the absence of awareness-raising. He also stated in his talk that the difficulty of human rights work in Yemen due to the complexities of the field conditions created more obstacles and difficulties in the way of fact-finding and resulted in the loss of lots of information, numbers and facts about many human rights issues and grave violations that were neglected because of the conflicting information and failure to adhere to methodological standards.
Al-Jibzi described human rights activity as a primarily important war front, criticizing neglecting it and dealing with it according to the agenda of the parties to the war and serving the perpetrators of violations. He also criticized the surrender of many activists to the temptations of fame and playing political roles rather than professional ones and wasting a lot of energy in battles between organizations and activists at the expense of the real battle.
Tawfiq Al-Hamidi, president of SAM Organization, defended the organizations and said that they work without protection, within available and possible resources, and without funding. He also said these organizations work on behalf of the government in carrying out many activities, calling for a real and systematic evaluation process and through accurate questions with the organizations officials since, according to his opinion, the role of organizations has not been systematically studied or researched, and everything that had been said is a ready-made and repeated criticism.
He was shocked that all this criticism came from journalists and activists who did not participate in evaluating and reviewing the activities of the organizations, ignoring their reports and statements, and appearing to criticize them only without participating in their activities.
As for journalist Essam Balghaith, who had been abducted by the Houthi militia before being released in a prisoner exchange deal with the legitimate authority, he participated in an intervention in which he explained how the organizations handled his case and the cases of his colleagues, four of whom are still being kidnapped by the militias and face death sentences.
According to Balghaith, the organizations’ handling of the issue of kidnapping, torturing and prosecuting him and his colleagues did not receive sufficient attention and was marred by a lot of false information, such as talking about accusing them of espionage by the militias while the actual accusation was transmitting information and leaking coordinates of the so-called “army and popular committees”, in addition to not mentioning a lot of violations they were subjected to in the reports of the organizations, which were transmitted to the world public opinion in a fragmented and incomplete manner.