Speech by Mrs. Tawakkol Karman at Istanbul Conference on Yemen

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to welcome all of you. It is of critical importance that we meet today here to discuss the situation in Yemen. Special care has been taken to make this conference include participants from inside and outside Yemen in order to serious and in-depth views and proposals on the Yemeni issue. So, I thank all participants in this event.


For four years, Yemen has been living in difficult circumstances as a result of the coup and the war. The past period has demonstrated the ability of Yemenis to withstand these difficult conditions. But this, though important, is not a good option. After all, chaos, war and the increased influence of armed groups pose a great threat to Yemen.


In the midst of these big events facing Yemen, let me remind you of several important facts that should not be ignored when discussing the Yemeni issue. In 2011, the February Revolution broke out as part of the Arab Spring revolutions that occurred across the Arab region, raising different just demands, including mainly the right of peoples to govern themselves by establishing genuine democratic systems and creating a political life based on the principle of peaceful transfer of power. This, however, angered the capitals of counter-revolutions, which see free democracies as existential threats to their corrupt regimes, which explains this conflict raging in the region, including Yemen.


The Houthi militia has been supported and financed to become the dagger stabbing the Yemeni spring in the back. For the Arab Spring, armies, some corrupt political elites and militant groups have been supported to overthrow democracies that begun to take shape in the region. It is important to say that these machinations were not far from Western governments, which failed the test of democracy after long decades of paying lip service to democracy. Unfortunately, the West eventually chose to align itself with tyrants.


Let me also remind you that Yemen was on its way to achieving a smooth democratic transition. All political parties and social forces participated in a about nine-month national dialogue conference resulting in a national political document with the outline of the new State. In the meantime, a new constitution for the country was drafted with the full participation of the political spectrum. Remember that we were a few weeks from a referendum on the constitution and organizing presidential, parliamentary and local elections, and thus achieving a peaceful democratic transition where nobody is excluded. Nevertheless, the coup d'état by the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthi militia, backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran, has plunged the country into a dark tunnel where it has become a victim of many wars, complicating matters further.


The Saudi-Emirati coalition’s retreat from the stated objectives of the military intervention, namely to restore the Yemeni legitimacy to power and end the coup, has contributed the most to the deterioration of the situation in this way. Instead of supporting the legitimacy, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have imposed restrictions on it and proceeded with the agenda of their own, with the aim to take over Yemen’s territories and natural resources, taking advantage of the state of chaos and war there and relying on the very clear vulnerability of the Yemeni authority.


Dear friends,


Yemen suffers from the world’s worst humanitarian disaster in decades. Its infrastructure of service sectors, especially health, education, water and electricity, has been severely damaged. More than 22 million Yemenis need some form of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. More than 8 million people are suffering from acute food insecurity, including nearly two million children and more than 2 million pregnant, and breastfeeding women, with warnings that the number of undernourished people is likely to increase to 14 million people, nearly half of the country's population.


A few days ago, Amal Hussein, a Yemeni child whose picture was widely shared by international mass media, died of acute and chronic malnutrition. Amal is one of the millions of Yemeni children who are falling like leaves in autumn leaves ads a result of airstrikes, missiles, militia mines, starvation and epidemics.


Dear friends,


Meantime, there seems to be a global trend to stop the war on Yemen and start peace talks to find a political settlement that would put an end to four years of war and bring peace back to Yemen. On this occasion, I would like to applaud all calls for a ceasefire and peace in the country, including the statements made by US Defense Secretary James Mattis who has proposed a 30-day truce to end the war. However, it must be emphasized to Mr. Mattis and others that Yemen is not lacking in rhetoric. We are now on the eve of the fifth year of the war that is tearing our country apart and destroying its people. Yemen needs a firm decision by the international community to end this war, as it is going to fragmentation and this would not only affect Yemen, but also pose a serious threat to regional and global security and peace.


Dear friends,


I call for stopping the war and ending the siege on Yemen. In this context, I call for empowering the legitimate authority to perform its duties, opening airports and ports immediately, and I call on Saudi Arabia and the UAE to stop the non-positive interference in Yemen. They also have to refrain from supporting terrorist groups, armed militias and the killing gangs of mercenaries assigned to carry out assassinations against Yemeni figures in Aden and Taiz. Additionally, I call for an end to the intervention of Tehran’s mullahs who seek to put their grasp on our country by supporting the Houthi militia.


In this context, I support the call of Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy, for peace talks in the period ahead, and I believe that this opportunity must be grasped to bring peace to Yemen. In the end, wars do not go on forever. The legitimate authority has to act responsibly towards achieving a settlement that preserves the sovereignty and independence of Yemen. The principles of the republic, democracy and equal citizenship shall establish the foundations of this settlements. Houthis must advance the interests of Yemen. Ruling Yemen by force is a lunatic idea and will never succeed. Houthis must present messages of peace to the Yemeni society. I think the freeing of prisoners and detainees is the needed gesture of goodwill. We must prove to the world that we are people who deserve peace and to live in peace like others.


I believe that if external intervention is stopped, and I mean Saudi and Emirati intervention, we will not only make peace but we will also establish a free democratic state; a state of justice and rule of law, and we will be the strategic partner in maintaining the security and stability of the world.

We have a vision to build sustainable peace in Yemen and achieve comprehensive national reconciliation. The following steps must be taken:

  1. Stopping the war, lifting the siege and the withdrawal of Saudi Arabia and UAE from Yemen;
  2. Resuming the political process from the point it stopped due to the coup and war;
  3. Forming a military committee under the auspices of the United Nations working to withdraw weapons from all militias, so that the state has the exclusive right to use weapons, and build the army and security on a national basis to ensure the protection of the country, its sovereignty and territorial integrity;
  4. Forming a national government composing of all parties or a government of technocrats under the auspices of the United Nations to organize a referendum on the draft constitution, local, parliamentary and presidential elections, according to the new constitution;
  5. Establishing a National Reconciliation Commission to provide redress and compensation to victims;
  6. Saudi Arabia and Emirates must commit to compensating Yemen for the damages caused by the war.


Dear friends

Now let me talk about an issue that preoccupied Turkey and the world. It is the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The death of Jamal Khashoggi has caused a widespread shock in the world, given the nature of the crime scene, the way of killing, and the involvement of an entire country in a crime that bore all the hallmarks of terrorist groups such as IS. I renew my call to reveal the truth, and to punish those involved, all those involved, whatever their positions, names and surnames. I warn against any deals that may be held in secret. Our call to punish those involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi is not a call for revenge, but rather a call for the murderer to be punished. The murderer is the one who ordered it. I declare my full support to the investigations of the Turkish prosecutor in his attempt to uncover the truth so the criminal who escaped justice in previous times will not be able to escape again. Until justice is served, we must continue to ask the Saudi authorities: Where is the corpse of Kashoggi and who ordered the killing?