Yemeni writer Abdel Rahman Mourad said his country’s political crisis is a result of a cultural problem and criticised the academic field in Yemen. He said it did not produce notable scientific or cultural figures.
“The present is a mere reflection of the past. The image of a changed and modern Yemen that our youth desperately seek, has not happened,” he said.
In an interview with Arabstoday, Mourad expressed his annoyance at Yemeni cultural institutions and accused them of psychologically oppressing intellectuals.
Arabstoday met Mourad in Sanaa and asked him to characterise the cultural situation in Yemen:
Abdel Rahman Mourad: The cultural situation is declining. The events of the past year have cast a bleak shadow on Yemen’s cultural situation. These events have fragmented, and alienated cultural movements. The writers’ federation established in the 1970s tried to resist this division and managed to gather all writers under one entity. Now, some of its members separated and established the Southern Writers Federation.
The political crisis in Yemen is really the product of a cultural problem.
Anyone who follows Yemeni literature would see that most of it is about history or marginalised people in society such as Jews.
Arabic poetry is satirical, and an honest manifesto to the misery of human life.
This year, Sanaa International Book Fair’s activities were declining, and that is a reflection of the cultural crisis in Yemen.
Arabstoday : Do you think this decline is the outcome of the Arab Spring?
AM: Yes, the Arab Spring was a product of rebellion by 90s intellectuals, especially in Yemen. In Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia people were expressing their frustrations with their respective regimes’ oppression. Put simply, they wanted them to leave. But to yell “leave” only demonstrates the rebel’s spirit and desire, but it doesn’t propose a solution. It is obvious that the Arab revolutions lack organisation, thinking, and leadership. It was an angry young man’s revolution with no political or social plan. Consequently, it devastated the cultural infrastructure of their communities.
AT: What do you think about the role of academic institutions? Some believe it failed in creating a cultural that matches the current age…
AM: The academic institutions in Yemen are broken. Its sole purpose is handing out graduation certificates, and it performs no role in the culture scene. Its staff members are subjected to security checks and constant government supervision. Academic life is haunted with fear and suspicion. The institution lost its role and value and did not achieve anything that serves Yemen’s culture. It’s just vacant.
Ali Rabeh: Do you think that there is a certain defect in Yemen that leads to this vacancy?
Abdel Rahman Mourad: For fifty years, Yemen was shattered by conflicts and a fragmented identity. Yemeni leaders have always followed foreign agendas. The Yemenis creative potential was ignored. The vacancy was waiting to be filled but this was in vain.
AT: In relation to Yemeni culture, some found it limited and with low potentials for interaction… what do you think?
AM: There is a Yemeni proverb that says Yemenis never feel grateful for one another. The attention of various institutions is not paid to the literary industry or marketing the creative and intellectual products. The Yemeni creative writers are curving onto the wall of humanity. When they manage to publish an intellectual or creative work, they are just documenting it. To be a creative writer in Yemen is a suicidal attempt.
The Yemeni Cultural situation needs to be revised and renewed and also the official institutions need to be renewed to function well.
AT: “I Care for My Country”, “My Country is missing like my dad”, “the image of homeland in the Yemeni Poetry” are titles of your creative works…Why do you stress on the theme of a motherland?
AM: Because this theme is absent, we can sense this absence throughout all the chaos.