Town Hall With Amal Basha
Secretary of State
MODERATOR: (In progress.) However, you should know that Ms. Clinton started her activism at the age of 13. So as young as 13, she started her political life, participating in presidential elections, and then she moves (inaudible). Madam Hillary, also she was a very brilliant student and a lot of awards for her athletic and sports activism in the schools. She studied political science, and then, when she finished that, she also studied legal in Yale Law School. So she became later a lawyer. And then also she studied medicine, post-graduate.
So it’s amazing how she is passionate for learning, diversifying her backgrounds. She works as a lawyer and then actually, she is many personalities in one. She is a mother, she is wife, she was a senator, she was a lawyer, she’s in the Cabinet, and she is the Secretary --
QUESTION: And she ran for president.
MODERATOR: Well said. Well, actually, in 1995, she participated in Beijing conference, the Fourth World Conference on Women. And she is the one who triggered this phrase, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women rights.” Her life is very rich. She had a lot of campaigns to improve the lives of the people, started at Arkansas as the lobbying for improving the education for the people when her husband, Mr. Clinton, was the governor of Arkansas. And then she was the first lady.
And actually, when I was going through these papers, she was the first woman in so many things, okay? Not only just – she was the first lady for the – Arkansas when her husband was the governor. And then she was the first first lady to be a senator, and so many things I could not memorize. Well, actually, she excels in every field that she went through. And she is the most well-known woman all over the world.
There are two measured events that people are globally watching and waiting for, which is the World Cup, the Mondial, that happens every four years, and the American presidential elections, that give us the joy. And in 2008, we were following at the campaign of Mrs. Clinton and we were actually in a dilemma which one we should support, Obama or Hillary. For us, the women, the feminists, women all over the world, we were with Ms. Clinton. Why? Because we were thinking that having a woman in the White House, in the most important capital in the world, that would break the ceiling for women, so were – for Ms. Clinton. But also, Obama, for us was also another ceiling-breaker as a minority, a black American. So both were equally competent for this post, but we did not – or lose anything, because we – finally, we have her as the State Secretary.
I don’t want to take long. You can Google her and you’ll be amazed about – (laughter) --
MODERATOR: Yes. But I want to finish by saying that she is also a great, eloquent writer. She has the bestseller book about her memoir, calling – called Living History. And in the first week, this book was sold for 1 million copies.
Let’s welcome Mrs. Clinton, or Madam Secretary, and give her a big – allow us. Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. Thank you. You really did your homework. Thank you so much. Well, I am very grateful for that kind introduction. And as you say, there’s unfortunately too much material. (Laughter.) I have lived too long and been in public life for most of that.
But I want to thank Amal for highlighting many of the issues that I have worked on throughout my life, and let me thank all of you for being here and for your patience. I apologize for the delay in my arrival. We had some very excellent comprehensive discussions with the president earlier, but I regret keeping you waiting, especially because I thought you would be getting refreshments. So I’m especially sad about that, because I had thought we had arranged it.
But it is a great honor for me to be here with you in this ancient and beautiful city. I want to thank the students and teachers who are here, the entrepreneurs and community leaders, especially the members of parliament, the leaders of NGOs, and citizens who are committed to the future of your country. And I appreciate the spirit in which we gather.
I am the first American Secretary of State to visit Yemen in many years. I am here with a very simple message from President Obama and myself: We are committed to a broad and comprehensive partnership not only with the Government of Yemen, but with the people of Yemen. (Applause.) I am well aware that Yemen faces many real and serious challenges. Some of them in my country we know more about than others. For example, we are aware of the immediate threat from violent extremists, especially al-Qaida, posing to the stability of Yemen, the region, and indeed the world.
But we are bound together by a far broader vision. We seek a unified, stable, democratic and prosperous Yemen where civil society has room to operate that al-Qaida does not – (applause) – where individuals are free to express their opinions, even when they differ, but are committed to resolving those differences peacefully through the political process; where the economic future of Yemen provides an opportunity for every boy and girl who wishes to pursue his or her God-given talents. So I want you, first and foremost, to know that I come in partnership and friendship.
Now, I want to be frank about the fact that there are terrorists operating from Yemeni territory today, many of whom are not Yemeni; some of whom, I’m sorry to say, are American citizens. But they do represent an urgent concern for both of us. Speaking as an American, as a mother, as a citizen, they have sought to attack our country, and I know that they have caused death, injury, and destruction in Yemen.
So stopping these threats would be a priority for any nation, and it is a priority for the United States. It is also a priority for Yemen, because it is hard to develop, it is hard to maintain stability and security if there are those from the outside who wish to disrupt the efforts of the people of Yemen. While many in this room work tirelessly to create economic opportunities, al-Qaida and other violent extremists scare away foreign investors and tourists and make it more difficult for Yemenis to work, study, and travel abroad.
We have seen in the last years in Iraq how al-Qaida seeks to tear apart diverse societies – people who have lived peacefully together, side by side, who have intermarried over generations, who, for the purposes of the outside extremists, are said to begin hating each other, to disrupt the relationships that go back as far as one can remember. So I believe that your government’s efforts to disrupt al-Qaida’s operational planning and to deny it safe haven here in Yemen are profoundly in Yemen’s own interests.
But as you know better than I, the challenges facing Yemen go far beyond the threat of terrorism. The population of Yemen is likely to double by 2040, less than 30 years. At the same time, oil and water grow even scarcer. Like many of you, the next generation of Yemenis will be hungry for jobs, healthcare, literacy, education, and training that connect them to the global economy, and they will be seeking responsive democratic governance that reaches and serves their communities.
Yemen’s great challenge, like the challenge of so many countries in the early part of the 21st century, is to offer our young people a strong vision for the future, a sense of opportunity, a foundation of stability and security. And the United States has a stake in the outcome here in Yemen, as we do in our own country, and across the globe. Over the long run, Yemen’s economic and political development and its security are deeply interconnected.
In the last two years, the United States has nearly tripled our assistance to Yemen. We are investing in development, education, good governance, the rule of law, as well as security assistance because we want our assistance to reflect the needs and aspirations of the Yemeni people. And because peace and stability are preconditions for so much of what we hope to accomplish, we are working with the government and with many groups in civil society and in the political realm to help resolve political disputes.
We helped fund the National Democratic Institute, which works to find common ground between the ruling party and opposition figures. We strongly support the national dialogue which brings groups together to engage directly on electoral reform and other pressing challenges. We will support whatever agreement Yemen’s political parties reach together as they negotiate electoral reform and work toward free, fair, and inclusive parliamentary elections.
Yemen’s long-term stability depends on providing a viable economic future for the millions of young people – women as well as men – who will be entering the job market. Across Yemen, we are expanding our educational exchanges, launching community development programs to help create jobs, working to help Yemenis access and use communications technology so that everyone in Yemen who wishes to be is connected to the global economy.
Now, we are not doing this alone; we are doing it in partnership with many of Yemen’s friends and neighbors – the Gulf countries, Western donors, the World Bank, the IMF, the United Nations. We are working to help coordinate our efforts to create economic prosperity. Along with our international partners, we are encouraging the Yemeni Government to match our investments with actions on their own reform agenda and a redoubled effort to meet the responsibility of all governments to deliver services and results. And this includes economic reforms that will make it easier for Yemenis to do business at home as well as in the global economy. Anyone who knows even a little bit about the history of Yemen knows that Yemenis have been entrepreneurs and traders and merchants for centuries. Now it is time for that entrepreneurial skill to be translated into the 21st century economy.
Now of course, I do not pretend that the American Government or the American people have the answers to Yemen’s complex challenges. No outside influence or interest could or should. But we do know this: Civil society must be a key part of the solution. Empowering the Yemeni people to solve your own problems is the most effective tool any society has. As I’ve said across the world, it is important that governments not censor or seek to control NGOs because holding back civil society is holding back the whole of society.
And in fact, the people of Yemen already understand this. The civil society here in Yemen is among the most active anywhere, thousands and thousands of NGOs who are deeply involved. And I met some of them earlier, and there are more of you in the auditorium today, who are out there every day working on the front lines of positive change that will make a difference in the lives of the people.
Now, the same is true for Yemen’s women. As you heard, I am deeply committed to providing opportunities for girls and women, because I have seen everywhere in the world, with my own eyes as well as all of the research that has been done, it is very hard for a country to develop to its full potential if women are not educated and if women do not have an opportunity to participate. I am particularly concerned about the issue of child marriage because it does represent a very clear failure to educate and advance the rights of girls so that they become women who are able to educate their own children and provide a better future for their families.
I have two women here today who I first met last year in New York, and some of you have heard of both of them. Nujood Ali, who is with us today, was married off as a 10-year-old to a considerably older man, and she was forced to drop out of school and she was one of the many, many young girls in Yemen who wanted to continue her education. And so, desperate for a chance to do so and to escape what had become a very difficult and abusive marriage, she boarded a bus to the courthouse and waited until she found someone who would help her get a divorce. And the person she found was the lawyer, Shada Nasser. So both Shada and Nujood are here today, but they really represent many girls and women, girls who still deserve a chance for an education and women who are participating, as many of the women here are already, in opening up the doors of opportunity.
