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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid