Wednesday, July 16, 2014

عقدة "الأجنبي" عند السياسي والمواطن في اليمن

صورة منقولة من: http://forum.te3p.com/553496.html


عقدة "الأجنبي"

بداية، أود أن أستهل موضوعي بذكر السبب الذي جعلني أتطرق لهذا الموضوع. ذلك أني شاركت ليلة أمس في وقفة احتجاجيه في تونس تنديدا بالحرب الصهيونية في غزة. كانت الوقفة أمام منزل السفير الفرنسي في احدى ضواحي العاصمة التونسية، وتزامنت هذه الوقفة مع احتفال السفارة الفرنسية باليوم الوطني الفرنسي، وكان السفير الفرنسي قد دعا عدة شخصيات من المجتمع التونسي بما فيهم دبلوماسيين وصحفيين ونشطاء إلى الحفل، غير أن العديد من النشطاء قاطعوا الحفل احتجاجا على ما صرح به الرئيس الفرنسي هولوند من مساندة لإسرائيل وعدم التنديد بالحرب القائمة في فلسطين. 

كانت هذه هي المرة الأولى التي أشارك في وقفة احتجاجية في تونس، وقد كانت شبيهة بكافة الوقفات والمظاهرات التي شاركت فيها في عدة دول في السابق، ولكن لفت انتباهي شيئان: الأول: قرب الوقفة من بوابة منزل السفير الفرنسي في تونس بينما يستحيل هذا الإقتراب في اليمن حيث أصبحت بعض السفارات ومنازل السفراء محوطة بأسوار كبيرة، والشوارع اليها مغلقة بنقاط عسكريّة كأنها حرس الحدود. كان الله في عون من إحتاج الى تأشيرة سفر لان الوصول إلى السفارات بحد ذاته مرهق، إضافة الى الكميّة الهائلة من المستندات المطلوبة والإهانة النفسية التي يلقاها بسبب المعاملة السيئة إن استطاع الدخول إلى السفارة، ففي عدة حالات أشتكى الكثير بأن السفارة الفرنسية مثلا تطلب من البعض الانتظار تحت الشمس في خارج مبنى السفارة، ولا يسمح لهم حتى بالجلوس في قاعة الانتظار. 

الثاني والأهم الذي أثار انتباهي هو: ردّة فعل المتظاهرين عندما خرج مسؤول تونسي من سيارته ومشى إلى بوابة منزل السفير. في هذا الوقت تناهت على المسؤول أصوات العتاب والصراخ. هذا الموقف جعلني أفكّر في حالنا في اليمن، وفي المرض الذي أصاب الكثير منا: عقدة الأجنبي التي هي حالة نفسية عامة لدى الشعوب التي عانت من الإحتلال الأجنبي.. وهي عبارة عن تغلغل الإحساس بالنقص والدونيّة أمام "الأجنبي". فاليوم مثلا نجد بأن المواطن في مجتمعنا دائما يعطي صورة مثالية عن الشخص الأجنبي ويلحق به جميع الصفات الحميدة من إالتزام وصدق وأمانة، و في المقابل يقلل ويهين بمصداقيّة كل ما هو وطني سواء أكان منتج أم فكرة أم كفاءة فنجد البعض يكيل كل الصفات الذميمة لليمنيين مثل الخيانة والكسل وسوء الأخلاق. 

أسباب هذه العقدة عدة منها الأبعاد الثقافيّة للإستعمار الذي بدوره زرع الإنهزام الفكرة والمعنوي في كافة البلدان المحتلة وهذا التفكير أدى ومازال يؤدي بدوره لقتل الفكر الحر. كما قال فرانز فانون في كتابه معذبو الأرض "إن أوّل شيء يتعلّمه السكّان الأصليون (أنا وأنت) هو أن يلزموا أماكنهم، ألا يتجاوزوا الحدود." وبالفعل هذا ما نلاحظه في اليمن اليوم بعد أن قامت ثورة مجيدة استطاعت قوى كثيرة تغيير مسار الثورة وتحريفها وإلزام السكان الصمت إما بالتهديد أو التخوين أو التكذيب. 