Today, Nujood is back in school where she belongs, learning English along with her studies. And I really see her as an inspiration and representative of so many other young girls who can contribute positively to their families and their country. We know from hard-won experience that a woman who is educated will help raise children who are educated, which will raise the income and the prosperity of a family and a community and a country. (Applause.)
Now, I know every culture has its own traditions and customs, and I was very proud when my daughter got married last summer. And I know that there are many local organizations who are working on behalf of young girls and young women, and I wanted publicly to state that we are committed to working with you, again, because we think it is one of the ingredients that will make a real difference to Yemen’s future.
Now, there are many other challenges that I have not even mentioned in healthcare and in the environment, in so much else that you are working on. I am here because I have confidence in the resilience and the resourcefulness of the Yemeni people. (Applause.) We need to send a clear message to the world that Yemen is a place that is of great promise and potential. Yes, it has problems, as any place in the world has problems. But Yemen is so much more than the sum of its problems. (Applause.)
The sight on our televisions in America of tens of thousands of soccer fans from across the Middle East pouring into Aden for the Gulf Cup was a glimpse of the future that all of us would like to see for Yemen: secure, dynamic, and connected to the region and the world. (Applause.) So you will have our support and our partnership, but it is all of you and the people of Yemen who will decide your country’s future. The leaders in this room, elected leaders, leaders in academia, leaders in business, leaders in the professions, leaders of the NGO community, you are the ones who will help to chart the path that Yemen will take. You give me hope for the future, and you give me great confidence that our friendship and partnership will produce results, most importantly, results that make a difference and provide a better set of opportunities for the young men and women of Yemen.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Thank you. (In Arabic.) Well, I think after this very comprehensive, illustrative statement, you have answered many of the questions that most of the audience have.
However, (in Arabic) -- sorry, I am ignoring this technology. (Laughter.) So, there was a question. Why Madam Clinton is here?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MODERATOR: That was the interest of so many people that I heard before you came here.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MODERATOR: So would you please give us an answer?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I am here to reinforce the message of partnership and friendship from President Obama and myself. I feel very strongly that the United States and Yemen have some common missions that we should pursue together.
And, as I said, I want not just to talk with your government leaders, but to have a chance to hear from people like all of you. Because we do not believe we have all the answers, by any means. We want a conversation. We want to know what you believe will work. We want to hear from you. And our goal is not to come to Yemen and announce what we think Yemen should do. Our goal is to support a process, a peaceful, political process that can resolve any of the challenges, and do it in a way that enables us to continue to support the efforts of Yemenis to take responsibility for solving their own problems.
So, I wanted to come to deliver that message very clearly. Sometimes things get lost in translation. And sometimes, although we count on the media to convey information, it sometimes can be in small bits and pieces that don't present the context. So I wanted to come and make that clear for myself.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. And this is a first visit for you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it is my first visit.
MODERATOR: Okay. We hope that you could have some time to go to our city of Sanaa, and to enjoy the (inaudible) of our beautiful city.
Well, maybe the most burning question is, as the majority of -- most of the people here are from the -- representing the civil society, women groups, youth, and media, your visit at this meeting is a sign of empowerment for the civil society.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MODERATOR: And they need more than just this meeting. So would you think that your -- the American Administration can empower the civil society, especially its (inaudible), diverse, and it has so many challenges.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
MODERATOR: Some of the NGOs, especially the defending human -- the human rights defenders, they don't feel secure. And they need protection. So what's in the head of the Administration?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in addition to this meeting today, which I hope does send a very strong signal of our support for civil society, I know that our embassy and our ambassadors here -- and other members of our embassy community are here -- work with many members of civil society, and with many groups. We provide funding for some. We provide technical assistance for some. We serve as a convening authority for others.
We want to increase the amount of support that we are giving to civil society. We want to learn more about what approaches work, so that we can better focus our support. We are going through an analysis in Washington with all of our assistance programs, trying to determine: How do we measure positive results?
We want to support not only groups, but individuals. Some of you have been to Washington in recent years on education exchanges, on the international visitor program. We want to increase that and include more Yemenis. So we are looking for many opportunities to be of support as you -- because you're the leaders, and you are the experts -- as you make the decisions that you think will help solve problems, and help create a more stable, unified, prosperous, democratic Yemen.
