Society shuns men who marry marginalized women [Archives:2005/849/Reportage]

June 9 2005

Because they loved with real passion and not with temporary whims; because they didn't care about the color and race of their beloved; because they flouted the inherited social conventions, they stood trial and got harsh sentences. Either to revoke their decisions or to live as outcasts in their own merciless community. Their predicament is due to their marrying women from a category we unfairly dubbed as “marginalized,” as though this category has come from another planet called the “Black Planet” and not human beings with rights and duties equal to us.

There are many tribesmen (the majority of Yemenis who consider themselves superior to certain categories including the marginalized) who violated traditions and conventions and married girls from the marginalized class. There is a rumor that the World Bank is tempting people with $15 thousand for every person who will marry from the marginalized so that they get intermingled and homogenous. However, marriage from this class is no new phenomenon. This category has rejected them before they sealed themselves off and resided in their own city with one school. They are hoping for more. For this reason, we conducted this investigation to explore the world of those people who challenged their families and face difficulties in order to marry from the marginalized category. As they say, they do not feel regretful for the decision they made for themselves.

I love her and will never let go of her

First, Abdul-Raqeeb Ahmed Mahdi, from the new province of Raimah, described to us his marriage and the obstacles he coped with.

“I was married 22 years ago and have nine children. I was shunned by my relatives who tried to convince me with all means to prevent my marriage because my in-laws were of an inferior status in their eyes. I told them that I would not care and cited the analogy that she was like a gemstone I found by chance. It did not matter where I found her. Yet, they caused trouble to me and confined me for six months. Later, a good man suggested that if both of us were in love with each other, nobody should interfere with the marriage. My father was convinced and I was set free. He prayed to God for a happy life for me and my family.”

My father imprisoned and disowned me

The story of Hussein Abdulilah Mohsen is similar to Abdul-Raqeeb's. He narrates it: “I am from the area of Janadiah. I have got seven children and live in the Hope City. In the beginning of my life, I went through problems with my father for more than two years. My father imprisoned me because I married the woman I loved only because she was of a different race. I had been a solider but my father persuaded officials to sack me because I disobeyed him and refused to divorce my wife.”

He continued saying, “I did my best to convince my father but it went all in vain. He disowned me and lived in the village. I remained with my wife and children here in Taiz and quitted my village visits. However, before his death, my father became satisfied with my choice and the fact that he cannot change the preordained destiny. After the death of my father, I quarreled with my brother over the same issue but he eventually became considerate. Today I have no problems and have a firmer belief that I was right. My children are school graders and I want to put them through their university.

Race against the Central Security

“Instead of looking for marginalized females to win ten thousand dollars, you had better ask about the disadvantages of the Hope City,” with these simple words did Shaif Mohammed Aref launch his attack against us as though he was counterattacking a team aiming to shoot a thrilling action movie to amuse the public. He was right, nevertheless, because the rumor that was circulated about the incentive was so tempting that it turned them into a sellable commodity.

I asked him about the difficulties they encounter in the Hope City which was funded by the World Bank. He answered, “When I came to the city it was in a hasty manner. We rushed because people from DIA organization instructed us to move very fast in order to forestall the Central Security who were trying to take the city for their personnel. We had to live in it while it was unsupplied with basic services such as water, electricity and sanitary network despite the contract which states that the Public Works Office shall provide the City with water and electricity not later than three months. Up until now, we have got just electricity while the city is still waterless. We need also a health center.”

Hope City with no hope to survive

Concerning the structure of the City itself, Shaif further said that it was not constructed properly. “Some buildings have rifts on them and others are about to collapse at any moment. The City was bungled. It was built on piles of waste and dust. It will hardly avoid destruction if they get drenched by rainwater. It was built on unsound basis. No State's engineers and experts supervise its implementation as though we are not Yemeni nationals.”

He deserted Ja'ashin to join his beloved in Taiz

Husn Qaid, a marginalized woman, retold the story of her husband, from al-Ja'ashin area. He was not available when we interviewed his wife.

She said, “He faced a lot of vicissitudes because of his marriage. A long time ago, his family disowned him after they had discovered his marriage.”

She describes her love as real and that it was not a whim. “We married out of mutual love and this is what lightened problems and enabled us to overcome difficulties. Our offspring are nine of whom one daughter is already married off and three sons studying at Hope City's school.”

She said that her children should learn as best as tribesmen do and even better. “They are no less.”

When I asked her to pose for a picture along with her children, she refused to be in the picture.

They distorted facts

During our tour of the Hope City to interview residents, some of them were suspicious about our presence and resented our conducting interviews and taking snapshots. Their stance are understandable. Some of them justified it saying that some journalists provocatively misreported facts. I tried to convince them that I was to act as a media to depict their reality and transfer details to the readers without distorting the facts.

Hope City's school a potential solution

We could not ignore the school of the City and pass by it without visiting it. There might be something to report of whatever nature. Something comforting or something painful. We passed through the gate into the small yard where schoolboys assemble in the morning. There was an open-air classroom which also serves as a staff room. The finely drawn murals captured my attention and impressed me as they showed how the marginalized are desirous to learn. There, we met with the school's deputy principal, a Sudanese woman who also teaches English. The meeting also involved other staff members. Kawthar Abdul-Rahman, the deputy, said that she had been teaching in Yemen for 13 years and for two years in the Hope City's school. She gave us details about the school. “We have four classrooms where 82 males and females study coeducationally. All of them are either in Grade 1 or Grade 2. Number of teachers were five, two men and three women. “

She said that the school is supported and supervised by the Information and Training Center for Human Rights which provides all necessary expenses including teacher wages. She added that the Ministry of Education's role is limited only to provision of textbooks. The school was not officially considered among public schools only until last year although it was inaugurated three years ago, according to the deputy principal.

Raising awareness

Mrs. Kawthar commented on the aptitude of the residents and the level of awareness of the parents and their responsibility towards their children's education.

“We face problems dealing with parents. Of course, we have to be patient. Yet, things are progressing. This year is better than last year. Awareness has risen. Interest in education has become greater and even behaviors are improving. If a student is going to be absent, his parent comes to the school and gets a leave for him/her.”

She praised the cooperation of the Hope City's residents and their appreciation of the school managements' efforts towards raising the educational level of their children.

Chief Jumai': There are no services

At the end of our tour, we met with Jumai' Abdullah Ghailan, Hope City's chieftain. He spoke about his role in the City.

“I do anything the City requires such as resolving domestic problems and following up procedures in governmental departments. I also report the needs of the City to the competent authorities and receive and usher the engineers and workers who do certain tasks in our City such as repairing cracked houses.

“Our major problem is lack of water. Although we always keep on claiming, our demands have not been answered by the concerned authorities. We are in a sore need for a health center. We get only promises but when they will ever be fulfilled I don't know.”

We left the Hope City filled with hope that some light has been shed on this marginalized class. We hope that they will no longer be marginalized nor will they be those people who married marginalized women. They found warm love not with their class but in the hearts of those marginalized women.