Activist groups criticize government’s reaction to Jewish plight [Archives:2009/1223/Local News]

January 8 2009

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Jan. 6 ) The Yemen Human Rights Observatory (YHRO) criticizes attacks and offenses launched by irresponsible men and teenagers against Jews in the Raida district of Amran governorate.

In a statement distributed Tuesday, YHRO said that tens of students at Al-Zahra School in Raida assaulted members of the Jewish minority during a random demonstration in protest against the ongoing Israeli attacks in Gaza.

The human rights organization added that it reported many violations that were committed by students of the above mentioned school and citizens against Jews in Raida. They verbally assaulted Jews, threw stones at their houses, and intimidated their women and children.

According to the statement, Jew Zaher Gafri sustained critical injuries, his face swelled up, and his appearance was stained with blood. Other Jewish citizens were subject to various injuries while on the street. The protestors hurled stones at houses of Jews Haim Yaeesh, Shakr Sulaiman, Salem Shaghdari, and Yahya Jaradi, and the houses' occupants were intimidated.

YHRO said it observed the violations experienced by members of the Jewish minority, adding that the security authority's intervention came late. The security personnel arrested some of the assailants and detained them but did not announce the results of their investigation.

The observatory went on to say that the Jewish citizens were subjected to several forms of harassment over the past time period while local and official authorities did not take any actions to protect Jews and refer perpetrators to court.

The human rights organization held the security authorities responsible for what happened to the Jewish citizens in Raida, accusing them of being indifferent toward Jewish minorities. It continued that the authorities only asked Jews to move to Sana'a, which is another violation against their right to settle wherever they want.

The observatory condemned all the violations committed against the Jewish citizens that make the human rights culture deteriorate and breach values of forgiveness and intellectual and religious freedoms. It also held the government accountable for protecting its citizens and ensuring their freedoms, as stipulated in Article (18) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is ratified by the Yemeni Constitution.

YHRO also urged the responsible authorities to take all necessary procedures and actions to prevent the repetition of such attacks, adding that the government is responsible for respecting citizens' rights to practice their own ideologies. The government must ensure that all citizens enjoy equal rights and freedoms without any discrimination towards religion, race, or color.

It claimed that the government compensates Jewish citizens who were targeted by the assaults and protects them inside their homes in order to reinforce Yemeni law and to respect human rights and forgiveness principles.

YHRO called on all civil society organizations and human rights groups in and outside Yemen to stand in solidarity with the Jewish minority and to press the official agencies to protect them, respect their rights, and spread the human rights culture countrywide.

Dozens of Amran citizens took to the streets on Sunday in solidarity with the people of Gaza who are currently suffering under the cruelest Israeli offensives. However, some of the protestors turned to throw stones at Jewish citizens in Raida, wounding many of them. The behavior was criticized by human rights groups, describing it as contravening the principle of peaceful coexistence and forgiveness.

Government decides Jews' transition

Media sources reported Tuesday that the government decided to transfer willing Jewish citizens from Raida to Sana'a and temporarily rented two blocks for them in order to avoid any attacks by so-called irresponsible people and teenagers enraged by what is currently happening in Gaza.

During a telephone conversation with Yemen Times, many Jewish citizens said they are unsatisfied with the recent government procedure as being temporary and not ensuring their rights as Yemeni citizens. They urged the government to protect them.

Regarding their transition to Sana'a, a Jewish citizen, who requested to remain unnamed, said, “We told government officials to transfer us to the tourist city, east of Sana'a, where other Jews coming from Sa'ada live. This area is safer and more secure and suitable for children to play. The government officials, however, refused to do so, and instead rented blocks for us in crowded zones.”

Abu Shawarib's Document to Jews

Members of the Jewish minority submitted a document to Sheikh Kahlan Mujahid Abu Shawarib, which was written by his late father Mujahid Abu Shawarib on August 25, 1993, reading: “This document must remain at the possession of Jews residing in Raida, Al-Suq Al-Jadid, Naet, Mahmam, and Athar in Amran. Those Jews are in our protection and their houses, money, and other property must be protected like those of Muslims according to the Islamic Sharia. Any attack against Jews is an attack against us. It is our duty to confront assailants and punish them. This document remains at their hand to show it to those concerned when required.”

Members of the Jewish minority met Sheikh Mohammed Naji Al-Shayef, Head of the Parliamentary Rights and Freedoms Committee, and Mrs. Visia Mayris, Human Rights Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a Monday afternoon and discussed those same issues once discussed with Sheikh Abu Shawarib, which included procedures and actions to ensure their protection.

The Jewish minorities have been living in the governorates of Amran and Sa'ada for hundreds of years, but thousands of them migrated to Israel in 1948 and the following years. There are currently nearly 1000 Jews living in Amran. Some of them occasionally travel to Israel, the U.S., and the U.K. to visit their relatives.

The majority of Jews work as carpenters and sliver shapers. However, many of them lack essential living necessities, such as health insurance and access to education.