MODERATOR: Well, I can give the chance for the floor to have questions. Okay, Raja, would you please introduce yourself?
QUESTION: I am sorry. I cannot stand. I fell down and hurt my knees, and I am a disabled person. So I am so sorry for sitting.
My name is Raja Masabe, I am the chairwoman of our Human Rights Foundation, a human rights expert and a (inaudible) right expert. Well, first of all, I want to say congratulations for you for signing the first convention. This is the convention for right of people with disability.
And my question is, United States, as the biggest country of the world, are they going to put the disability right in their agenda? I don't mean the people with disability only in your state, but disability people in whole world. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for asking that. And the answer is yes. In fact, as Secretary of State, I have appointed a person to be in charge of our disabilities agenda. She happens to be a person with disabilities. She's in a wheelchair, and she's been an activist for many years. And she is, with my encouragement, reaching out and working with many countries and organizations.
Now, why is this important? Well, for two reasons. First of all, just as I said in 1995, that I think women's rights are human rights, I think people with disabilities are, too often, not treated as fully human. I think that they are treated as a disability, instead of a human being with a disability. And that is a personal commitment of mine, that we will work to try to find ways to assist activists and governments around the world to provide more support, more education, more care and protection for people with disabilities.
Secondly, the United States has been a leader in this area. I have worked on behalf of people, particularly children with disabilities, for a very long time, starting as a young lawyer. And we learned, over the last 40 years, that many people with disabilities were fully capable of not only going to school and doing well, but of performing certain jobs that would support themselves and their families.
And so, in the United States, we have a lot of legislation that is aimed at opening up the job market, opening up our schools, opening up public places to people with disabilities. And it is working.
In the beginning, a lot of people said, "That will never work. That is impossible." And what we have learned is that there are so many people -- even blind people, deaf people, paralyzed people -- who are fully capable of being contributors to society. There are people who need constant care. There are people who are so profoundly affected by disabilities that they cannot live independently. But the vast majority of people can.
And as the population of the world ages, more people will live with disabilities. My mother, who lives with my family, is 91. And until she was 90, she was very active. Now she is 91, she walks with a cane. It's surprising, how many places are hard for her to get into and out of. And yet, my family want her to continue feeling like she is part of the larger society. So, I have a personal experience, as well as the experience of many friends.
So, this is an issue high on our agenda. You're right, that President Obama and I held a ceremony signing the convention on people with disabilities, and we intend for the United States to be a leader in helping to work on behalf of people with disabilities. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Well, thank you for this answer. Well, to tell you a secret, before you came here we had more than 100 participants, and everybody has a question. So this is a dilemma. How to respond to all these people who are -- who want to pose their question? At the same time, we are short of time --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I will try to give shorter answers. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Okay. And with categories: men, women, leaders, and -- okay, it's very difficult as where to start. Okay, Sakh, (in Arabic).
QUESTION: (Via translator.) Thank you very much. I'm an independent parliamentarian, chairman of Yemeni Parliamentarians Against Corruption. I would like to welcome Madam Secretary, Secretary of State of the United States of America.
What I really liked about your remarks is that you want friendship and partnership not only with the government, but rather, with the Yemeni people. (Inaudible) the United States of America actually leads a war against terrorism. But I would have to say that terrorism really has an environment and a growing ground, either to weaken or strengthen it. We think that the government -- that the environment hosted by the government over here that depends upon a singular rule actually helps that terrorism to strengthen itself, versus weaken it.
My question is: What is the opinion of the United States of America vis a vis the recent events of the regime that isolates all the other political players in the system, and so far as the recent constitutional reforms adopted by the government that is based on individual rule, that actually takes us way back to the individual rule in there, facilitating on -- bequeathing the rule of the country? I would like a very clear response to that, please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I will do it as quickly as I can, because it's a question that deserves a very thoughtful and comprehensive response.
First of all, we have made clear that we supported the process of dialogue between the government and the opposition, both parties and leaders. We also support an inclusive political process. We support electoral reform. We support the commitment to free, fair, credible elections. We believe that having an election which enables the many different voices of Yemen to be heard in a peaceful manner is very much in Yemen's interest. So we have made that clear publicly and privately, and we have supported it through work by the National Democratic Institute, our embassy, and other organizations. And we will continue to do so, because we see that Yemen is going through a transition.
And you're right, it could go one way or the other. It could go the right way or the wrong way. And we want to support those in Yemen who are trying to transition to a solid, peaceful, democratic system, where voices can be heard and all people -- men and women, every region, every tribe -- everyone is represented.
