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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora