Ignore Yemeni NGOs

If there is something worth ignoring in Yemen more than political activists, and tv analysts then it is NGOs and research centres.

For a poor country like Yemen, it has increasingly become a profitable business to establish a research centre. It does not require a lot of investment, an intellectual lightweight with a big mouth who fluently speaks English, friends who have a lot of free time on their hands, connections with some naïve western foundations (preferably the Friedrich Ebert foundation in Germany)and you are ready to go.

If you’re interested in that business then I’ll provide you with a blueprint to follow, look at the Sana’a Centre for Strategic Studies. In this case, the big mouth and founder is a guy called Farea Al Maslami, a monumental fraud who we will come back to in a minute.
In Yemen it’s hard to talk about NGOs without talking about political activists they go hand in hand, so I’ll talk briefly about some of these activists and then make my case against NGOs in general.

Two days ago on the BBC Arabic TV channel they interviewed an “Economic Expert” who works for the Sana’a Centre, to discuss the monetary policy of the Central Bank of Yemen. When I saw the face, I instantly recognised it, it was someone I know, Amal Nasser, a 20+ years old, recent graduate with no working experience in the field of Economics. What can she teach us about monetary policies and central banks?

I really don’t mind this lady’s appearance on TV or wish to prevent her from expressing her opinions but it is misleading to present a recent graduate with shallow opinions to millions of viewers as an economic expert when she is anything but an expert. The only thing that allowed her to use that title is the Sana’a research centre she works for.

As long as there is demand out there for the know it all“experts”, these so-called “Research Centres” will keep on slapping the expert tag on the faces they provide to TV channels whether they are the real deal or charlatans. 
A common tactic used by these “analysts” is to give vague opinions and sit on the fence trying to avoid taking sides or what I call mistaking neutrality for objectivity.
It allows them to have some manoeuvring space if things go south on them, but even that is not enough, as it turns out they are consistently wrong most of the time. Let‘s not forget that talking is cheap and their whole business is founded on talking with no consequences if their opinions are wrong.

A good example of these charlatans who should have exited the gene pool long time ago is a western media darling, Farea Al-Maslami, the founder of the Sana’a research center; who wrote days before the Houthi invasion of the capital city of Sana’a on August 2014, that the fight is exclusively between the Houthis and the Muslim brotherhood, I infer that was to reassure those who opposed the Houthi movement outside of the Muslim brotherhood that they have nothing to be afraid of.

Additionally, on the same article, Al Maslami went to great lengths to make the case that Saleh’s party, Al-Motamar (General People’s Congress), was neutral and has no involvement in any way in the conflict. He continues in the article by appealing to the Al-Motamar party to play a bigger role and stop its neutrality.

Farea Al-Maslami

He was making those claims despite the multiple pieces of evidence that were pointing to the involvement of most of the Senior Leaders of Al-Motamar including the leader of the party himself in arming the Houthis and sending direct orders to their loyal military troops not to oppose any Houthi advancements towards the capital city.
In addition to that, unlike Al-Maslami description of the events, until that point, the conflict was in fact between the Houthis and multiple groups in Yemen, which includes parts of the army, Yemeni tribes, resistance in Imran and also but not exclusively the Muslim brotherhood. 
If that was not enough to diminish his reputation as a writer the worst was yet to come. The same Al-Maslami wrote another article exactly one year later, but this time with an unhealthy dose of hindsight bias fitting past events into a new narrative (postdiction- the opposite of prediction), claiming that the Houthi and Al-Motamar alliance was actually very clear from the beginning, shamelessly reversing his previous position without anybody noticing it. 
It’s totally fine for someone to intellectually evolve and to change his ideas and beliefs about a topic but if you are a journalist or a writer then you owe your readers an apology or at least an admission that you were on the wrong side of history . Thomas Friedman who passionately promoted the Iraq invasion would be the first person today to admit to his readers how wrong he was, just listen to his recent interview with David Axelrod. Francis Fukuyama will not hesitate to talk about the shortcomings of his early books. It might diminish the credibility of an author a little bit but it is acts like these and only acts like these that show that an author has a deep respect for his readers.
Can we expect something similar from the fraudulent Al-maslami? Never. The guy went on to put all the blame on president Hadi (a horrible president by the way),explaining how he and only he could have prevented the army’s losses in their fight against the Houthis, a fight which Al-Maslami denied its existence in the first place one year earlier by claiming that the army and Al-motamar are not involved in the conflict. Now, why would anyone give this fraud a platform to speak?! It is beyond comprehension.