MODERATOR: Well, just before we go to the second question, I would like to say that the last question of Sakh Alwaji was not a good question, because he violated the rule that we need a short, direct, and smart question. (Laughter.) So we don't have time for long questions. So please adhere to this rule. Otherwise, we will not -- I will -- cut the questions.
Now we want from the youth, okay? You.
QUESTION: I was one of the U.S. exchange students, and MIS alumni. First, it's my pleasure to be here.
Okay. My question. Why doesn't the U.S. Department of State provide a full scholarship for students here to America?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Why don't we, or why wouldn't we?
QUESTION: Why don't you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do provide some scholarships, don't we? And we will provide more scholarships.
QUESTION: Is it for a full scholarship? For four years?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We will look -- I am looking at the ambassador, who is telling me that the number and the amount of scholarships for Yemeni students has increased. We want to increase the amount and the number. So we will look to see how we can do that. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Okay. Perfect question. Okay.
QUESTION: My name is Haziz Zahadi, I am the director of the embassy-sponsored language center here in Yemen, one of the -- Yemen's oldest institutes of education, sponsored by the embassy and state. We thank you very much for that.
My question has to do with information programs. In the early 1990s, in the mid-1990s, we had the, through the United States Information Service, very many important English language programs, in addition to information programs on economics, society, health. In past years we haven't seen much of this.
As you know, Yemen has been a very isolated country for many, many years. We would like to see, in this digital age, much more support in that area. We have a very bad ratio of computers to students in the university sector, for --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Go ahead, go ahead. You're giving me a lot of good ideas. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Four hundred students for each computer, the access. There is programs which need support. We're wondering if the State Department could help us there, or if you could put in a good word with Bill and Melinda Gates, for example.
We think the information -- we have a lot of bright people in this country.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
QUESTION: As an American educator here, I can confirm that, over the past 20 years, U.S. aid has been, in all forms of assistance, has been very high-impact. But we need more. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would appreciate your following up with the ambassador directly with your specific suggestions. Because I agree with you, that information is knowledge. And one of the challenges for Yemen is to begin to build a knowledge economy, because a knowledge economy is the economy of the future. And also, access to knowledge can help the existing economy.
At lunch today I learned that exporting honey is a $300 million business in Yemen. And it is really good honey. Well, can that market be expanded? And how would you do it? I mean there is just a lot of ways that we can target information. So I want your specific ideas to the ambassador, who will get them to me.
MODERATOR: Okay. Jamila, Dr. Jamila?
QUESTION: Thank you, Your Excellency. It is really our pleasure to be with you today. I am Dr. Jamila, a pediatrician. And maybe this is the close something to your heart.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: When we abroad, everybody ask you in the past, "Where are you from," we say, "From Yemen." "Oh, where is that?" We say, "Oh, okay, next to Saudi Arabia." But now, when they ask us, "Where are you from," "From Yemen," "Oh, yeah." So they know it.
But this is not the picture, really, we need them to know about Yemen.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right, right.
QUESTION: Yemeni people like to live in peace in a qualified life. And this is -- will not be without a good development to this country, focusing on women and children.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: I can't talk about any issue interested for the world except for my issue first. My issue now is that women are dying. Every day seven women are dying from pregnancy. And I think you know all this about it.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: So, we need the global community to see this part is not only security reasons that we will focus on in this country, and make the people to look for us. We are -- really need global community to help us to focus on development. And I think this is -- we can (inaudible) to stop terrorism or to stabilize this country.
So, how can we change this vision, or this view from global community to Yemeni people, and to give them the right picture of Yemeni people? Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I am hoping that my visit will send -- begin to send -- some of those messages, at least to my country. As people hear your questions, see you, they will begin to understand that Yemen is a dynamic, vibrant society with many problems, but many potential problem-solvers. And how do we empower the problem-solvers? How do we provide the development assistance and the support?
I think it's important, when you get the kind of response you just described, where people now say, "Where are you from," "From Yemen," I think be prepared to say what Yemen is really like. One of the things that I talk about, as I travel around the world, is that if you only watched television, you would have a very weird idea about what we do in America, right?
I mean I remember the first time I met with some Afghans, and they said, "We're so surprised," because the only TV shows they used to get were TV shows showing people running around in bathing suits and men wrestling. And they thought, "My goodness, people have families, they work all day, they participate" -- I say that because there is always the danger that a small group of people, or a small kind of issue, can dominate everything, because that's what the media focuses on.
