‘Yemen’s Struggle for Transition’
Chief of Staff to Yemeni Leader to Speak at Antioch University Seattle Campus
Thursday, April 10: 6:30-8:00 PM at 2326 Sixth Avenue in Room 100
Salem Bin-Talib is known for leading the fight against corruption and for government transparency and a key player in the ongoing National Dialogue to establish a new Constitution for Yemen
Salem Bin-Talib is Chief of Staff to the Yemeni Prime Minister and an activist who has long fought against corruption and for greater transparency in government. He will share his experiences in this fight against corruption and with the ongoing National Dialogue to establish a new Yemeni Constitution at Antioch University’s Seattle campus on the evening of Thursday, April 10th. The event, which begins at 6:30 pm, is free and will be held on campus at 2326 Sixth Avenue in Room 100. Antioch University and the World Affairs Council are jointly hosting the event.
Prior to being appointed as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister in the current ‘transition government,’ Bin-Talib led the Yemen Parliamentarians Against Corruption (YPAC) NGO, which sought public access to government documents. Their goal was to provide a basis for investigating and exposing the widespread corruption by the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. Bin-Talib worked for four years to draft, introduce, and support passage of Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation by the Yemeni Parliament. Along with this law, he also worked to get legislation approved to protect the rights of journalists. During this period, he faced numerous personal threats to the extent that, in 2009, he left the capital, Sana’a, for the safety of Yafa, his home region. In March 2010, Bin-Talib left Yemen to spend 15 months in the United States as a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow—initially at Virginia Tech for language training and then at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs. He returned in June 2011 to a country in transition.
As part of the region’s “Arab Spring,” a largely peaceful uprising against the 33-year long dictatorial regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh began in early 2011. Mass protests brought intense public pressure for change that escalated into street fighting when the regime launched military operations to crush the protests. On June 3, 2011, Saleh was wounded in a bombing of the presidential compound and left Yemen for treatment in Saudi Arabia, leaving al-Hadi, his Vice President, as acting president. With the assistance of the international community, Yemen has subsequently managed to maintain a comparatively peaceful transfer of power, though the turmoil continued through early 2012, when Saleh formally stepped down. In July of 2012, Yemen initiated a process of National Dialogue to engage the country’s political and social stakeholders – nine committees and 556 delegates from every political party, region, and interest group in the country – in identifying and addressing issues and to establish a new constitution. Notably, 30% of the delegates to the National Dialogue are women—an impressive achievement. As chief of staff to the Yemeni Prime Minister, Mohammed Basindawa, Bin-Talib has been a central figure in the transition process. Within weeks of his appointment, Bin-Talib passed into parliament the new FOI bill, which became law in April 2012.
Jim Moore, a member of the Antioch University Seattle Board of Trustees and longtime acquaintance of Bin-Talib notes that “Salem plays a key role in maintaining a functioning government while the national dialogue process proceeds. In his talk, Salem will describe how that process has kept Yemen from falling into the chaos that characterized post Arab Spring politics in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and, to a certain extent, Tunisia. Moreover, he will give an honest appraisal of the challenges remaining. I believe guests who hear Salem’s stories will walk away with a better sense of the effort required to overcome the legacy of dictatorship and the courage it takes to bring real change.”