News / Middle East

Yemeni Women Find Voice in Revolution

Women march during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz, July 16, 2011
Women march during a demonstration to demand the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz, July 16, 2011

When Yemen’s beleaguered President Ali Abdullah Saleh scolded women for violating Islamic law by joining men in demonstrations on the streets of Sana’a, more than 10,000 Yemeni women flooded those streets to denounce their president.

The women had joined the pro-democracy demonstrations in February 2011, the event that catapulted Yemen onto the world stage. The nation’s constitution gave women equal rights in 1994. But not until the national uprising and their April 16 march, could their veiled voices be heard.  Their chants for the president’s removal echoed throughout Change Square.

Dr. Ahlam Mothanna, a medical doctor was one of 10 women who first joined the men in Change Square.

“Females in Yemen who participated in demonstrations were exposed to violence by military forces,”  Dr. Mothanna said. In response, more and more women are demanding their rights be respected, she said.

Anita Kassem, a student from Aden and a friend, Madiha Ahmed, are two young women inspired by the revolution.

“We had to get out of our houses because our sons, our husbands, our brothers, and our fathers are dying in the square,”  explained Anita.

She and her friend began working for charities as volunteers. They wanted to get more involved in the protests in Sana’a, but they had to calculate the political environment of the distant capital city, to get family permission to travel and overcome the fear of persecution.

Tradition

Most women in Yemen are marginalized. Anita and Madiha said Yemen is unlike Iran and Afghanistan where the opinions of women are grounded in law, constitution, and religion.  Instead, Yemen’s opinion of women is based on tradition and custom.  By law, you can work, you can talk to men and you do not have to wear a burqa or a hijab.  But while the law gives women these rights, husbands and parents usually forbid it.

Some women have begun to leave their homes to go to college and to become teachers, social workers, nurses, and doctors like Ahlam. That’s possible in the capital city, Sana’a, but it’s a new phenomenon for Anita and Madiha, who live in Aden.

Madiha says that before the revolution, women accepted the conservatism and traditions that bound them to the home. They accepted this subordination, she says, “because they were unsure of themselves. They lacked self-esteem, lacked self-respect, and lacked self-responsibility.”

Change

Now, women in Sana’a and Taiz have joined the revolution, carrying food and water to protestors, teaching in the streets, or standing with the men, chanting, “The people want to overthrow the regime!”

Hamza al-Shargabi, a veteran of the protests, has watched women join his colleagues on the streets of Sana’a.

“Not so many people know that Yemeni women are very strong. They have been protesting in the streets with us since the first day," al-Shargabi said. "On the political level, the humanitarian level, and the logistical level, on the ground, women have stood beside men very, very naturally.”

It’s normal now to see a woman talking to men on the streets. They say they now have the support of their families and the respect of men. Proudly, Anita boasted that she and other women “… broke the chains of traditions and conservatism.”  Women have proven that they are full citizens of the country who “stood hand in hand with men,” she says.

The pro-democracy revolution does not promise more rights to the women of Yemen, but the protesters believe women who joined the protests will be more than mothers and wives; they will be recognized as citizens of Yemen.

“The revolution demands equal treatment of one another,” said Hakim AlMasmari, editor of the Yemen Post.  He thinks women have achieved greater equality -- and the men, as well.

“I do believe that Yemen will see more freedom after the revolution,” AlMasmari said.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid