x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

To the last, Saleh was an astute politician

Arabic editorials comment on the Yemeni president's stepping down and the inquiry into human rights abuses in Bahrain.

No matter what the general opinion is of the Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the fact is the man is truly astute and has mastered the art of "dancing with snakes", as he liked to refer to himself, said Tariq Al Homayed, the editor of the London-based Asharq Al Awsat in comment on Mr Saleh's resignation on Wednesday.

Mr Saleh revelled in tormenting his adversaries and manoeuvring with his negotiators. His chef d'oeuvre was his ability to divide the Yemeni public opinion in a way that guaranteed him perpetual support from at least one part of the population. He played all the cards, legitimate and illegitimate, but he never allowed Yemen to slide into civil war, although the country does run the danger of succumbing to it at any moment. Above all, he proved that he is capable of objectively reading the facts and he is able to curb his personal feelings. He is a shrewd politician who can survive under pressure.

In his final act, Mr Saleh went personally to Riyadh to sign the GCC-sponsored agreement to surrender power in an attempt to present himself as a man who sacrifices for his country.

However, does this mean that the crisis is over in Yemen? "No," said the writer, "but the big explosion was defused. There will be fires here and there, and it will be a long and winding road ahead for the people of Yemen. The most important achievement so far is that Mr Saleh is out of the picture now, for he could have made that road extremely rugged."

In signing the deal, Mr Saleh ended his three decades at the helm of Yemen following a 10-month uprising across the country demanding his departure. He managed to guarantee a safe refuge for himself and his family, despite the objection of Yemenis who took to the streets to condemn the immunity clause that absolves him from prosecution over the killing of more than 1,000 people since the start of the uprising in January.

In his daily column for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan, the columnist Mazen Hammad said: "Some US reports had mentioned that the US and a number of Gulf states are concerned that Saleh's resignation would cost them a valuable ally in the war on Al Qaeda in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. But the relentless struggle of the Yemeni people and their insistence on getting rid of Saleh forced the world to yield and draw lessons from the events of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt."

"Now that Mr Saleh is in Saudi Arabia, we must support all efforts toward his departure. We hope that the Yemeni opposition forces, including the Youth Coalition, would cooperate to ratify the Gulf initiative, even if it grants immunity and refuge to the president and his family."

For forty-five minutes, the Egyptian professor Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni gave his speech on Wednesday afternoon at the official delivery of the final report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), at the culmination of five months of investigation into rights violations during the uprising, at the request of King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa.

In an article for the Bahraini Al Wasat daily, the columnist Qassim Hussein wrote: "[Professor] Bassiouni came into a country in strife as a result of an acute political crisis, he started out with a varied work team, listened to thousands of testimonies and presented his summary for everyone to hear."

"Mr Bassiouni didn't offer a solution or a proposal for a solution," he added. "That wasn't his mission. He was asked to act as an independent investigator to relate to us the events that took place as if we hadn't lived or witnessed them first-hand. The country was split in two with a sharp knife and between the two parts, psychological barriers were erected that require years to be lifted."

Many didn't expect such a high ceiling for the report. It exposed many of the details that were disputed among Bahrainis so far. It was explicit and spoke candidly of the many human rights violations and the torture of a large number of citizens.

The head of the BICI said that the confessions of those arrested were coerced and they were used against them during prosecution. "But what struck a painful chord with me personally as a Bahraini is when he said that torture included verbal assaults, rape threats, insults to Shia and destruction of their mosques. That is in addition to other infractions against Sunnis and expatriates living in Bahrain," said the writer. "It is unfortunate that a foreign investigator came to us to show us how low we have sunk. We are no longer the united people that was once a leading example of tolerance and openness; we have become a collection of sundered sects, tribal and racial groups each withdrawn into small and narrow ghettos."

The writer went on to blame the media for the tearing of the social fabric in Bahrain, as it gave free range to unqualified people who had a big role to play in shredding the country to pieces.

But, that page was folded, as the Bahraini king said in response to the report. It is true that the events that shook Bahrain in February and March of this year left many a wound in the national body, but the king's and the government's unprecedented self-criticism proves the desire to make amends.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk