The personal strife of a Yemeni abroad [Archives:2004/775/Opinion]

September 23 2004

By Zamzam Abdullah
[email protected]
For the Yemen Times

I'm of Yemeni origin, but was born in South Africa. I came to my homeland, Yemen when I was barely 5 years old.
I lived and worked in my country until 1990, when suddenly, my citizenship was put under a microscope! Never in my life, had I thought that my citizenship will be questioned as I am Yemeni, I know no other citizenship. The reason for this was my place of birth. I loathed the way I was treated. I worked as a teacher for 25 years and I have contributed tremendously to the upbringing of the new generation of educated young men and women. I reasoned this again and again to the Ministry of Interior, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. Why?
I tried my level best to convince them with proofs of my parents birth certificates, who were born in Yemen, and my grandparents' documents from Mukalla, once again I failed to convince anyone. All I needed was to bribe, or to have known someone from within who could sort out the matter for me. What a shame. According to my modest knowledge of Islam, “rishwa” is a mode of “Suht”, which is forbidden in Islam. And here we have people; talking in the name of religion, demand bribes to do things. At one point, someone advised me to change my birthplace as many did, however I refused because of my strong belief in the “curse of Allah on those who lie” and because I don't want to alter a reality of my life. What to tell my kids? I changed my birthplace to please the Yemeni authorities, or to be accepted in my own country? Hard, Eh! I had to pay, as I needed to renew my passport, then what? Did I solve the problem? Have I made the required change? No.
Every time, I come to ask for a renewal of my passport or require Identity Cards for my children, we go through the same mill. I decided that the country I thought was my country, the country I served in the most critical conditions, the country which bears witness to my growing up, my education, my work, my marriage and my family, is but a mirage. After all these decades, I was awakened from a dream, a true dream though. I decided to find an alternative for my family and myself. It was a very hard call, having all our roots here, but we have to take the step and go somewhere, where people are respected for their being; where people enjoy the same benefits and no one questions anybody about their place of origin! And we migrated to the Netherlands. Yemen has lost some of its educated people, on such grounds: people who could have brought massive changes to the country with their educational background, their honesty and loyalty.
I'm now settled here and very happy, but sad from the bottom of my heart. What I have done and still do here could have benefited my fellow people and together we could have achieved success. I did not at any time relinquish my Yemeni citizenship and will never do that. I also instilled this in my five children. “You are Yemenis, no matter what the authorities say, keep your identity, your culture and heritage.”
I still visit my country, in spite of all that I have gone through and still go through when I visit my parents, for the simple reason: this is my country whether people choose to accept me as Yemeni or not. No one can uproot the love and my patriotism for my country. It's in my heart and my mind and thank God, no one has access to them!
May I, Sir, via this column in your prestigious paper, ask HE the President, how long will this continue? Is there a criterion which measures who is who? At one point, I was told that only those who were born outside Yemen after 1979 would be scrutinized about their citizenship. I was born long before that, yet I had to face the music whenever, I applied for passport, identity card for my family or myself! Is there a law about this? If so why don't they make it public to avoid such humiliation, discrimination and unnecessary struggle for the thousands and thousands of Yemenis born outside the country? The known fact today, is “pay and you get what you want”. This is pathetic. We are already in the 21st century. I hope once again that this concern will get the attention of our President who is trying his level best to bring Yemen to where it should be. Bless his heart.
A country governed by tribalism, myths and bribes will never be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.