ليس من شك بأن اليمن اليوم تعيش تحت ما يمكن أن نسميّه بـ "الوصاية الإقليميّة والدوليّة". جمال بن عمر ومجموعة سفراء الدول العشر الراعية للمبادرة الخليجيّة وهم: السفراء في اليمن عن الدول ذات العضوية الدائمة في مجلس الأمن الدولي (الولايات المتحدة الأمريكيّة، روسيا، الصين، المملكة المتحدة، فرنسا)، وسفراء مجلس التعاون الخليجي (ما عدا قطر التي انسحبت من المبادرة الخليجيّة) يتولون مهمة "رعاية المبادرة الخليجيّة" أو بمعنى أصح هم من يحكمون اليمن حاليا ويتحكمون، وما على الحكومة الانتقالية إلا تطبق ما يطلبونه منها فقط. ومن المؤكد أن توقيع المبادرة الخليجية هي من كرست هذه الوصاية وجعلتها "قانونيّة" وأدت أيضا الى توزيع ملفات اليمن على كافة الدول الحاكمة لتدير الشؤون الداخلية. فمثلا أمريكا مسؤولة على الملف العسكري ، فرنسا مسؤولة على الدستور (وهناك حساسية بين فرنسا وألمانيا في هذا الجانب) والأمم المتحدة مسؤولة على الحوار الوطني. أصبحت هذه الدول تنذر وتبشر في كافة الأمور الداخليّة حتى أن السيد جمال بن عمر أعلن عن بعض التعيينات قبل أن يعلن عنها الرئيس هادي. إستطاعت هذه الدول أن تحكم اليمن بإطار أممي إستنادا إلى فكر مستشرق مبني على أن اليمنيين لن يستطيعون الوصول إلى حل بدونهم. وكأن اليمني "همجي لا عقلاني يعجز عن التفكير المنظم والتحليل، شاذ وبليد ومتعصب."[1]

أثناء وقت الإنتخابات "بالتزكية" الممولة دوليّا سألني دبلوماسي غربي رفيع المستوى: "هل ستذهبي للإنتخابات؟" فقلت له: "لا." سألني: "لماذا؟" فرديت عليه: "لو كان هناك مرشح واحد في بلدك هل ستنتخب؟" رد علي بإبتسامة وإستعلاء: "الناس في بلدي لا يحاولون قتل بعضهم بعضا." بالطبع ليس كل الدبلوماسيين يفكرون بهذه الطريقة، لكن لسوء الحظ هذا التفكير هو الذي يجعل المجتمع الدولي يتوقع بأن اليمنيين يجب أن يقبلوا بأنصاف الحلول بل بأن يحتفلوا بها أيضا. وبالفعل فقد قبل الكثير بهذه "الحلول" وتم الترحيب والاحتفال بها. 

عندما أتحدث عن الوصاية الدولية فأنا أتحدث عنها كمسألة سياسيّة بحتة تدخل في نطاق توجيه السياسة الخارجيّة لليمن لمصلحة هذه الدول وليس لمصلحة اليمن. فالمجتمع الدولي همه عدم إخراج اليمن عن السيطرة مادامت المنطقة الجغرافيّة مهمة له، ولذلك تم التركيز على بقاء النظام السابق على حساب متطلبات التغيير الحقيقي والأساسي. 

نعم جزء من اللوم يقع على الحكومة الانتقالية في ترحيبها الواسع بهذه الوصاية وسماحهم بالتدخل في شؤون البلد بشكل مباشر إلا أن اللوم الحقيقي يجب أن يقع على الجمهور المتفرّج: المجتمع المدني الصامت. من المفترض أن يكون المجتمع المدني مراقب لأداء الدولة، ولكن للأسف أصبح كثير من أعضاء المجتمع المدني جزء من الدولة إما من خلال دخلوهم كأعضاء في الحوار الوطني مما جعلهم يبتعدون عن الشارع اليمني ومطالب الساحات الثائرة، أو تعيينات أخرى. ولذلك أصبحت لهم مصالح يجب ان يحافظوا عليها. 

في إحدى الاجتماعات التي رتبتها أحد المنظمات المانحة الأجنبية تحدثت أنا وزملائي خارج قاعة الاجتماع عن ما هي أهم الرسائل التي نريد ان نوصلها لهم. ركز الكثير على أهمية الحديث عن "أولويات الدعم" وأن أولويات المانح كثيرا ما تختلف عن أولويّات اليمن. أتفقنا جميعا وعندما دخلنا الاجتماع صعقت لان ما قلناه خارج الاجتماع اختلف تماما عن ما قاله بعض زملائي للمانح. عندما سألت زميلي عن سبب المجاملة -لم أتجرأ ان اقول الكذب-، رد علي: "عيب هو ضيف" من أجمل ما في اليمن اننا شعب يكرّم الضيف ولو حتّى على حساب نفسه ولكن هل نسينا المثل الذي يقول: "يا غريب كن أديب"؟ 

عند انتقادي لهذه العقدة الشنيعة لا أعني أبدا ان أقول ان "اليمنيين أفضل من كل الناس" أو العرب أفضل من غيرهم فأنا لا أؤمن بالتمييز الوجودي والمعرفي بين "الشرق والغرب" ولا أؤمن بفكرة "نحن" أو "هؤلاء" و هذا بالضبط هو ما عمله المستشرقون في الشرق الأوسط عندما كرّسوا فكرة أن أوربا وأمريكا هما "المألوف والطبيعي" و الشرق هو الغريب والمستغرَب. ولكن أؤمن بانه ما زال هناك محتل وإحتلال بأشكال مختلفة و أؤمن بأن الدول الإمبرياليّة (كانت عربيّة أو أجنبيّة) بحاجة إلى أن تفكك العالم إلى قسمين قسم حاكم وقسم محكوم. 

في ثقافتنا الشعبية قضايا ومواقف تستحق المراجعة والتمحيص بشكل موضوعي ومنها تأثير الإمبراليّة على اليمن وعقدة الأجنبي. علينا ان نتذكر ما قاله المفكر فرانز فانون الذي جمع ما بين التنظير والممارسة من خلال مشاركته في حرب التحرير الشعبيّة بالجزائر:
"ليس نجاح الكفاح وحده هو الذي يهب للثقافة قيمة وصدقا وقوة، بل إن معارك الكفاح نفسها تنمي، في أثناء إنطلاقتها، مختلف الإتجاات الثقافية وتخلق إتجاهات ثقافية جديد."

فلذلك علينا أن ندرس ما يحدث بشكل موضوعي وعلينا ان نناضل من أجل المطالبة بالحقوق الأساسية ولكن في نفس الوقت يجب التعامل مع هذا الموضوع بحذر شديد لأننا لا نريد أن ننشر ثقافة الكراهيّة بالاخر او شيطنة "الأجنبي" فهذا ليس هدفنا لأن المقصود كما قلنا الأنظمة الامبراليّة وليس الشعوب خاصة وأننا  في عالم العولمة الذي يعيش فيه الانسان متنقلا من بلد الى اخر وأصبحنا لا نعرف الان من هو المواطن ومن هو الأجنبي وأصبحت شعوب العالم تناصر بعضها بعضا ضد الإمبراليّة العالميّة. فالمطلوب اذا أن نبني على هذا الفكر الجميل وان نتحدى الضغوط التي تعمل على تقسيم البشر في شكل زائف، والعودة إلى النظر للإنسان كإنسان. 

=========
[1] المفكر الراحل إدوارد سعيد كتب بأن المستشرق يصف "الشرق" بأنه "همجي، لا عقلاني، يعجز عن التفكير المنظم والتحليل، شاذ، بليد ومتعصب.."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Online References in English on Yemen's Transition


Some people have asked me for helpful references on Yemen.  So, here is a list of some free electronic reports on Yemen's transitional period in English that you can access without subscription or payment.  All of the references below are academic, advocacy or policy oriented research.  The aim is to provide researchers with easy access to online materials that might help in the research process.  Of course I advise you to also read historical analysis in order to analyze the current situation in a more comprehensive manner. [I hope to list some book recommendations in a future post]

This list is a work in progress, I will periodically update it and add new material.  Please feel free to recommend other online publications, or if any of the researchers want to make their work public, feel free to send it to me and we can upload it on the cloud and link it here.


