Waslah is a tribal and traditional way to apologize or ask for forgiveness. A group of elders and social leaders conduct Waslah by firing bullets into the air and slaughtering a sheep or goat near the home of the person whose apology they are requesting. In certain areas of Yemen, Waslah is known as Hajar. When an individual conducts Waslah, they come to the home of the individual whose forgiveness they seek with esteemed community leader and offering of a goat or a sheep as an appreciation for that person.
July , 2017
Amidst the turmoil of Yemen’s civil war, the UNDP and EU have collaborated to fund peacebuilding efforts through implementer PartnersGlobal and local affiliate PARTNERSYEMEN to build the capacity of community leaders and address local conflicts. Waheeb Al-Thaibani, a participant of the Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen (ERRY) program, has applied skills from the program trainings on mediation and activism to serve as a proponent and facilitator of conflict resolution processes within Lahj Governorate. Now serving as the local ERRY Program Coordinator for Lahj, Mr. Waheeb has become deeply involved in issues in different districts, where he mixes traditional and best practice methodologies to provide mediation.
Waheeb Al-Thaibani success as a mediator has been highlighted through his recent work with village councils in Habeel Jabr district to address a recent emergence of social tensions. Upon establishing village councils in Habeel Jabr through the ERRY program in December 2016, problems and misunderstandings arose among the local villages regarding the selection of the council members. In the announcement of the Al-Jabal village council in particular, where Al-Jomae’ey exceeds Al-Hamishi in village population by about 30 percent, there was unbalanced representation for Al-Jomae’ey in the village council election according to the Al-Hamishi community. To add to this tension, Thabet Mohsen Ali, an Al-Hamishi area nominee, withdrew from the election upon realizing that he would not get enough votes to win. These misunderstandings developed and became a conflict between the elected village council and the people of Al-Hamishi area. The council ultimately consisted of four men from Al-Jomae-ey and one man from Al-Hamishi. These issues and conflict prevented the village council from working together and the ERRY project team’s Social Fund for Development (SFD) was unable to complete their activities, at which point they were asked to leave the area.
When Waheeb Al-Thaibani heard about the story and escalating tensions, he took the initiative to mediate the issue among local villages. As the Partners Yemen Coordinator in Lahj Governorate, Mr. Waheeb reached out to the concerned conflicting parties and acted as the local community facilitator. He used the skills he acquired during the training with Partners Yemen and held voluntary meetings with the conflicting parties separately. By applying the methodologies he acquired through UNDP-funded trainings, he was able to calm the conflicting parties and prepare them to negotiate a potential resolution that would end the conflict and resume ERRY activities in the area.
“I knew that the council work has been stopped and that the project team was expelled from the village. So, I reached out to Tarek Derhem [the SFD Program Officer] and tried to resolve the dispute by suggesting the official addition of Mr. Thabet Mohsen to the village council and requesting the elected council members to sign an agreement to ensure that,” Mr. Waheeb said. He then added, ”Later on, I communicated with each conflicting party and listened to their suggestions to resolve the conflict and they demonstrated their acceptance of the ideas I suggested.”
Despite the suggested resolution, however, the Al-Hamishi community expressed a new demand to add Ra’ed Fadl along with Mr. Thabet Mohsen. The suggestion only escalated disagreements between the conflicting parties as the elected council members and the Al-Jomae’ey community considered this demand to be a violation of their legitimacy and the election’s regulations. A new round of negotiations had to be conducted in an attempt to amend the still escalating situation.
Despite these challenges, the Partners Yemen team stayed committed to resolve the conflict and help the parties find common ground. The team expressed their reservations to add a second Al-Hamishi representative to the village council, and eventually were able to convince the Al-Hamishi community that this would only cause additional challenges further down the line. Al-Hamishi had one condition to accept Partners Yemen’s terms: that they ask the village council to offer Mr. Thabet Mohsen a Waslah. This condition was initially rejected by the village council members and Al-Jomae’ey. After multiple negotiations, the Partners Yemen team decided to deliver the Waslah to Mr. Thabet Mohsen instead of Al-Jomae’ey village to end the conflict and support public interest. Mr. Thabet Mohsen finally accepted the solution as a “reward to [Partners Yemen’s] arrival and efforts”.
The solution of adding Mr. Thabet Mohsen to the council was welcomed by the council members. The mediators, including Waheeb Al-Thaibani and Sheikh Molhem Al-Jabrani, the General Director of Habeel Jabr District, called Mr. Thabet Mohsen and the council members to sit together, resolve the conflict, and open a new page. Eventually, a meeting was held to sign an agreement between the two conflicting villages to resume the ERRY activities implemented by the Social Fund for Development (SFD).
Waheeb Al-Thaibani was one of the trainees of the ERRY training workshops carried out by Partners Yemen and funded by UNDP and EU. During the training, he gained mediation, negotiation, facilitation, and consensus building skills, in addition to his previous trainings in conflict management and resolution with Partners Yemen. Mr. Waheeb was able to apply the skills and methodologies he acquired during the trainings and, combined with traditional mediation tools, successfully resolved the conflict between Al-Hamishi and Al-Jomae’ey villages.
The following images show the social cohesion team in Habeel Jabr district listening to the village people:
 Waslah is a tribal and traditional way to apologize or ask for forgiveness. A group of elders and social leaders conduct Waslah by firing bullets into the air and slaughtering a sheep or goat near the home of the person whose apology they are requesting. In certain areas of Yemen, Waslah is known as Hajar. When an individual conducts Waslah, they come to the home of the individual whose forgiveness they seek with esteemed community leader and offering of a goat or a sheep as an appreciation for that person.