By Zahra Motorwala.
Yemen is an Arab country situated in Southwest Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red sea to the west, and Oman to the east. To the south lie the Arabian Sea and the Gulf Of Aden, which are bordered by Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea.
Highly conservative in its ideology, Yemen is a republic and is known officially as The Republic of Yemen. Its capital and largest city is Sana’a. An under developed nation it is vulnerable in regard to crime and terrorism as poverty prevails. It has a weak economy with a population of 24 million people only (July 2010 est.).( https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ym.html)
I visited Yemen in April last year. During my stay there I noticed that it was an impoverished country where women were treated as second class citizens. Women did not even know the concept of having basic. Being a woman is a disadvantage in many walks of life because a woman has more to lose than a man. But being women in a country like that is a curse.
We were a group of 20 people, men, women and children included. One evening when in Yemen, we decided to get out on the roads and explore the city. The first thing I noticed was that there were no women around. No women at all! We went to a restaurant there and were not allowed to sit there for food. We were sternly asked to go to the first floor of the restaurant which was supposed to be a family area with separate sections for each family so that women could eat there without being seen by other men.
I found this incident obnoxious. I felt as if being women was a contagious disease. And we were not in obscene clothes, in fact all of us were in our traditional clothes as we were in Yemen for our pilgrimage. We were covered from head to toe in what is called a ‘Rida’ or burqa but according to Yemeni standards it was still not appropriate as our faces were not covered.
This incident has been marred into my mind and I have never been able to forget it. And so when today I read of a revolution in Yemen, I say to myself that this was ought to come. But I felt extremely proud when I discovered that this revolution was led by a woman. In a country where women are not treated as equal or even considered capable and have no rights over property, education or civil liberties or even equal compensation in case of murder, for a woman to break free and lead a protest is a BIG deal.
A leading figure in the recent Yemen protests for political reforms, Tawakkol Karman who is a human rights activist, journalist and mother of two, is hopeful and looks at the recent Egypt silent protest with great hope and inspiration of success to Yemen too. The protest which Started as a non-violent silent protest against their corrupt leaders was a result of the recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia which lead to concrete results.
Yemen, like Egypt has been ruled under President Ali Abdullah Saleh for more than three decades. The Yemenis now want him to stand down.
Karman was arrested for “undermining the public social peace” by organizing unlicensed marches and inciting others to commit acts of rioting and chaos” according to Yemen’s official news agency, SABA, that ran a government statement. Although she was released 2 days after her arrest on 25 January 2011, Karman has been getting death threats.
Living in a modern urban world, many a times we cannot fight for our rights. We are scares to stand up for the wrong happening with us. We are Scared of being vulnerable enough to get involved into a mess which can spoil our lives forever. Most of the times we choose to run away. I do and I know most of us do. And this is the only reason why this lady who in Yemen leads a protest is commendable. She has the courage to fight against all odds in a male dominated patriarchal nation. I can imagine the situation of that woman fighting for her rights and the rights of other women in her country with no support whatsoever from the others. Thus for me this woman has great courage and should be respected for all her efforts.
The fact that some woman somewhere has the courage to stand against the system is a really inspiring example for all of us to in some way or the other follow her and be courageous enough to stand up for our own rights. When women will start standing up for their rights only then will exploitation against women stop.