GENERAL INFO ON POLITICAL/SOCIAL/ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT 
2011 UPRISING
HUMAN RIGHTS 
RULE OF LAW

The JMP
AL-HIRAK AL-JANUBI / SOUTHERN MOVEMENT
ANSARULLAH/HUTHIS & SAADA ISSUE
"YOUTH"
GENDER ISSUES
CONFLICT / SECURITY
MEDIA

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Throbbing Agony



Sharp pieces of glass slice my insides
For years and years,
Excruciating pain never subsides

Time does not halt the ache 

My mind just takes pity, 
Giving me a break


Throbbing agony pulsates through my body
Flowing through my blood,
Making me feel empty

Why?
Why?
Why? 

There will never be answers 
We will just continue to be actors 

(Photo: Agony of Waiting

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Freeze the Moment


by Shermee 
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed,
Miserable,

From the thoughts in my head

But a voice echoed in my ear,

Freeze the moment, 
Remember you are still here

Exhale,
Be thankful for your breath

Rejoice,
You temporarily escaped death

It is the greatest blessing,
Simply to be here
***

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Are you sure there are no more journalists in Yemen?

“Instead of deporting militants, our national security deported a journalist. What a shame” wrote Yemeni journalist Hani Al-Guneid on Facebook. Similar sentiments were widely expressed by activists and writers on May 9th, when journalist Adam Baron was wrongfully expelled from Yemen without an explanation. Until today, messages continue to spread condemning this attack on freedom of expression and some even felt obligated to apologize on behalf of their unelected government.

The reactions to his deportation have highlighted a number of interesting points. It exemplified the reality that race/nationality/or passport matters in today’s media.

Three days prior to Adam’s deportation, journalist Saeed Thabit Saeed sent a letter of complaint to the minister of interior, which he then published on Facebook. In it, he accused passport control, and later national security, of maintaining and using the same “black list” that Saleh’s government previously used against journalists and activists. Saeed explained that he is often interrogated or detained at the airport upon arrival or departure from Sana’a. His passport was confiscated that day, and after some phone calls were made he was finally able to enter his own country.

Saeed is not the first journalist to complain of such harassment. A number of local journalists have been targets of intimidation tactics, violence, imprisonment and abuse. According to a March 2014 report by Reporters without Borders,

"Two years after Abd Rab Mansour Hadi became president, the situation of freedom of information in Yemen continues to be very worrying, especially as regards violence against media personnel.”

While it is very important that Adam’s deportation made headline news, it is as important to speak out against the numerous attacks on local citizens. The last two years witnessed numerous violations including, the murder of two young innocent boys, a military attack on a funeral service of members of the Southern Movement in a public school courtyard killing 15 people, a one-year jail sentence and fine of 100,000 Yemeni Riyals imposed on journalist Majed Karout, and continuation of patronage through the $11.3 million allocated to the Tribes’ Affairs Authority in the 2014 budget despite the rising poverty. Sadly, it was none of these events that made the international community question the practices of the current government. Why does it take a western journalists’ unfortunate deportation to make others see that “there might be something undemocratic” about this internationally supported government?

The second observation regarding Adam’s deportation is that while journalists have thankfully continued to unite in support of their colleagues, some have unfortunately used it as an opportunity to market themselves.

After announcing Adam’s deportation on twitter, a journalist was quick to immediately mention that there’s now “only one foreign journalist” officially in Yemen. Her tweet, taken out of context, implied to many that she was the only one left to report in the land of chaos. I’m not a stranger to the hardships of freelancing, as my husband was one for quite sometime, yet this is no excuse to use this inappropriate time to market oneself. In fact, if anyone had the right to over-hype the issue it was Adam, but he did not.

I will not go into the semantics of what defines “official” in the dictionary, and what defines “official” in Yemen; yet I will say that the documents needed for western journalists to operate in Yemen are the following: WHO KNOWS? Journalists have come to Yemen in a number of different ways. Yes, technically it could help if you have a journalism visa, but most of the time it is irrelevant. In fact, Adam Baron was deported even though he was “officially” working in Yemen.

Today, there are other journalists “officially” working or have worked in Yemen with very different residency papers/work permits. Some have a press card from the ministry of informaiton without a journalist visa, some are on a journalist visa, and others with neither.

Even the ones here without a press card work with the full knowledge of the Yemeni government, and in fact, many were officially registered as journalists during the 10-month National Dialogue Conference. In addition, they continue to be invited by government officials to attend “official” events. Even the journalists without proper documents have traveled all over the country, met and continue to meet with high level officials, and publish their work under their name.

This is obviously not an ideal way to operate, as the government could easily deport them using the excuse that they do not have a valid visa, which the government did in 2011 when it deported four western journalists. Then again, the government can deport anyone with no excuse such as the case of Adam. For this reason and many others, members of civil society and journalists continue to demand media reform in Yemen.

A third reflection is that it was curious how stressing “foreign” journalist based in Yemen was very important to distinguish one’s self from “local” as if it is necessarily correlated to credibility. Yes there is category of media professionals known as foreign correspondents, but majority of Western reporters in Yemen are not staff reporters. They are freelancers and work exactly like the local freelancers. In addition, there are Western journalists with Yemeni origins who are often not included in either the “foreign” or “local” journalist categories.

Foreign analysts and journalists should continue to travel and write about different countries including Yemen, as it can help provide a fresh perspective on things. Yet, their analysis should not be taken as the only credible voice in a country of 24 million people!

It is not the nationality that makes a journalist, but rather knowledge of the country, language skills, objectivity and professionalism. Whether the person is a foreign or local journalist should not be the basis for judging whether someone is a credible source.

It is important to remember the following: there are Yemeni journalists who report to international media, and Yemenis, like any other people, can also be credible, can also be objective, and can also relay the truth. Why are local journalists in the west credible enough to report their own news, while it is not the case in Yemen?

Finally, while it’s admirable that some journalists leave the luxuries of their homes to work in less comfortable societies, it is important to remember that this is entirely their choice, and they do get something in return. What you may wonder? Well, where else could a new freelancer meet the highest government officials only two weeks after their arrival? This of course helps boost their careers in addition to their reputation. Once someone lives in “dangerous” Yemen, he/she is automatically given the “brave” award.

So my dear journalist friends, with all due respect, I admire your passion and your hard work, but please don’t make us feel like you are doing us a favor by being here. Please give us the respect and spare us the brave altruistic hero persona. It is not a favor you are bestowing on us to be living here.

I realize some of my journalist friends might be upset with this post, but I am sure that those who know me well enough will know that my intention is merely to give another side to the hype of last week. While the government may not be friendly towards journalists, Yemeni people are. In fact, in almost every travel article, book or website, the one constant characteristic about Yemen is the description about the hospitable and friendly people of the country. Let us work together to show the world what Yemen is really about.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Silent Roar



Sometimes my head hurts

Sometimes my thoughts scream in silence



I am the prison guard
I try to suffocate them

Their whispers escape the chains

The creeping noise haunts me

I can’t find the mute button

So I run

I occupy myself with everything

I occupy myself with nothing

Today, there is nowhere to escape

I am surrounded by 
infinite 
emptiness 

It's time to release the prisoners

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Yemen's 'Muwaladeen': The struggle for equal citizenship-

First Published in Al-Jazeera English 


Yemenis who are born to foreign parents face institutional discrimination because of their perceived lack of 'purity'.


A Yemeni activist and I were talking while walking in downtown Sana'a one hot morning. An old man kept turning back to look at us and eventually asked him with curiosity: "where are you from?" my colleague simply responded with a smile. "Ethiopia, Somalia?" asked the old man.

Anyone who has navigated the streets of Yemen will ultimately experience the friendly curiosity of its inhabitants. People are often inquisitive, welcoming, and honest. Political "correctness" does not exist here.

So the question that the man asked can be seen as an example of this curiosity. Yet for 37-year old Khaled Shanoon, who was born in Sana'a to a Yemeni father from Mareb province and an Eritrean mother, questions like these are often accompanied by negative connotations and memories of numerous incidents of discrimination.

Despite the long history of Yemeni traders travelling abroad, immigrating, and forming cross-cultural families, the term "Muwalad" is still used today to describe children born to one parent of another nationality.

The term itself is defined in an Arabic dictionary as "an Arab who is not purely Arab." While the term applies to children of Yemeni-Russian, Yemeni-Vietnamese, or Yemeni-Egyptian couples, it is most often used for children of an African parent or a parent with African descent. According to an article by activist Hussein Musleh this term is used for humiliation, as a way to remind the person that he/she is not "pure" Yemeni.

Such attitudes are exacerbated by today's obsession with light or white skin in the Arab region, which is in sharp contrast to the famous poetry and music where artists and poets wrote and sang about tan women.

Today, Arabic satellite channels broadcast the very negative "Fair and Lovely" commercial, that insinuates that the darker you are, the less successful/beautiful you are.

Unfortunately, in Yemen such attitudes to skin colour have recently moved from bad TV commercials to state institutions through the passing of the a decree on citizenship rights.

Relationship between Yemen and the Horn of Africa

Arabian-African relations date back to ancient times, when the kingdom of Axum, ruled both the southern Arabian Peninsula and Ethiopia (also called Abyssinia). Because of the two civilizstions' integration over the years, intermarriage resulted in Yemeni and Ethiopian mixed blood.

In modern times, Yemen provided a safe haven for Ethiopian refugees and Ethiopia in turn accepted Yemeni immigrants during times of political upheaval or seeking a better economic future. For example, many Yemenis remained in Ethiopia since Italy's 1936 invasion, when they were brought by the Italians to work as builders and became rich.

Dr Hussein Fouly, an Ethiopian researcher specialising in Yemeni-Ethiopian relations explained that Yemenis and Ethiopians intermixed first because of "Yemenis' ability to integrate and second, because of the Ethiopian civilisation's welcoming attitude toward foreigners in their land throughout the 20th century".

Strangers here and there

Children of Yemeni immigrants who have returned from the horn of Africa often share positive memories of nations that treated them well. Yet despite how welcoming many were, some complain that they never felt either purely "African" or purely "Yemeni".

Locals in both countries often treat them as citizens of the other country. They have deep connections in both places but do not fully belong to either country. "When I'm in Djibouti I'm called the Yemeni, and when I'm in Yemen, I'm referred to as the Djibouti," said a 26- year old artist with whom I spoke recently.

This lack of belonging is a common feeling that many children of mixed backgrounds feel around the world. The late novelist Mohammad Abdul-Wali, a Yemeni diplomat and a prominent writer of Ethiopian descent who died in 1973, tried to portray these feelings in his novel They Die Strangers where he wrote: "Yes it is us, we are in search of a nation, of citizens, of hope. You do not know how it feels to be a stranger."

Social and cultural discrimination

Yemeni citizens with links to the Horn of Africa often face cultural and legal discrimination on a daily basis in Yemen. Whether it is the name calling they encounter at schools, the obstacles they face when wanting to marry a "pure" Yemeni, or the daily struggles to convince authorities of their "Yemeniness".

If they can, a majority of children and adults hide the fact that one of their parents is from the Horn of Africa because of the "shame" or ridicule it could bring them. AT the same time, children from a Russian or Western parent would often boast about their "beautifully light" family.

"I ignored my grandmother for ten years when I was young, I wanted to disassociate myself from her," remembers Khaled sadly. "When I grew up, I visited her in Eritrea and quickly felt ashamed of my actions as a child. She's an incredibly kind woman. I wish I could write a letter to all the African mothers to apologise that we were once embarrassed from them," he added.

Khaled has transformed his regret into a positive campaign by creating the first NGO in Yemen, Sons of Immigrant's Organisation, which seeks to promote equal citizenship by highlighting discrimination against the Muwaladeen and demanding equal rights.

Government responsibility

While cultural and social discrimination are unfortunately found around the world, many Muwaladeen feel that discrimination complaints often fall on deaf ears. In fact, Muwaladeen accuse government officials of institutionalising this racism.

Many complain that the state often neglects them and only uses them before an election. "Yemen only recognises us when they need our voice in the election, which means we are Yemeni citizens for only two days in seven years," wrote Ali Salem in article published in Al-Hayat newspaper.

These Muwaladeen are often denied identity cards or passports by officials arguing that they do not have sufficient "evidence" to prove their "Yemeniness" due to their darker skin and sometimes-imperfect Arabic. They are also sometimes looked at as "newcomers" in the country they were born and raised in, and hence treated as such.

Recently, this type of discrimination was legalised. On March 3, 2014 a decree was passed by the Civil Status Authority, which stated:

Copy of decree by the Civil Status Athority
"1) It is strictly forbidden to grant identity cards for Muwaladeen born outside Yemen, especially to those born in the Horn of Africa, who do not have proof of Yemeni nationality. 2) Excluded from this, are Muwaladeen born in the Gulf countries, Europe and Asia, provided that their parents are born in Yemen…"

While it goes without saying that proof of citizenship should in fact be a requirement to obtain an identification card, the mere fact that the decree differentiates between people from the Horn of Africa and others, illustrates the innate racism in government institutions against "black" people.

On January 25, 2014, Yemen's National Dialogue Conference concluded and resulted in a 300-page document filled with recommendations, many of which emphasise demands of equal citizenship and justice.For example, recommendation number four of the state-building working group states, "All citizens shall be equal in rights and duties before the law, without distinction based on sex, race, origin, colour, religion, sect, doctrine, opinion, or economic or social standing."

Yet the recent decree that was passed after the end of the NDC makes citizens worry that these recommendations will merely remain ink on paper.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Yemen's "Airplanes of the Sick"

Photo of a Yemeni hospital, via http://al-shorfa.com/ar/articles/meii/features/2012/12/07/feature-01

"Airplane of the Sick" is what employees at Cairo Airport call the Yemenia plane that arrives from Yemen. Why? because on that plane, there are often a number of sick people arriving for medical treatment.

Anyone who flew on Yemenia, from Yemen to either Cairo or Jordan will notice the high number of sick patients on the plane, some even laying down in critical condition. On several occasions, patients have died on the plane.

Despite the progress Yemen has made to expand its health care system, it remains severely underdeveloped and therefore many try to seek medical treatment abroad.

Of course the rich can afford to travel to the Gulf, Europe and the U.S. for yearly checkups and medical examinations. In fact, former President Saleh himself had to fly out of the country when the Presidential palace was attacked and he was severely wounded. In the 33 years of his rule, his regime did not even invest in one decent hospital where he could have went for treatment!

The "lucky" ones in Yemen, manage to borrow money or sell what they can to travel to India, Jordan, Egypt or sometimes Lebanon for medical treatment.

However, for the majority of society, clinics and hospitals are rare, overcrowded and expensive. In fact, only 25 percent of rural areas (where majority of population resides) have health services as compared to 80 percent of urban areas.

Even basic cases such as giving birth can be deadly in Yemen. It is unbelievable for example that eight women die giving birth every day.

Most people have to travel quite a distance to get to a clinic or hospital. When they do, it is often extremely expensive. With no health insurance, if a life threatening disease infects someone, or an accident occurs, people have to either borrow money to pay for the expenses, or accept the harsh reality that they can not afford the treatment and therefore must wait to die.

My relative was lucky, she has a large family who helped with her expenses. Six months ago, Ina'am, a young school administrator in her late 20's suddenly became sick. When she went to get a blood test she fell in a coma for a couple of months. When she woke up, she could not speak or move, but she was aware of her surroundings. The doctors could not identify the cause of the problem, and therefore, as is often the case, they recommended that she seek treatment abroad.

After sending her medical file to India and Egypt (where costs are relatively affordable and there are no problems with visas for Yemenis) doctors there did not accept her case. Doctors in Saudi Arabia accepted her case but she could not get a visa. Then finally, a hospital in Jordan accepted her case, and because Yemenis do not need a visa, she was able to go there. Her family borrowed money and sold some things so they could afford to pay for two round-trip tickets, housing rental, and of course medical costs.

