Introducing Yemeni Women to the   World Through the Internet [Archives:1999/21/Culture]

May 24 1999

I want to address an issue that many Yemeni men won’t speak about. It is something every new Yemeni bride must contemplate. The adult male Yemeni has huge financial burdens placed upon him to support his family and new bride. So after a long and costly process, he departs Yemen for a place to work. Now more than ever, that place is America. The wife usually is destined to stay in Yemen. And it is a well-known fact that she now acts as a free live in housekeeper and attendant for her new mother-in-law. If by any chance she gets to reside abroad with her new husband, she is destined to a life as a shut in. By the pressures of Yemeni customs she may be bound to stay in Yemen. I am on the other end of that spectrum. I am an American wife of a Yemeni born national. I have lived in Yemen and loved it. But I saw the suffering of a few friends whose husbands were in America. These women aren’t stupid, they know the things available for men to do here. I personally have heard from my husband of how his friends drink, go to casinos, go to adult bars, pick up women and so on. They do many things that a Muslim shouldn’t even consider. But a man can be weak when pleasurable excess is shoved in his face as it is done in the USA. These men feel that their wives are protected if they stay in Yemen. They feel that America is not safe for a woman or whatever reason they can come up with. I just want to know if Yemen Times has ever done a story on Yemeni women whose husbands were abroad and how or if they have changed in any way? Also I want to hear from foreign wives- especially Americans, of Yemeni men who are residing in Yemen. I do not wish to reside for longer than a year in Yemen at any one time. I like it there, but my main problem is the lack of sanitation control in the streets and the governments seeming lack of interest in the childrens’ education. I do not wish to force what people call “western ways of life” onto Yemeni society. Frankly, I do not understand why people think that because I am an American I will try to inject some kind of liberalism or feminism into Yemeni women’s minds. I am a Muslim and I am aware of Islamic regulations and Yemeni traditions. Anyway, I wanted to do a photo documentary on the comparisons between urban and rural life for Yemeni women and their family. But many have told me that because of the conservative traditions in Yemeni women lives, what I am wanting to do is almost impossible. Yemen is an interesting country for me and I feel that it will stay in my heart forever. With the use of a photograph-editing program I can and will fuzz the faces from the women’s pictures so that they can remain unknown. I am determined to achieve my goal of doing this and publishing the pictures and information on my personal Internet website. I am not looking for profit or to exploit Yemeni women, but rather to show people that Yemen is a great place with many wonderful customs and traditions exist. 
There is almost NOTHING published on the Internet about women’s life in the Middle East Ð let alone Yemen. This unfortunately reinforces the western stereotype that Arab women are oppressed and miserable. Some may be and some may not. I think that time has come for me to portray this! This is the first time I have openly discussed this idea with someone other than my mother. I do plan on doing this no matter what kind of resistance I get. I just want to show an aspect of life in the Middle East that is always overlooked. I need to introduce to the world how Yemeni women live and cope. As a western woman married to a Yemeni I can contribute a lot in comparing my experience to show how Yemeni women, rich an poor, old and young, cope on a daily basis. I may not be a good writer or speller. My love is photography. My tool – trying to use digital cameras in Yemen and along side them still use a regular camera. If I can receive permission- I want to use the new digital cameras that allow you to capture actual live clips. This way I can add video snippets to the page to show things that pictures just can’t show. 
I am sorry if I rambled on and on. I just wanted to get that out. So as far as the western women in Yemen are concerned, I would like more information on how they live and cope in their life struggle. 
By the way- has the Yemen times tried the technology of adding video or audio clips to their site? Windows Net Show, Real Networks Audio and Video Player and other similar tools let you watch live or recorded movies, shows, commercials, videos, etc. on the net. Everyday we watch Middle East TV channels via the net- live as they are happening, since some satellite dishes cannot get them. Thank you for your time. I will feel no pain if this letter isn’t even read. I just needed to voice myself. 
Amy Marilyn Watts 
Tennessee, USA