Al Jazeera interviewed the Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner activist Tawakkol Karman in which she talked about the UAE's withdrawal from Yemen and the reasons behind that step.
* To what extent do you think the UAE is serious about this step?
- The UAE wants to escape the consequences of this war, and it has no peace strategy for the next stage. It has a strategy of destruction in Yemen, which is part of the Saudi-Emirati evil alliance, which aims to undermine Yemen and turn it into a failed state and a militia state. It is a formal withdrawal to correct its image in the international community, but the fact is that this withdrawal is the result of its failure in Yemen first. Certainly, United Emirates and Saudi Arabia will leave humiliatingly. They will fail immensely and will pay dearly.
The second reason is that there was real British pressure on them to withdraw. An advice from Britons that “you should withdraw in order to improve your good reputation.”
The third reason is very important. There was a serious Iranian threat against the United Arab Emirates, especially in light of the Iranian-American tension that, if it continues in Yemen, its glass towers will be within the range of any of its [Iran] tools in the region, whether the Houthis in Yemen, the militia of the Popular Mobilization in Iraq or Syria or Lebanon. The UAE, as you know, is a fragile glass country that the cannot afford the smallest Houthi drone. Its withdrawal is the result of British pressure, and Iranian threat.
* Does this withdrawal, described as both tactical and strategic, mean the end of the era of security belts and militias of the United Arab Emirates?
- Of course they are forced and will leave Yemen sooner or later. But is this withdrawal, officially announced by the United Arab Emirates, enough? Of course not. What is required now is a complete withdrawal from every inch of Yemeni territory, a Saudi-Emirati withdrawal. A complete withdrawal is required; land, sea and air, as well as the dissolution of the militia it supports outside the state, and to stop its tampering in Yemen. Another very important thing is needed: to compensate Yemen and Yemenis for the war and destruction that has befallen to the Yemeni body, the land and human, during five years of war. War criminals, Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed, also should be held accountable for their war in Yemen, which resulted in tens of thousands of civilians and millions of invisible victims. Thus, this withdrawal is not enough, and what we want is a complete withdrawal, that their militias be dispersed, compensation to the Yemenis, as well as accountability.
* In light of this step, do you think it will have a fatal effect on the alliance with Saudi Arabia?
- You cannot say that there is a shocking effect because they play roles. Indeed, the UAE-Saudi dispute in Yemen lies in who is taking over more of the Yemeni territory, dismantling Yemen more, and destroying Yemen more. The disagreement over the withdrawal of the Emirates can be borne by Saudi Arabia, especially in terms of its reputation, economy, etc.
*Do you think that this step on its simplicity could affect the position of Yemeni legitimacy, which has often been described as too fragile and weak, towards Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including that of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi?
- Unfortunately, Yemeni legitimacy is a cover for the crimes of the Saudi-Emirati coalition in Yemen, and even the UAE withdrawal was made without informing the so-called "Yemeni legitimacy", even when the Emirates withdrew from Marib and handed over its places to Saudi Arabia. Thus, this legitimacy does not exist and its decision is stolen. There is no political decision or sovereign Yemen. This legitimacy must be replaced by another Yemeni legitimacy. I am here, from Al-Jazeera, and I call on the Yemenis to work for a genuine Yemeni consensus that confronts this occupation, restores Yemen's sovereignty and removes its guardianship.
*Do you think that this step has been planned for a long time or is it the result of the great protest and clear movement carried out by the sons of Socotra and Shabwa and some other areas, where there is no Houthis or terrorism and no war at all, but there was a clear rejection of the policies of the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, and singled out the UAE a large part of the protest?
- In order to occupy parts of Yemen for a limited period it must be a great transcontinental kingdom, let alone the old Kingdom and the glass Emirates. Therefore, they will not be able to continue their tampering and occupation of Yemeni territory. They will leave, and they are now paying a high price. What has now happened from a humiliating withdrawal is only the beginning of relief for Yemenis. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have drowned in the Yemeni quagmire and will leave today or tomorrow.
* Lady Tawakkul, it is remarkable that over the years of this four-year war, neither Saudi Arabia nor the Emirates have taken such a decision. But this decision, in its timing, came simultaneously or after this great movement witnessed in the cities of Yemen. Is there a relationship to this change?
- Of course. Socotra has the final word in the departure of the Emirates. Al-Mahra has the final word in the departure of Saudi Arabia soon. All Yemenis have the final word on the departure of the invaders. Yemen is the cemetery of the invaders, but I told you the reasons for this withdrawal. The Emirates has not been able to continue its crude presence in Yemen because this has cost it a lot in terms of its reputation and economy. For every Yemeni, there is a Yemeni consensus on the miserable role the Emirates plays in Yemen. The Yemenis expelled the Emirates and this expulsion coincided with real British pressure, and I give you information, Britain actually pressed the Emirates and convinced it to leave Yemen.
*In what recipe?
- You know the UAE-British relations and it finally advises its friend. The Iranian threat to the UAE that if it continues its miserable role in Yemen or its occupation of Yemen will pay the price in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and of course this does not absolve Iran of its miserable role in Yemen, and we are against the Iranian role and support for the Houthi militia because the latter is a criminal militia that carried out a coup in Yemen and agreed to be a tool in the hands of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates at the beginning, and then a tool for Iran. Our talk is about Saudi Arabia and the Emirates does not absolve Houthi and his militias of their crimes in Yemen.
*When the UAE talks about the shift from war strategy to peace strategy, to what extent do the Yemenis trust such statements?
- No Yemenis, no Libyans, no Egyptians, no Syrians, no Tunisians, no one in the Arab region or even the world can trust this strategy. The UAE has only one strategy: destruction and dismantling. It is now punishing the peoples of the Arab Spring for their revolutions demanding freedom and democracy, and wants to stand up to any revolutionary tide that reaches their countries, but the answer was clear through the revolutions of Algeria and Sudan, that the Saudi-Emirati evil alliance that adopts the war strategy in the region has convinced the world that their policy in the region is wrong and that they could not stop the Arab Spring.
* You mentioned that the British had advised their friend Emiratis to withdraw at this time, and some analysts said that the Emirates was subject to sanctions if it continued in this war. Do you think that it is so simple that the UAE withdraws and Saudi Arabia carries all the pockets of this war, just because the Emirates, after four years, withdraws from it?
- Generally, we will not allow the world to deceive us that the UAE has withdrawn from Yemen. It has not withdrawn and this is a formal withdrawal. It has not withdrawn from the islands, ports and coasts, it has not withdrawn from the south, it is now only withdrawn from areas in the north against the Houthis. This is a formal withdrawal. Once again we will tell the world that the Emirates is still messing with Yemen, still in a large area in southern Yemen. Yemen is still besieged by land, sea and air. The Emirates and Saudi Arabia must withdraw their support for the militias. I was in a meeting, a few weeks ago, with important British and American officials and others, and I told them that this withdrawal is not enough and they should pay the bill, the Yemeni people should be compensated for the destruction done by the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and they must be held accountable for war crimes in Yemen.