It’s people like these who are shaping the NGOs scene in Yemen, staying in the grey area with no clear point of view or convictions on any topic. Pure talkers with zero interest in doing anything other than attending conferences and do more talking. It is the silent doers who are shaping the world around us, not talkers like these.
The most infuriating part about these non-doers, talkers is that every time they attend one of their stupid conferences on human rights, feminism, gay rights or whatever is trending in the west, you see them putting the Yemeni flag in front of them. A self appointed presenter of a whole nation with no accountability or real legitimacy whatsoever, pure imposters.

Let me state a rule of thumb, research centres and NGOs like the one run by Al-Maslami never tackle solvable issues, NEVER! They prefer to pick long-term and wide-ranging problems like democracy, women rights, feminism, shvemenism and good governance, instead of picking relatively solvable issues such as the electricity shortages, the high infant mortality rate, malnutrition across the country or any topic of relevance to the average Yemeni on the street. The reason is simple, financial support from Western foundations and centres.

1.7 Million At Risk Of Malnutrition In Yemen

When a western foundation is willing to finance their efforts then it becomes crystal clear: to keep the money on flowing why to pick something that can be solved in two years when they have the option to stick to something that will never be solved in fifty years?

The Friedrich Ebert foundation in Germany is one of the culprits, who is apparently financing every idiot in the Arab world, from Al-Maslami to any wannabe activist. They’re not the only ones but they are in a league of their own. 
Last year they sponsored “The Yemeni Film and arts festival” in Berlin, a festival that has absolutely nothing to do with Yemen, showing a documentary about breakdancing in Yemen or another documentary about Parkour jumping. Documentaries made by westerners, for westerners and about westerner sports and dances but somehow it was supposed to be about Yemen.

These western foundations would do people in my region a great service if they stop financing these frauds and use their money wisely somewhere else.

The Zambian author Dambisa Moyo wrote a famous book in 2009 called ‘dead aid’ she argues that government-to-government foreign aid has harmed Africa and should be phased out because it actually encourages corruption and made those countries more reliant on aid. I would make the same argument with NGOs in Yemen, all the financial support they get should be phased out.

In recent years the number of these foundations in Yemen kept on hatching at an accelerating rate competing with each other to get most of the western aid, and they have become more and more innovative at coming up with topics that would attract the attention of western foundations.

Here is a list of some Yemeni foundations: http://www.ngodirectory.org/yemen/ar/list

I know people would jump with their usual argument of “unlike you sitting there doing nothing, at least these people you call frauds are doing something, trying to change the situation ……. blah blah blah…...” My answer is no. I put people in two categories: the doers and the talkers. Any decent citizen in Yemen who works in any field to provide for his family whether he is a carpenter, a bus driver or a garbageman is incrementally contributing his fair share to the whole society. Any student who learns new skills is also contributing, no matter how small his contribution is. But these NGOs, research centres, Schwachsinn centres, activists, shvactivists and Farea Al-Maslami are talkers with zero net contribution to their society. If anything they are beneficiaries of Yemen’s problems.

To put it more bluntly, if a garbageman disappears tomorrow, his absence will be noticed and will leave its mark, but If Farea Al-Maslamy, All Yemeni activists, NGOs and research centres disappear, life will go on as usual, I bet that it would even improve.

Cover Photo Credit: Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters