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Guest Thinkers

Monday Papers: or Qat whispers (updated)

Al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Quds al-Arabi both have stories today on the death sentence handed down to ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Yahya Hamud al-‘Ubadi for his killing of a Jewish citizen in December.

This sentence is similar to the one Hamud al-Hitar handed down back in the 1980s that foreign journalists visiting Yemen and writing about the rehabilitation program like to make such a big deal about.

There are also reports this morning – from AFP – that the six hostages are still alive and have been turned over to al-Huthi commanders. This is being denied by the Huthis, although there is not yet a full denial on the group’s website.

I would recommend treating this information with a great deal of caution, particularly given the history of accusations and counter-accusations between the government and the Huthis. This has not been confirmed and, like much of the reporting that typically takes place in Yemen, this story is poorly sourced and appears to be largely based on rumors – when these rumors are picked up and reported somewhere else they begin to take on the body of truth, but this is rarely the case.

Anyone who has chewed a lot of qat in different chews in Yemen, I think, will understand what I mean. These rumors are picked up and passed on from one chew to another over a few days and eventually one hears them from what appears to be a multiplicity of sources, but really are traceable back to one source.

So, in short, until there is a great deal more confirmation, I wouldn’t jump the gun.

Update: I corrected my early morning grammar in the first paragraph – so it doesn’t read like poorly translated Russian.


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