So, I would urge you, the leaders of Yemen, to be prepared to speak out on behalf of Yemen. I think it would also be useful to have an outreach program in my country and elsewhere, of people who are coming and talking about Yemen.
And then, finally, I could not agree with you more. I have worked in this area not as a pediatrician, as you have -- and I applaud you for doing so -- but as an advocate for many years. And I am convinced that focusing on women and children is the fastest way to increase development in any society.
And if you can create -- (applause) -- the attitude that it is far better to keep the mothers of Yemen alive and healthy so that their children do not become orphans than to have young girls marry, start having children early, die in pregnancy or shortly thereafter, and the whole cycle starts again. Because it is the fastest way to raise educational levels. So it's health and education together, when you focus on mothers and children. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: I just -- also, to add to what Dr. Jamila said, I used to travel and to be asked, "Where are you from? East or North Yemen?"
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes?
MODERATOR: "East or West Yemen?"
SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.
MODERATOR: But not any more now. This question (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MODERATOR: Okay. (In Arabic.)
QUESTION: (Via translator) I would like to welcome Mrs. Clinton to Sanaa. I am very happy with this visit. I am also very happy that the war in Saada has stopped, because it produced many victims, myself included. I was kidnapped for seven months.
The question is, Yemeni and Saudi Air Force actually destroyed many houses in Saada. And there are many displaced persons, amounting to 300,000, based upon the government statistics. What are the U.S projects towards those displaced persons? Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are very concerned about the more than 300,000 internally displaced persons, and we are contributing to refugee assistance and other forms of humanitarian aid through the international community, as well as directly.
But the best answer is for there to be a lasting peace, so that people can go home. And we need to do everything we can to support a peace process that will return people to their home. And there needs to be a political process, so that the legitimate grievances of people can be heard and resolved. It is not easy dealing with conflicts when people are displaced. And there are always two sides to every conflict. And so, both sides have to look hard at themselves, and figure out what they need to do in order to resolve this, and give people a chance to go home.
But in the meantime, we will continue to contribute to assist.
MODERATOR: Okay. Hammad? Short, smart, and direct.
QUESTION: (Via translator) I am Hammad Alau, a colleague lawyer for Mrs. Clinton. My question is (inaudible) the Guantanamo issue.
Has the Yemeni Government presented that issue with you today, after President Obama's signature and his violating of that particular promise to close that camp, or perhaps his inability to implement what he promised?
And after the congress decision not to receive the prisoners in Guantanamo, and the complication for their deportation, what are the scopes on this particular issue? We have 92 Yemenis in there. We're the first government, in terms of citizens in that camp. And it's a good thing to be the first, even in detention centers.
I hope to find a true answer from a lawyer, not a politician. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: You know what I say to my fellow lawyer? I am what is called a recovering lawyer. (Laughter.) I no longer practice law, but I will try to remember my past.
First, President Obama is absolutely committed to closing Guantanamo. And in the two years that he has been President, the numbers of people on Guantanamo have dropped significantly. Having said that, you're right, that there are complications because of the congress passing legislation that makes it very difficult for the President to move forward. But he is determined to do so, and he has just said that again in the last few days.
The conversations between the United States and the Government of Yemen about the Yemeni detainees never stops. It keeps going. Some, as you know, have been released and returned home. Some were accepted by other countries. But we still have a considerable number of Yemeni detainees.
And many of you may know that we used to have a very large number of Saudi detainees. And the Saudi Government stepped in and created a rehabilitation program that worked with imams and others to work with the young men, and to, in effect, challenge some of their ideas, some of the unfortunate ideas that they had been accepting. And it has worked quite well. We would certainly be open to something like that here in Yemen, as well.
So, we are constantly in a conversation. But I can underscore for you, as a fellow lawyer, that President Obama is committed to closing Guantanamo, has made many, many steps toward lowering the population there, and will continue to do so.
MODERATOR: Ali? Short, please.
QUESTION: (Via translator) We started getting disappointed while we were waiting for Your Excellency, especially after hearing that you have had a chance to meet with civil society organizations, and some categories of the Yemeni people.
My question is that there are many violations to human rights in Yemen. Will the concentration on human rights in Yemen take priority before the United States of America in Yemen?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are increasing our support for the rule of law and human rights. We are hoping to assist human rights defenders and organizations to get not only the financial support, but the technical assistance that they might need in order to protect human rights. That's a paramount priority for my government and for myself. And it's one of the most important issues as to how you create a system of justice that goes hand-in-hand with a system of stability and peace. And so, we will continue to work with those who are on the front lines, lawyers and others, to try to help with the human rights agenda here in Yemen.
