Yemen: Violence against marginalized, “al-Akhdam” women on the rise
K.M.H, a marginalized girl, 8, was living in al-Odun, Al-Kema district when she was raped by a rich and powerful person with influence over local authorities, referred to as “Sheikh M.D.”
“Sheikh M.D came to our home every night and threatened that he would confiscate all of our possessions under the pretext that we are marginalized, and we have no rights to live freely,” the mother expressed.
The mother went on to say, “We went to the police station to complain about his constant intimidation, but no one would help us. When he knew that we went to the police station he threatened us by saying he would rape my youngest daughter.”
The mother concluded, “One day, while my daughter was walking alone on her path in our village, Sheikh M.D took advantage of the fact that she was alone and raped her in complete disregard of any morals. When she fought back, he broke her neck and choked her to death.” She kept on saying, “no one will punish him, and no body wants to protect us. He raped and killed my daughter. Moreover, he is walking around freely and living his life as if nothing ever happened.”
K.M.H is just one of many victims of such crimes that occur within the country. “One of the main causes, which lies behind the violence against marginalized women, “al-Akhdam” women, is Yemeni culture and traditions. Most of the members of Yemeni society, called “al-Kabaul”, strongly believes that “al-Akhdam” women, or the marginalized women, are all prostitutes and without dignity. Moreover, this concept has been rooted in Yemeni culture for long time,” Dr. Salma A. Dhaif Allah, Administrative Officer and Sister at the Arab Forum for Human Rights expressed.
She confirmed that, “Yemeni society is racist because it is part of a very aggressive culture and practices violence against marginalized women by insulting them, raping them, and many times killing them. It is unfortunate that Yemeni society cannot accept others who are different.
According to Islam and the life of the prophet Mohammed, all kinds of racism are prohibited and rejected. Islam ensures the freedom of everyone regardless of sex, color, or shape.” She added.
Dr. Dhaif Allah went on to say, “Marginalized women are suffering from two problems: First, traditional Yemeni society, “al-Kabaul” which abuses and insults al-Akhdam women everywhere. Even if she is in the street, some men will not hesitate to abuse her in front of others as if she has no dignity. Secondly “al-Akhdam” men often force their women to go into the street in order to work and support the family for better living conditions.”
Dr. Dhaif Allah pointed out that, the solutions of this problem can be achieved by increasing awareness among Yemeni society that marginalized people are an integral part of society as a whole. Moreover, violence against marginalized people should be specifically criminalized.
“A successful strategy may be launching campaigns advocating for greater rights for al-Akhdam people and protection from abuse and exploitation.” She replied.
Yemen experts are warning of the increased violence against marginalized women and are calling for a rapid solution, saying that violence against them has become a serious, but ignored issue in Yemeni society.
According to the Yemeni Observatory for Human Rights (YOHR), large numbers of marginalized women have been categorically raped and in many cases, killed afterwards.
S.M.H., a marginalized girl, 18, was raped by a man, referred to as “Sheikh M.T.”
S.M.H confirmed, “We live in Ureem-Aras district. My story is like all stories of al-Akhdam women. One day, there was a quarrel between us and Sheikh M.T. about a piece of land. One night, he came with about 40 armed men. They broke into our house, beat my family members, and then kicked us out of our house.”
She pointed out that, Sheikh M.T restrained her inside her house and raped her while threatening to kill her with his gun.
“We have to wait for the justice of God since there are no laws to protect us or punish people responsible for raping and exploiting us,” She added.
“Sheikh M.T. raped me, but like in many cases, received no punishment. I went to police station to complain, but they do no thing because Sheikh M.T. holds a high position in the community, whereas I am a marginalized girl,” she concluded.
According to the Yemeni Observatory for Human Rights, most of the crimes against marginalized women are committed by sheikhs, rich people, and people in high positions.
“The Yemeni Observatory for Human Rights is working on the problems and issues which involve a number of people such as, when a group of people attack another group. Our work does not focus on individual cases,” Deputy Manager Dr. Abdu al-Kader al-Bana expressed.
According to al-Bana, the YOHR is not able to cover all individual cases due to the fact that there are no laws in place to protect marginalized women.
Dr. al-Bana confirmed, “When marginalized women are physically abused, we help them by sending a memorandum to the Ministry of Human Rights, the Ministry of Interior, or to humanitarian organizations. We discuss in our memorandum the circumstances of the victim and what abuse occurred.”
The YOHR lacks the financial support needed to deal with victims on an individual, case by case basis.
Dr. al-Bana went on to say, “The increasing cases of physical violence against marginalized women really make us worried and annoyed. Many cases in which marginalized women complain about being exposed to physical abuse and violence only came to our attention recently.”
“At the YOHR, we document every case and publish reports constantly. We do not send an attorney to advocate individual problems or grievances, but we will send attorneys if the problems involve a large group of people,” he concluded.
“God prohibits all kinds of insult and exploit of others based on their color or sex. God creates all people, so one person is not better than another. Islam urges us to treat people without caring about their color, shape, or creed,” said Zaid Yahua, al-Eman mosque Imam.
He added, “No one has the right to attack marginalized women as they are free and have the right to live peacefully and without persecution, just as any Yemeni does. The government must follow Islamic law and punish anyone who abuses marginalized women.”
According to Zaid Yahua, “Islam defends the rights of the weak and gives them absolute protection. So, any person who truly believes in God and his Prophet Muhammad will never abuse or insult such people because they know that God will punish anyone who insults his creatures.”
“The government should punish anyone who rapes marginalized women according to Islamic law. I hope that the government and responsible people everywhere in the country will not stay silent. They have to take action in order to stop these crimes from occurring,” he concluded.