When they arrived in Jordan, the doctors examined her and said in front of her (she was conscious and could hear): "why did you bring her here? this is pointless! did you bring her to die in Jordan or what?!"

This careless cruel way of speaking was extremely hurtful, disrespectful and unprofessional. Ina'am returned to Yemen and miraculously got better, she even began speaking. Little did we know that it was the body's way of rejuvenating itself to allow her to say goodbye to the family. She passed away three days ago without a proper diagnosis.

In our efforts to promote change in Yemen, lets not only focus on political rights, but also on basic rights such as demanding our right for affordable and accessible health care.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Yemeni woman sings about the Perils of "WhatsApp"

WhatsApp is a phone application that allows users to send and receive messages, photos, videos, recordings from all over the world for free.  You can send information individually, or create a group of friends and/or family.

It has become a very popular tool all over the world, and in Yemen.  Yet, this Yemeni woman sings about the perils of WhatsApp and how it is impacting her relationship.





Here are the translated lyrics: [again i'm not a translator, so it won't have the appropriate rhymes, i'm just trying to relay the message:

"oh what a strange world, 
after all his love to me, he suddenly changed,
If only you know the reason, 
the damn WhatsApp,
He no longer listens to anything I say,
or shows that he cares,
He screams for the stupidest reason,
all because of the damn WhatsApp,
Dinner, breakfast, and lunch,
if he disappears one second, 
he becomes depressed,
all because of the damn WhatsApp,
If I tell him enough is enough,
it's as if I shot him with a gun,
I become like [Abu Lahab],
all because of the damn WhatsApp,
oh how wonderful he used to be,
a well behaved gentleman,
who today answers me with "shut up",
all because of the damn WhatsApp,
He wants a Galaxy S4,
to keep answering until dawn,
If I tell him get up, he falls,
all because of the damn WhatsApp"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fear is fear, no matter where you are from

Earlier this month, I spoke at a panel in Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. During the talk, I showed a photo of a young Yemeni boy in the province of Mareb (which was hit by five drone strikes this month), demonstrating how he ducked in his school as soon as he heard the sound of a plane. He was not sure whether it was a drone or a fighter jet, but he has become used to ducking this way ever since his village was hit and his friend hit with a shrapnel.

The next day, I received an e-mail from David Swanson who was on the same panel. He pointed out that the photo of the Yemeni boy reminded him of the photo below, of children in the US in the 1950s ducking in schools for fear of a nuclear explosion.


photo on left via David Swanson from http://airminded.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/brighton-tech-1942.jpeg, photo on right by Atiaf Alwazir, taken in Mareb on Feb 28, 2013 
The two photos are strikingly similar, both children ducking to save themselves from bombs that kill, wound, and displace people.  From the early 1950s until the end of the Cold War, the US government taught "duck and cover" to generations of school children and adults as a method of personal protection in the event of a nuclear war.

In 1951, the American Civil Defense film, "Duck and Covered" geared towards children, portrayed the act of ducking and covering by Bert The Turtle. Wouldn't it be ironic, if we use the lyrics of this American film to teach children in Yemen today how to "duck and cover" from American planes?!


A Duck and Cover movie poster, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Bert2.png

BERT THE TURTLE [THE DUCK AND COVER SONG] 


"There was a turtle by the name of Bert 
And Bert the Turtle was very alert
When danger threatened him he never got hurt
He knew just what to do
He’d duck and cover, duck and cover…”
“Now, you and I don’t have shells to crawl into like Bert the Turtle, so we have to cover up in our own way.”
"Sundays, holidays, vacation time, we must be ready every day, all the time, to do the right thing if the atomic bomb explodes. Duck and cover!”
“First you duck, then you cover. Duck and cover tight. Duck and cover under the table.”


Yemeni children living in areas of conflict have the same feeling of fear that has engulfed millions of children around the world. Their own government has also abandoned them. No films are being made to teach methods of self protection, no warnings given before US and Yemeni planes strike, and when wounded or when their houses are demolished, no apology or compensation is given.

It shouldn't matter where the person is from, where he/she is living, what religion they follow or don't; human lives are equal, and they all deserve a chance to live in peace and with freedom to move and enjoy this earth that we call home.