Mohammed Al-Amoodi: “I wish that the officials concerned with emigrants will try to attract the emigrants and their children at home here in Yemen.” [Archives:1999/17/Interview]
The Yemeni society grapples with a problem it doesn’t want to openly address. This is the discrimination exercised against Yemenis born abroad, especially those of African mothers. According to some estimates, there are hundreds of thousands of these people, forming a visible yet disenfranchised minority.
Now, there is something being done to help this situation.
Mohammed Abdullah Al-Amoodi, is a 56-old Yemeni who was born in Ethiopia. He is married with 8 children.
Mohammed is a well-known and active member of the Yemeni Emigrants’ Children Welfare Society (YECWA). He works in pre-made garment manufacturing. He has been a resident of Yemen since 1984 after he had lived most of his life in Ethiopia.
Mohamed Bin Sallam of the Yemen Times interviewed Mr. Mohammed in order to know more about the society he works in, and to have his thoughts on the reasons why Yemeni Emigrants’ children need such associations.
Q: How far have you come in establishing the Yemeni Emigrants’ Children Welfare Society?
A: We have finished forming the society’s framework, charter and policy orientation. As an NGO, we work through the Ministry of Social Affairs which is responsible for licensing the NGO. Of course, once the founding members meet as a constituent assembly, there will be changes to be made. We have started registering members, and we will announce next steps soon.
Q: Who are the founders of the society? How many people are involved in the founding of the society?
A: There are nine founders in what we call the Preparatory Committee. The idea of the society was initiated by Mohammed Naji Al-Shatri, Mohammed Naseer, Naseer Qutabish, Abdul-Hakim Aaiad, Saleh Al-Sereihi and Abdul-Wahab Al-Sereihi.
Q: What are the objectives of the society?
A: The emigrant’s children were not integrated in the Yemeni society. They were left at the margin. They should be included in the on going activities. Integrating them is one of our objectives.
We will also try to develop their working skills. We will help them find means to meet and organize social activities such as helping the poor and the needy and helping each other.
Most of these people are working in different fields. This will help us in the future to organize educational and training classes and help our members adopt new skills. Maybe one day we will be a self supporting vocational institution.
Q: Is there a link between the emigrant’s children all over the country or you will just concentrate on Sana’a?
A: At the moment we are concentrating on Sana’a, but we have made some contacts. We found people willing to become members of our society in various cities. The numbers of potential members is very high.
Q: What was the reaction of the public to your project?
A: The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, especially among the intellectuals and the educated people. But the reaction of less educated people was less positive or shall I say, they have a few reservations.
Q: Did you get some kind of support from the Yemeni authorities?
A: As a matter of fact, yes, we did. We got a lot of support from the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs. They helped us in the drafting of the society’s charter. They also extended more support by giving us tips on management and so on. Whenever we face an obstacle they come to our rescue.
We also got some support from people at the Consultative Council. Actually, I was invited to speak at the recent Hearings of the CC on Emigrants.
Q: How many members do you have so far?
A: Well, as you know we just started. In less than two months, we already have 460 members.
Q: What problems confronted you?
A: There were no real problems. But some people accuse the association of trying to separate the emigrant’s children from the society. Their excuse is that once the emigrant is back in the motherland, he/she is part of the community, and doesn’t need to have an independent association. This is a false concept. The emigrants, whether abroad or at home, remain part of the community. We have many associations representing many towns and areas of the country, and this does not isolate them or cut off those towns and areas from the rest of society. In fact, this will strengthen the society and help it grow efficiently. In addition, some people try to embrace the association in order to serve their political ambitions.
Q: Can you give us an approximate number of the pool of membership?
A: I am sorry, there are no good statistics as such. But I think the number is more than 1,700,000. Yemenis emigrated to many corners of the world. They inter-married and had children. So you really can’t tell how many of these people are came here.
Q: What was your contribution in the emigrants conference of the Consultative Council held recently?
A: The conference was a surprise to us. It was during the time when we were busy finalizing our association’s license. However, we attended the hearings and listened to the discussions with interest.
The information will be of significant help to our future plans. It was also a good chance for us to announce the birth of our association. Now we are looking forward to the main conference, which will be held in mid-May. We are preparing to attract more people to join our association, and to help them settle in Yemen.
Q: The association needs a massive advertisement activities. Do you have the finances?
A: This is a problem we are facing. Currently we rely on the membership fees as income, and it is a nominal amount YR. 150 registration fee and YR. 100 as a monthly payment. We need to tell the public so that supporters from inside or outside the country can help us financially and morally.
Q: How do you feel about the attitude of some people towards the emigrants and their children?
A: There is injustice. There is discrimination. There is intimidation and segregation. This happens, in spite of the fact that many of the emigrants and their children did sacrifice for the revolution and the country.
The emigrants and their children represent a high percentage of the educated people, and can hold responsible posts. However, the emigrants face a lot of harassment. For example, if one were to merely apply for an ID card. We really don’t know if it is the system and the laws, or the people at these offices that are creating all these obstacles. This has affected many of the emigrants, and given them an inferiority complex, in addition to other problems, such as fear of the rejection by society. They feel that people look down at them.
There is always a question on these people’s mind. Will my children go through the same pains? If the answer is yes, they ask themselves if their children will be strong enough to take it? This question is out of worry over the well being of their children. When they apply for jobs, they feel that they are discriminated against and rejected. This feeling of being oppressed now lives with them.
Q: What was the role of the Ministry of Emigrants Affairs in overcoming this problem or ease the emigrants’ pains?
A: In the past, I could say this ministry did no work. It was a mere name and offices.
At present, we starting to feel that they are trying to do something positive. But I do not believe helping alleviate the discrimination is not top in their agenda.
In the CC hearings, the main objective was how to attract emigrants’ money. How to make emigrants bring back their wealth to Yemen! Not even one paper discussed the hell through which emigrants children have to face. It was only through the forceful appeal of one member of the Consultative Council that we got to be invited, and given the chance to speak.
Q: What is importance of the coming emigrants’ conference?
A: The First Emigrants’ Conference is about how to attract emigrants to invest in the development of the country. But if the situation does not encourage you to come back, then this conference is useless.
I wish that the officials concerned with emigrants will try to attract the emigrants and their children at home here in Yemen.