Archive | March, 2011

Somalis struggle to live in Yemen

24 Mar

Malak Shaher,

Yemen Times


Under the black Yemeni ‘balto’ dress that women wear before going out into the street, the two veiled Somali girls look like Yemenis. They have been trying to integrate into Yemeni society since 2007. Layla Mohammad, 16, and Layla Adam, 20, said that they struggle to be involved in Yemeni society and also struggle to earn a living.The only job Layla Adam can get in Sana’a, especially as she can barely speak Arabic, is a house keeper. She makes YR 15,000 a month (about USD 70), of which she sends USD 50 to her family in Somalia. The rest of her humble salary is spent on food and sharing a room with other Somali families.In spite of trying to look like Yemeni women, they feel sad that they are only brought to weddings to clean the hall, never as guests.Behind the veil, there is the face of an innocent young girl who dared to travel all the way from Somalia to Yemen on a small vessel. When asked about how she came from home to Yemen, Adam said “bel safina”, or by ship. She and her friend Layla Mohammad are both housekeepers.The girls live in the Somali community in Al-Safia, where African families have their social leader who solves social problems without the need of going to a Yemeni police station.
Somali social leader

In Al-Safia, there is a center to help Somali refugees in need, run in cooperation with the UNHCR and IRD.

The community seeks help from a Somali social leader, Abul Rabu Al-Aidaros, who has a good reputation among Somalis in the area and is from a well-known Somali tribe. He settles their problems instead of “bothering the Yemeni police stations with them”, according to Abdulkareem Yazeed, a Somali refugee.

In general, the Somalis living in Yemen are descended from six great tribes: Haweeya, Tarooq, Ishaq, Dajel, Maraf and Athaz. The latter is the supreme tribe, said Ahmad Mohammad, a Somali refugee in Al-Safia.

The current social leader for Somalis is of a Yemeni father and a Somali mother. His mixed parentage is helpful in serving the community to settle disputes between Somalis, and between Somalis and Yemenis.

The previous social leader, Mahmoud Ishaq, originally from Somalia, has been living in Yemen for 22 years, according to his daughter Bushra Mahmoud. She said that in the past when there were disputes, Somalis used to come to their house and ask her father for a resolution as he is an elder and also a descendant from the Ishaq tribe.

Helping Somalis afford the basics of life

The community also helps refugees in need by giving them money to pay for rent and by sending them to a health care center made especially for the refugees.

However, the center cannot cover all the needs of some of the neediest Somalis. The worst case is a woman with four children who work in housekeeping but she cannot afford the very basics of life for her children, according to Yusuf Direi Hassan, deputy chairman of the Somali community center.

He said that the woman, Mariam, comes to the community building after a busy day “begging in streets.” “We give her some money when we can. She is in need and cannot earn enough money,” Hassan added.

Cultural binds

Despite the fact that the African refuges have a social leader who can help them solve problems without the involvement of the police, some cultural issues cannot be solved by him. The female refugees, especially those who have come to Yemen recently and have not had the chance to delve deeper into Yemeni society, still dream of the day when they will be invited to weddings in Yemen.

“I want to be invited to weddings as a friend, not as a woman who cleans the hall after everybody leaves,” said Layla.

Layla said that the little money she earns and the tense situation in Yemen made her decide to return to her homeland, Somalia. She is leaving with a Somali family by ship next week


Two journalists killed by snipers

21 Mar
Jamal Al-Shar’abi (left) freelance journalist and a photographer was killed in the protest. However, journalists are still concerned as covering protests is not the only cause behind the abuse or deaths. Last year, Ali Al-Rabo’e (right) journalist in Hajja governorate, was killed by unknown men for his reports on corruption cases.
Malak Shaher, Yemen Times


SANA’A, March 20 — Jamal Al-Shar’abi and Mohammad Al-Thulaya were the first journalists to be killed in Yemen’s unrest on Friday when snipers opened fire on anti-government protesters in Sana’a.The two journalists were shot by snipers while taking photos of the protests, according to Abdul Rahman Barman, lawyer at the National Organization for Human Rights (HOOD), who also was at the protest when snipers opened fire.Eyewitnesses say the snipers were highly skilled marksmen who shot protesters in vital areas such as the head, neck and chest. According to the Ministry of Interior, 24 people were killed on Friday. However, the number is increasing as more of the injured succumb to their wounds.“They died holding their cameras,” said Barman. “Journalists are simply observers and should not be treated as part of the protest.”

Al-Shar’abi, 34, worked as a photographer and a freelance journalist. He was originally from Taiz but worked in Sana’a.  Al-Thulaya, however, lived in Amran and worked for a newspaper run by the Islah opposition party.

Barman added that HOOD received complaints from a number of journalists who said that they received death threats and were told they would be fired from their regular jobs if they continued to work as freelance journalists.

Ahmad Al-Lahabi, the communication officer at the Ministry of Information, told the Yemen Times that the ministry will endeavor to protect journalists who have received threats.

Al-Lahabi added that the ministry is not the source of these threats and that it promotes press freedom.

Last week, national security forces deported eight foreign journalists who were covering recent events in Yemen. Of the deported journalists, two were British, three were American, one was Italian and the others were Aljazeera Arabic employees.

Al-Lahabi said that the journalists were in possession of tourist or student visas, not press visas. However, the journalist’s claim they were invited by the ministry to press conferences before and after demonstrations began in Sana’a in mid February.

Corruption cases behind deaths of journalists

Jamal Al-Shar’abi and Mohammad Al-Thulaya were not the only journalists killed fulfilling their professional duties in the wake of violence against protesters. In February last year journalist Ali Al-Rabo’e, who was working for Al-Qahira newspaper in Hajja governorate was killed by an unknown group of armed men said to be involved in “a dirty deal”.

The case involved a contractor who was responsible for providing people in Hajja with non-potable water.

Al-Rabo’e was killed when he was on his way to work in the morning, an incident that spread fear among journalists that they may be killed at any time, even outside of conflict zones.

“If a day goes by where I don’t receive a death threat, I think something is wrong,” said Abdul Kareem Al-Khaiwani, former editor-in-chief of Al-Shora newspaper run by the Islah opposition party.

According Al-Khaiwani, he received threats from “people in power” he knows but refused to name them. The last threat he received was a week ago.

Twelve year-old first victim of violent protests in Ibb

10 Mar
Omar Abdulrahman
Photo by News Yemen
Malak Shaher, Yemen Times
SANA’A, March 9 – Violent clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators left dozens injured and at least one protester dead in Ibb governorate, 150 km south of Sana’a, on Sunday.The casualty, twelve year old Omar Abdulrahman, was shot in the back and died from his injuries in hospital the following day, according to NewsYemen website. At least 20 others were wounded, two critically, after government loyalists raided the protesters’ sit-in and opened fire on Sunday, according to a local councilman.The death raises the number of people killed since the beginning of the demonstrations in Yemen to 28. The majority of those killed have been anti-government protesters in the southern port city of Aden.“I was at my home when I heard the fire. Immediately I called my son and asked him to come back,” said Hana Muhammad, a local, who lives in a house relatively far away from the area of demonstrations.

Before the clashes broke out the pro-Saleh loyalists were chanting, “Yes for development! Yes for stability,” while the anti-government group was calling for president Saleh to step down to“allow for change.” Hana said her son was in the demonstration and he saw pro-Saleh supporters waving pictures of the president and attacking the protesters with clubs before the shooting started.

On Tuesday protests were held in 12 governorates across Yemen, organised by the Joint Meeting Parties, an opposition coalition of six parties, in response to the violent crackdown on Sunday.

Tens of thousands once again took to the streets of Ibb calling on the government to prosecute those responsible for Sunday’s attack. Women threw candy to the protesters from the roofs of their houses, witnesses said.

Last week Saleh appeared on state TV ordering security forces not to shot at demonstrators and asking the protesters to remain “peaceful and civilized”.

UK doubles aid to Yemen

2 Mar
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times

SANA’A, March 2 – The United Kingdom promised the Yemeni government on Wednesday to increase its aid to Yemen from GBP 46.7 million to 90 million (YR 31 billion) by 2015, said Joanna Reid, head of the British Department of International Development DFID in Yemen.

DFID Secretary Andrew Mitchell announced that 1.8 million people will have better access to basic services such as healthcare, water and education as a result in the increase in aid.

The bilateral aid committed by the UK government is intended to assist development in Yemen and will increase gradually in the coming four years.

The UK also asked that the Yemeni government endeavor to meet a series of goals, which include moving towards the holding of free and fair elections and promoting economic reform.

“We also continue to encourage political reform in Yemen and believe that holding free, fair and multi-party parliamentary elections are an important part of that reform,” said Reid. “We will continue to work with Yemenis to make such elections possible.”

Yemen is one of 13 countries that will be helped by the British Government to hold freer and fairer elections.

According to Reid, the UK government is “concerned about Yemen’s high level of unemployment” and that part of the additional development aid will target employment problems across the country. The investment in education and training will equip Yemenis with the skills necessary to find jobs domestically or in the wider Middle East.

“As a result of DFID’s increased support to Yemen, we estimate that an additional 38,000 Yemenis will be able to find work,” said Reid.

In terms of education, the aid will enable more than 55,000 children in all Yemeni governorates to go to primary school. DFID will support the Social Fund for Development, which spends around 40% of its investments on education, according to Reid.

According to the British Embassy, the UK government is committed to supporting Yemen in the long-term, as demonstrated by Britain’s decision to sign a 10-year Development Partnership Arrangement with Yemen in 2007. The Agreement includes commitments from both the UK and from Yemen. For example, the government of Yemen has pledged to produce a development plan for poverty reduction that also details a series of reforms. For their part, the UK has offered to help support the Yemeni government in achieving these reforms, as well as to urge further progress.

Yemen is one of 27 countries to be helped by the British government in the 2011-2016 period. The new strategy presented by Secretary Mitchell will aim at decreasing the infant mortality rate by 250,000 children, saving the lives of 50,000 women during pregnancy and childbirth, securing proper education for 11 million Yemenis and providing access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation