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Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Yemenis discuss focus on country's security crisis

A Yemeni solder overlooks the Yemeni capital, Sana'a
A Yemeni soldier stands on a hill overlooking the capital Sana'a

The failed bombing of an American passenger jet by a man who received terrorist training in Yemen has focussed the world's attention on the Gulf state. The Yemeni government has declared war on al-Qaeda within the country, as a group of Yemeni clerics warned that foreign military intervention should be met with jihad.

Yemenis tell the BBC what they see as the biggest challenges facing their country, and what they think of global attention on Yemen's security issues.

Nasser Arrabyee, journalist

The biggest threat to Yemen's security - for Yemenis - is the armed rebellion in the north. I'd say number two is al-Qaeda, and third is the separatist movement in the south.

Nasser Arrabyee

The root of all of these three is the poverty, the corruption of government and general illiteracy. This means people can be easily recruited to blow themselves up.

Yemen could collapse overnight, but big players in the West are trying to prevent this happening. A collapse would be a big victory for al-Qaeda, which thrives on chaos.

If the West blindly supports Yemen with finance, there is the problem of corruption. If it sends troops and war planes - things that make people here angry - this will also backfire.

Poverty is the father of this terrorism, so development should be the first priority.

The war in the northern Saada region makes the economy worse: electricity is off, water is short, health care is poor, employment is down.

Every two or three days I hear that a distant relative or acquaintance has died there. Young people who can't find jobs go into the army and some get killed or injured.

Mohamed Marwish, taxi driver

I have been driving a cab in Sanaa for 20 years. I know everybody.

I always used to drive tourists from the hotel and I speak a little English.

Now though the tourists don't want to come because they think Yemen is dangerous. We have had problems in Saada in the north, in the port of Aden and in the south of the country all because of a few crazy people.

I am suffering. My business is right down, it's really sad. Sanaa is a very beautiful place.

The Old City is the most popular attraction. Everyone welcomes you there, even the children. All of Yemen is like this. It is a very friendly place and tourists like it.

Yemenis like Europeans, we are hospitable towards them. It is very safe in Sanaa, thank God. Our only problem is the traffic.

Ali Saghel, souvenir seller, Old City

Our biggest problem is the foreign media because they make things sound much worse than they really are.

The Old City, Sana'a
A view of the Old City, Sana'a

Maybe 5% of the country has problems, but they make it sound more like 100%. Now even Yemenis have become afraid.

Yemen is different to other places; even the tribes have Islamic traditions. If you go to any tribe they will respect you and treat you with hospitality.

I do think al-Qaeda is a big problem but it would become much worse if American or British troops came.

Perhaps the tribes have a few al-Qaeda supporters, but if the Americans and British came the whole of Yemen would fall apart and turn to al-Qaeda.

If foreigners want to help us with military training, support business or help the poor, that's OK. Why are the United Arab Emirates not helping us? Why are they not looking at development in Yemen?

The first task is to provide work and tackle unemployment because there are no jobs in Yemen. If there is no work or money for young people then they despair.

Ashwaq, 24, translator

Al-Qaeda is getting stronger because of the weakness of the government and the poverty - which also leads to injustice in the south. Unemployment, poverty and corruption all help al-Qaeda recruit more people.

There are lots of al-Qaeda supporters here and radical religious people supporting them. Al-Qaeda promotes slogans urging Jihad.

There is a lot of illiteracy in the rural, tribal areas, so it's easier for al-Qaeda to recruit there.

Yemen has suddenly become well-known, for all the wrong reasons

I think development is more important than security. If a country's prospects are good, the security will be good as a matter of course.

I work as a translator in the private sector. It's hard to find work in the public sector. I graduated from Sanaa university last year, but not all of my college friends have work.

It seems like Yemen has become very well-known in the world within the space of about a week. But not for the right reasons. We're aware of having the world's attention.

Radhia Khairan, 27, translator

Most of the articles about Yemen in the foreign press paint a picture of terrorism and aggression. It's not like that.

The most dangerous movement in Yemen are the Houthis, fighting in the north

But to read the papers you'd think you can't even walk in the streets, and that's not true.

At weekends I can visit friends locally and stay out until 9pm. Or I can go to the public gardens, or just stay in my room and read. As I speak to you, you can't hear guns shooting, can you? My life is very normal.

Al-Qaeda are extremists, they are not Muslims. Islam instructs us to welcome guests so we should respect all foreigners.

I don't like this international focus on Yemen, it makes me think something bad will happen.

The most dangerous movement in Yemen are the Houthis, fighting in the north. They brainwash people into killing other Yemenis. We may be from different sects, but we are all Muslim.

Even if the government is bad, it doesn't mean Yemen itself is bad.

Additional interviews and translation: BBC Middle East producer Yolande Knell.


Here is a selection of your thoughts:

I agree with some of Radhia Khairan, but I still blame the government and I also believe that meeting in London to give Yemen financial contributions will achieve nothing apart from giving a big present to the government. The government uses al-Qaeda and majority of Yemenis know this. I wish Gordon Brown and Barack Obama would try to understand the situation in Yemen, to help the west to resolve its political issues. The extremist rule of [Yemen's President] Saleh and his family is corrupt, there is no justice. Citizens are Saleh's servants by force.
Mash, Sana'a, Yemen

I think that the crisis occurred due to the stupid politics of president Ali Abdallah Saleh. He's mad. He didn't know how to deal with the Houthis, so started this endless war.
Maged, Sana'a, Yemen



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