Oh, no, it's a young woman's turn now.
QUESTION: (Via translator) Your Excellency, Secretary of State, we are very happy to have you here. We heard that you were on a tour for some Gulf countries, as well as Yemen, in order to open new Arab embassies in Iraq.
Question: Do you intend to inaugurate Arab embassies in Iraq? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say that I am going to four countries in the Gulf, and there are many, many issues on my agenda. But Iraq is one of the issues. And I will be very clear, although brief, in saying that the Iraqi people now have a government that represents all the different sectors of society. It is an inclusive government. It has been accepted by the Iraqi people, including those who did not participate the last time, or who were in opposition to any government. There now is a government.
I believe it is in not only the interest of the Gulf, but also the interest of the Arab world and, in fact, the entire world, to normalize relations with Iraq, and to support Iraq against both internal and external threats. Internally, al-Qaeda remains, unfortunately, active, attacking government facilities, attacking places of worship, attacking everyday people. And the Iraqi Government is committed to security within Iraq, and we are going to help them, as others are.
And Iraq wants to maintain its Iraqi identity. It doesn't want to be influenced by or overtaken by any neighbor -- a big neighbor like Iran, for example -- it wants to be independent and sovereign, just like Yemen does. So, we are encouraging countries, particularly in the region, to open embassies, to do trade missions, to have Iraqi leaders come to visit. Because the more we can normalize those relations, the stronger the government will be.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. Well, wait, wait, wait. Idarus, from the south, he has been accusing me of being a separatist, okay? Idarus Havel.
QUESTION: (Via translator) Thank you very much. Welcome, Your Excellency. I am a parliamentarian from the southern governorates. And I, like any other southern citizen, actually am facing the issues of colliding poles: an objection by the citizens in the south, and an authority that faces these objections by military means. And, until now, hundreds of people actually have fallen victim to these military campaigns, as well as hundreds of injured.
What is the assistance that the United States could extend in this particular area, whereby it would help maintain Yemen united, and take away the secession attitude from the southerners, as well as the oppression attitude from the authorities? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am by no means an expert on Yemen history or Yemen politics. But I do know that there is a very strong sense in the south that your needs are not being addressed in the way that you would like to see. And if you look around the world, there are countries that have dealt with this in one of two ways. Countries that don't try to bring different parts of the society together and resolve outstanding issues, and make sure that people feel that -- not that they get everything, because nobody gets everything in life, or in politics -- but that they are taken seriously, and their requests are treated fairly, so that they feel that they can participate in a unified country. I would like to see that in Yemen.
I am a big believer in facilitating processes so people come and hash out their differences across a table, instead of at the end of a gun. I don't think that that produces the kind of lasting result that would be in the best interest of people in Yemen.
So, the United States and other countries have been urging that all of the issues in the south be addressed in a negotiation process, and that people make the necessary compromises and trade-offs. The south won't get everything it wants. You have people in other parts of the country who feel that they're not getting everything they want.
One of the ways to address this is creating more for everybody. Grow the pie. Don't keep seeing the pie shrink because you have explosive population growth, you have decreasing oil, you have decreasing water. Stop and deal with some of these long-term problems, and look at how the pie grows. Then people in the south, the north, the east, and the west can all feel that they are being taken care of, because there is more to share.
So, I am a very strong advocate for those kinds of processes. And the United States would stand ready to assist in any way that was appropriate. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Wait a minute, please. Wait a minute, please. I have been given the sign that the time is over.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, no, no. We will take two more, two more questions. Just two more.
MODERATOR: Two more? Okay.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Two more.
MODERATOR: Okay. Since --
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am glad I'm not choosing.
MODERATOR: Wait a minute. I'm not choosing; she is going to choose, because it's very difficult for me. You pick out.
SECRETARY CLINTON: All right. I want two young people. Okay. (Applause.) The young woman right there, and the young man right there. Okay. So, young man -- the two of you go first, and both -- why don't you both ask your questions? And then I will respond to both, okay?
And if anyone ever doubted whether Yemen had a vibrant civil society, they should be here today. (Applause.)
QUESTION: First, I want to say that -- thank you so much for honoring us today. And thank you so much for all of your warm words.
I just want to ask you that we are -- those youth people here, some of us went to America to study, some of us studied here, in (inaudible) Institute. We actually learned a lot, and had the chance to give something to our society, give something back.
But some people look at us like we are intruders, instead of that we are helping building society. So how can we show them that we are -- even though we are taking things from America, from you, we are learning things to help our country, not to be intruders or, like, to help against our country?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is a wonderful question.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And thank you for asking it. And I will hear the young man's question, and then I will answer both. Okay?
MODERATOR: And introduce yourself.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for choosing me. (Laughter.) (Applause.) Well, like her, I was a youth exchange and study program. And recently --
MODERATOR: Your name.
QUESTION: Recently I was on the youth exchange and study program. My name is Gastum Shadafeti.
And well, fortunately, in Yemen terrorism is still insignificant. And it doesn't play a great role in Yemen, as we Yemeni people believe in peace, and even our sects in Islam, the majority believes in peace, and terrorism doesn't have a place, to begin with.
But the truth is human rights really are a key to keeping this terrorism low. And so, what I believe is that why is the focus more -- and why is it called a war on terrorism, while there is not much focus on human rights violations? Why don't you start a war against human rights violations? Because we all know that the human rights is a system that protects the human dignity. And why doesn't the media pay more attention to human rights, and as well as the U.S. Government? Thank you so much. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Excellent, excellent. Wow. I was quite hopeful about Yemen before I came today. And having listened to all of you, I am more so. But these last two young people really give me a lot of confidence in Yemen's future. (Applause.)
First, let me commend you and your family for your going abroad to study. That is not an easy decision. I never had that chance. My husband went to England and studied at Oxford, and that was a long way from the very small place in America he was from. He was from a state called Arkansas, and most of the people were very poor, and most had never even gone to college -- 90 percent plus had never gone to college. He was the first person in his family to go to college.
So, when he got a chance, after graduating from college, to go to Oxford to study, there were many people who said, "Why would you do that? Why don't you just come home? What are you going to learn there that can help you? All you need to do is come home now." And he believed, and he would make little speeches around his communities, saying that in a state as poor as Arkansas -- because it was the poorest or the second poorest state for many, many years in American history -- we need our young people to go out and see the world, and then come home and help.
And I would say the same thing to you that my husband believes. Because in Yemen, like any place that still has too many poor people and too many uneducated people, those of you lucky enough to get a good education need to go as far as your God-given talents and your hard work will take you, and then you need to come home and use those talents to help the people of Yemen. And that is what you are doing.
So, I strongly applaud you and thank you. Because it would be very easy for you, as it would have been for my husband, to stay, if not in England, to stay in -- go to New York or Los Angeles, or a big place. But he went home. And that's what you have done.
And I hope we can send a clear message to all the mothers and fathers in Yemen, that educating your sons and your daughters, encouraging them to get skills, and then coming home to improve lives of the people of Yemen, is one of the noblest and highest callings a person could have.
And that ties in with your question, because you made a very important point. A lot of what people fear when they see a young man or a young woman going off and getting a good education is that somehow, when you come back, you will no longer identify with the place from which you came, that you will no longer respect your culture and your values. And that's a worry. It's a worry for parents and grandparents and other people.
And it also goes to the question of dignity, because every person wants to feel as though their dignity is respected. There are many ways that people feel disrespected. But if their human rights are not respected, then very often people become frustrated. And, yes, they can turn against their society, turn against their teachings.
So, defending human rights is a core value of the United States. But it's also a universal value. It's not a Western or an Eastern value. It's not a Christian or a Muslim value. It's a universal value. Every human being is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. We have that in our founding documents. But we believe that applies to every person.
So, as we deal with violence and terrorism, let us not forget what our ultimate goal is. It is to have a society where people's rights are protected, and where each person's dignity is respected. And I think your point is a very good one. So we need to be doing more about talking and supporting human rights, and we do wish that the media would cover that more. But it's understandable that if there is a gun fight or an explosion, that is going to draw the media. The quiet work of respecting human rights that goes on in families and in communities is often invisible. And then occasionally it rises up, and that's when we need defenders of human rights to stand for that human dignity.
So, I end my time with you -- all too short -- with the hope that we can somehow continue this conversation, and that you will give us your ideas about how we best can help you, how we can be a good partner, how we can be a steadfast friend. Because that is what I want us to be. And we will not always agree. No two people agree, let alone two countries. And we will always act on what we think is in America's interest, because that's what countries do. But we think we have much more in common than might have been understood in the past.
And we share a common mission, which is to give our children, and those lucky enough to have grandchildren, a better future. That is what I think the primary goal of life is, to make life better for the next generation.
And so, with that, let me thank you all for your attention this afternoon. (Applause.)
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