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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora