Tag Archives: Yemen

‘Unhappy Yemen’ in The London Review of Books

‘Unhappy Yemen’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, March 25, 2010

I left for Yemen as Obama was insisting that ‘large chunks’ of the country were ‘not fully under government control’, after Senator Joseph Lieberman had cheerfully announced that it was a suitable target for war and occupation. The sad underwear bomber who tried to blow up the Amsterdam flight on Christmas Day had triggered a new interest in the country, and in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), by claiming that while he was converted to hardcore Islamism in Britain, his crash course in suicide terrorism, mercifully inadequate, had been provided by AQAP somewhere in Yemen.

Yemen is a proper country, unlike the imperial petrol stations dotted across other parts of the Arabian Peninsula, where the ruling elites live in hurriedly constructed skyscrapers designed by celebrity architects, flanked by shopping malls displaying every Western brand, and serviced by wage-slaves from South Asia and the Philippines. Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, was founded when the Old Testament was still being written, edited and collated. It’s true that the new Mövenpick hotel in the heart of the city’s diplomatic enclave is reminiscent of Dubai at its worst—when I was there it was pushing its Valentine’s Day Dinner Menu—but in Yemen the elite is careful and doesn’t flaunt its wealth.

The old walled city was rescued from extinction-via-modernisation by Unesco (and later the Aga Khan Trust) in the 1980s, and the old wall rebuilt. The ninth-century Great Mosque is currently being restored by a team of Italian experts working with local archaeologists who are uncovering artefacts and images from a pre-Islamic past. read more

From the archive

  • ‘Shimmering Prose against the Clash of Civilisations’

    September 7, 2011

    Night of the Golden Butterfly reviewed by Claudia Kramatschek for Qantara, June 10, 2011

    Since 9/11 at the latest, every fable on the state of our world appears to follow a formula that is as cheap as it is simplifying: The dominant rhetorical model is that of a clash of civilisations, depicting one side as enlightened and therefore per se in the right, and the other as backward and caught up in the constant agony of crisis and terror.

    The western media – and if nothing else the journalist and novelist Tariq Ali, who was born in Pakistan in 1943 and emigrated to London in 1963 owing to his political activities, also makes this clear in his new novel – add their own model to the mix, with the result that the word Islam automatically makes people think  …

  • ‘Short Cuts’

    November 19, 2009

    ‘Short Cuts’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, November 19, 2009

    It’s been a bad autumn for Nato in Afghanistan, with twin disasters on the political and military fronts. First, Kai Eide, the UN headman in Kabul, a well-meaning, but not very bright Norwegian, fell out with his deputy, Peter Galbraith, who as the de facto representative of the US State Department had decreed that President Karzai’s election was rigged and went public about it. His superior continued to defend Hamid Karzai’s legitimacy. Astonishingly, the UN then fired Galbraith. This caused Hillary Clinton to move into top gear and the UN-supported electoral watchdog now ruled that the elections had indeed been fraudulent and ordered a run-off. Karzai refused to replace the electoral officials who had done such a good job for him the first time and  …