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On Yemen’s ‘lawless’ spaces 31, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Yemen.
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The Waq al Waq blog makes an excellent point about Yemen’s “ungovernable/lawless” spaces that policy makers and journalists refer to so frequently, namely that they do not really exist. Rather, these spaces adhere to a different set of laws.

“Most so-called “ungoverned” spaces are in fact alternatively governed, typically by entrenched tribal laws and customs regarding the use of violence, mediation of conflict, and dispensation of justice. Such regions may be “sovereignty free,” but they are rarely Hobbesian.”

I bring this linguistic distinction up because I believe it is incredibly dangerous for policymakers, journalists and analysts to operate on the assumption that these areas in Yemen are indeed “lawless.” That is not the case. But thinking that it is often leads to mistakes of policy and writing, which makes Yemen over into some sort of blank map on which the author’s fantasies and imaginings can be projected.

There are laws and customs here. Just because they are not known does not mean they are not important.

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