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Guest Thinkers

Friday Papers: or Multiple Identities in Yemen

Williman Maclean has this report in Reuters, which continues to pour cold water on the NY Times’ article suggesting al-Qaeda is relocating for the summer. The article cites Thomas Hegghammer, author of this wonderful post at Jihadica and others.

Arafat Madabish has this report in al-Sharq al-Awsat on more demonstrations – through a funeral procession – in the south. The continued funeral processions have a way of keeping this conflict burning. People are killed in protests, then there is a funeral procession days later, which acts as a protest in which more people are killed and the cycles repeat themselves.

It is also doubtful at this point whether President Salih’s orders to solve the outstanding land issues in the south is going to make much difference – too little, too late. Besides which there are numerous land issues in the north, which show no signs of being resolved.

Husayn al-Jarabani reports in al-Sharq al-Awsat what I’ve been hearing for a few days that the bodies of the women found were starting to decompose, which most in Yemen are taking to mean that they were killed shortly after being abducted.

Personally, I don’t think it is wise to engage in speculation about whether or not the bodies were mutilated and the various wounds they may have had. The al-Sharq al-Awsat reports claims that they were shot in the head, which is one of the many reports that I have heard and the one that I have the most confidence in.

A few days ago on comment on Waq al-waq suggested that the women were Christian missionaries. I heard this quite early on, and it was in much of the early reporting coming out of Germany, but I waited to post on it until it appeared in the Arabic press out of concern for what might happen to the other six hostages, assuming they are still being held, if the news broke that the women killed were in fact missionaries.

It doesn’t appear that the women were actively proselytizing in Sa’dah, as few people there seemed to know that they had any motives besides nursing for being in the country. This does, however, raise some concerns for other foreign aid workers in Yemen. Al-Wahayshi has long argued that foreigners in Yemen are all missionaries, attempting to convert Muslims. He even suggested that the South Korean tourists killed in March were missionaries, and while that claim was false, maybe even transparently so, that will not be the case this time.

Killing missionaries fits right into al-Wahayshi’s narrative. He has long held up Abd al-Razziq Kamal, the killer of the missionary doctors in Jibla in 2002, as a hero, writing about him in the narrative of the great 2006 prison break that was published in 2007 and invoking him in numerous statements.

So if and when a statement from AQAP does come out, I assume this part of their identity will be stressed. The tone of the debate and protests within Yemen will also continue to change as this news is disseminated. I believe the fact that these women were nurses and teachers working in Sa’dah will be overshadowed by their other identity.

Last night Frontline aired the film al-Qaeda in Yemen, which was reported by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad who writes for the Guardian and who, along with Declan Walsh when he was at […]
On Saturday Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law School published this op-ed in the Washington Post on the CIA’s reported request to employ signature strikes in Yemen.  The legal issues that […]

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