Channel 4, Yemen and the Ongoing Human Rights Abuses

On the 6th of December 2018, Channel 4 broadcast an interview with Adel al-Hassani, who used to be a commander with Yemeni forces that fought against Al-Qaeda and who fell foul, allegedly of UAE forces. His story and his alleged torture is highlighted in the Channel 4 documentary by Jonathan Rugman.

The documentary highlights alleged human rights abuses that are significant and which seem to point to sustained levels of torture. Indeed Al-Hassani suggests systemic torture was used against dissidents.

The Channel 4 documentary is important since it highlights a window on a war that is as dirty as is it is confusing. No party in this war comes out clean and what is clear is that many sides and interested parties are involved in a propaganda campaign that is deeply problematic. Yemen has become a battleground for a series of dirty tricks. The real impact and the victims are the poor and marginalized communities who pick up the pieces of this horrendous conflict inflicted on the Yemen population.

Which brings us to the following point. Adel al-Hassani, is described in the Channel 4 investigation as someone who fought al-Qaeda. No-one can doubt this or verify this apart from what is listed in the Channel 4 documentary. We simply want to highlight the fact that in the documentary, al-Hassani sings a Nasheed that has been repeatedly sung by Islamists as a rallying tune in their struggle against what they perceive against injustice. This is not to suggest that al-Hassani is an Islamist, though the song has been used by others as a rallying call for Islamists. It has therefore been used by others as a rallying call for an armed violent response.

The lyrics of the song can be translated into the following:

غرباء و لغير الله لا نحني الجباه
Ghurabaa’ wa li ghairillaahi laa nahnil jibaa
[We are] strangers and we do not bow the foreheads to anyone besides Allah

غرباء و ارتضيناها شعارا في الحياة
Ghurabaa’ war tadhainaa haa shi’aaran lil hayaa
[We are] strangers and we have chosen this to be the motto of life

إن تسأل عنا فإنا لا نبالي بالطغاة
Inta sal ‘anna fa inna laa nubaali bit-tughaat
If you ask about us, then we do not care about the tyrants

نحن جند الله دوما دربنا درب الاباة
Nahnu jundullaahi dawman darbunaa darbul-ubaa
We are forever the soldiers of Allah, our path is the path of the resistant

غرباء غرباء غرباء غرباء
Strangers! Strangers! Strangers!

لا نبالي بالقيود بل سنمضي للخلود
Lan nubaali bil quyuud, bal sanamdhii lil khulood
We never care about the chains, rather we’ll continue forever

فلنجاهد و نناضل و نقاتل من جديد
Fal nujaahid wa nunaadhil wa nuqaatil min jadeed
So let us make Jihad, and battle, and fight from the start

غرباء هكذا الاحرار في دنيا العبيد
Ghurabaa’ hakazhal ahraaru fii dunya-al ‘abeed
Ghurabaa’ this is how they are free in the enslaved world

غرباء غرباء غرباء غرباء
Strangers… Strangers… Strangers…

كم تذاكرنا زمانا يوم كنا سعداء
Kam tazhaakkarnaa zamaanan yawma kunna su’adaa`
How many times have we remembered a time when we were happy

بكتاب الله نتلوه صباحا و مساء
Bi kitaabillaahi natloohu sabaahan wa masaa`
with the book of Allah, reciting it in the morning and the evening

غرباء غرباء غرباء غرباء
Strangers… Strangers… Strangers…

غرباء و لغير الله لا نحني الجباه
Ghurabaa’ wa li ghairillaahi laa nahnil jibaa
[We are] stranger and we do not bow the foreheads to anyone besides Allah

غرباء و ارتضيناها شعارا للحياة
Ghurabaa’ war tadhainaa haa shi’aaran lil hayaa
Ghurabaa’ – we have chosen this to be the motto of life

In the Channel 4 documentary, the narrator states the following when Al-Hassani sings the Nasheed.

“We don’t care about tyrants, we only bend our foreheads to God.”

This is only part of the Nasheed and its context, and whilst Channel 4 were right in highlighting the human rights abuses that have so dogged the people of Yemen and which have also led them to pay such a high price, we believe that a better description of the Nasheed and its context could have been provided. Indeed, Channel 4 can simply make an addition on its web-site providing some context to the Nasheed in question, otherwise it can throw up a range of questions when shown in its current format. That song can therefore provide a dual meaning to various individuals watching the same film.

This contextualization is important since if we are to understand the nature of what is taking place in the Middle East, we need to understand the complexities and nuances. In this case, we sympathise with the case of Al-Hassani and his displacement from Yemen. We also are deeply aggrieved at the heavy price that the Yemeni population has paid through significant human rights abuses. They have suffered catastrophically because of proxy wars in the region. This is not acceptable, nor can it be excused.

We hope that this request is something that Channel 4 may consider, given that it takes pride in its journalistic reporting.

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