A TALE OF TWO CITIES [Archives:1998/25/Focus]

June 22 1998

By: Ms Waffa Alawi Nasser,
Yemen Times.
1. Moving from England to Yemen
The first time I visited Yemen was in 1983, when I was 8 years old. It was quite an experience. Because I was so young I did not appreciate or, should I say, I did not get the chance to explore the many wonders of Yemen.

Having a Yemeni father, we re-settled in Yemen in 1994 with my mother and my older brother. Moving from England to Yemen was quite a strange experience, a turnaround indeed. I had my doubts at first naturally, but one has to get used to it eventually; although, in my case, I had no choice. I was born in Liverpool, England, which is quite different from Yemen, as one would certainly expect.
2. Two religions
Yemen is an Islamic country of course, and I respect that dearly. England has a mainly Christian population and I respect that too, not to say I am a Christian. But having said that, England or should I say Liverpool (where I was born) has an appreciable Muslim population, so big that it is amazing. But I should mention that the only let down is that there is only one mosque in the whole city.
3. Problems facing Yemen and England
The difference between these two countries is too large to list. Hardly anything is the same I’d say, except for the homeless people. But even this is different because in England they have social security, where even the homeless are entitled to their weekly unemployment payment.
Here in Yemen there is no such thing, hence, the increase in starvation and even death. There is a large majority of children and even babies with their mothers who have to resort to begging for money and food. Some of them offer to do you a service like washing your car or any other meaningless, prideless and degrading thing.
Begging for a few riyals, how on earth can one live on such an absurd amount?
4. Freedoms & Rights
One thing that’s good in England is its freedom. No matter who you are, there is always a fair play. But here in Yemen I believe there is limited freedom. I am talking not only about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, about the freedom to bring about change. Freedom to speak and the right to be heard. One should have the freedom to like or dislike the government, and not worry about getting harassed or tormented for it. Although in England, for example, you can’t publicly express your hatred of the Queen.
5. Role of Women
There is a level of equality in England now, women can choose to do what they want to do. But here, some women can’t even walk down the street, they are not considered important by men. But why?
Women were the ones who bore and brought these men into the world. Who cooks for the husband? Who does their washing and cleaning? Basically women are working in the home 24 hours a day; while, most men work for a few hours, eat dinner, and then just sit there chewing qat. Many men treat their women as objects, used for (most of the time) degrading indulgence. I’m talking about the freedom of choice. They should also understand the phrases “family planning” and “financial difficulties.”
6. Health Service
There is no National Health Service (NHS) in Yemen as there is in England. Although, having said that, if you want the best there is always a price to pay. It’s the same everywhere really. But here in Yemen you have to pay for everything, even the actual needle and syringe for an injection. It’s a bit like the US, if you don’t have insurance you’re just left to die basically.
7. Cruelty to Animals
Many people don’t think this is important, but I wish to express my sadness for animal cruelty here in Yemen. In England you’d get arrested for it, but here, there is never a day that goes by without seeing animals being treated unfairly (not necessarily sick animals).
I’ve actually seen people purposely torture animals. Personally I’m a cat lover, which may sound silly to the Yemeni people. But whenever I see a cat in danger or dying of starvation, I always try my best to help these beautiful creatures. I take them and give them a home (in our yard of course not in the house).
Everywhere you walk you’re sure to find a dead animal just lying there spreading diseases. People should at least have the decency to perhaps bury it. It’s utterly unhygienic. It becomes a part of the scenery, a pet cemetery, a symbol to attract tourists.
8. Violence & Crime
There are a lot of fraudulent people and “con men” around, in both England and Yemen. But the difference is that since Yemen is a poor country, don’t you think it’s wrong to con a poor person?
Yemen’s meaningless violence disgusts me, in England too. But the difference is that most English people don’t kill a person merely as a result of an argument. In Yemen, from what I’ve observed, if one argues about even the most irrelevant thing, they’d probably find themselves severely beyond a simple injury.
There is a lot of violence concerning ownership of lands, etc. But why don’t Yemenis use their powers in a more logical way, there are more important things to fight about. But, all in all, both countries have their fair share of violence.
9. Law & Order
You have to pay the Yemeni police to assist you, and pay for their petrol and qat. Even then they don’t care and basically try to con you. The state of the prisons and police cells are disgusting, where prisoners’ relatives have to bring them food otherwise they starve to death.
But in England most of the time if you insult a police officer, you’d get arrested. Most English policemen search and even insult people for no reason whatsoever. Here in Yemen this is not so much the case.
10. Manners & Decency
Some Yemeni men really do lack manners and decency. Of course it’s almost the same in England, but there, harassment of women can result into actual rape. So it’s more aggressive in that sense, a thing that does not happen here, not to a stranger anyway, or so I assume.
There is a difference between England and Yemen concerning (sexual) harassment. In England men don’t harass their victims publicly; while in Yemen they do it in the street as if they haven’t seen a woman before. It may sound absurd, but that’s what I’ve observed. Even more laughable, the police do it as well. They stare at you in the street for about 10 minutes.
People here talk about you even, would you believe, in your presence. It’s as if they’ve never met a human being before. This does not happen in England because let’s face it, it is not courteous.
10. Conclusion
I could go on for quite a while expressing the differences between Yemen and England, but what would be the point, almost nothing would change.
One thing I should say is that Yemen is in fact a very magnificent country. It is full of mystery and of course there are many friendly and righteous people. There is nothing wrong with Yemen itself, it’s just some of the people are rather lazy and immature. If they continue to live in the past, nothing will improve in this case. Both countries have their own beliefs, culture, advantages and disadvantages. Nothing is perfect but at least make it civilized and expressive.