Violence In Yemen [Archives:1998/36/Reportage]

September 7 1998

Violence is spreading all over the world. In Yemen this phenomenon is on the rise and its victims are increasing. Therefore, the Consultative Council (CC) organized a seminar during August 26-27 to address this issue. As a matter of fact, it is the first time that this phenomenon has been discussed. The seminar was attended by Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, chairman of the CC’s Human Rights Committee a major organizer and contributor to the seminar. The discussions revealed many aspects of this phenomenon. The participants, most of them academics at Sanaa University, presented valuable papers on the topic. We will try to shed some lights on them.
Tribal Violence & Customary Rules & Law
This paper was presented by Dr. Salah Hadash, representative of the Ministry of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs at the Supreme National Committee for Human Rights, and lecturer at Sanaa University.
Violence could be a phenomenon in any social group, and the tribe is a social group that still exists in some parts of Yemen. There are many aspects of violence practiced by the tribe like blood vengeance, kidnapping, tribal shoot-outs, the carrying of firearms, etc.
1- Blood Revenge:
Conventional and tribal norms confess or recognize blood revenge as a means of retaliation. It gives the person the right to fire his gun at his enemy using only three bullets. If he is not able to seize this chance, he doesn’t have the right to shoot him again. The revenge seeker may not commit this crime in crowded markets, which are assigned as safe areas for people to trade. The punishment is blood money and if it is not accepted, the death punishment is inevitable. The Law of Crimes and Punishment No. 12 of 1994 considers blood revenge a crime deserving capital punishment or blood money, if the relatives of the killed person accept. The number of blood revenge incidents in Yemen reached 1,257 during 1996.
2- Kidnapping:
The total number of kidnapping cases in Yemen between April 1991 and April 1998 was 124. Most of those kidnapped were foreigners, there were 146 men, women and children. Yemeni persons kidnapped were 22.
However, Yemen social conventions respect the safety of travellers and oblige the tribes to protect them. But these conventions don’t specify any penalty against kidnappers. But according to the Article 249, the Law of Crimes and Punishments considers kidnapping a crime that has to be punished. The punishment, however, has become very severe according to the Law No. 24 of 1998 issued in August 3, 1998.
3-Inter-Tribal Wars:
The number of inter-tribal wars reached 62 in 1996. Such clashes occur between two or more tribes due to strong blood and family bonds. No conventional rule governs these shoot-outs. But the convention regulates some aspects of these conflicts. In the case of reconciliation between the warring tribes, the two tribes have to provide 44 persons to swear that they have not inflicted any casualties. Then, the penalty could be made in the form of blood money.
4- Arms Carrying:
Tribesmen carry a Jambia or a gun by way of social tradition without any license. Also there is not any conventional norm to organize the carrying of guns. On the contrary, Law No. 40 of 1992 states that a person should have a license to carry a firearm.
1- Applying all the laws on all people and in all parts of the country, basing that on a constitutional rule that all people are equal.
2- Disarming the people and giving every person the right to carry one gun, only with a license.
3- Issuing a legal opinion (fatwa) that forbids blood revenge, instead giving the responsibility to the courts of law.
4- Opening more police stations all over the country.
5- Making more courts available all over the country.
6- Obliging people to register all their property at public land registers.
7- Solving all problems related to water rights.
8- Persuading the warring tribes to sign peace agreements to end all vengeance disputes.
9- Educating the tribesmen on the peaceful and democratic means, like filing court cases, through which they can protect their rights .
10- Providing the bedrock regions of blood revenge with education, health and transport services.
11-Educating the tribesmen through the different mass media about the concept of citizenship.
Violence & Youth
The second paper was presented by Dr. Mohammed Awad Ba-Obaid, psychology department, Sanaa University. The paper considered youth the most important group of people effected by violence. From this hypothesis, it focused on the extent of this phenomenon among youth and the reasons that lead them to commit crimes of violence. Juvenile violent incidents have increased between 1988 and 1991 from 2,343 to 3,136. The paper then recommended some solutions.
Violence in Yemeni Society
This paper was presented by Dr. Sadiq Shayif Noman. Violence is considered to be a social phenomenon found in almost all societies. But its reasons, factors and conditions might differ. The paper presented some aspects of violence:
1-Arms carrying.
2-Blood revenge.
4-Using all kinds of weapons in tribal disputes and conflicts.
5-Turning peaceful demonstrations into riots and violence.
6- Armed conflicts among mosque preachers or speakers.
Then, the paper introduced the causes of violence in Yemen:
1-The family and its way of bringing up children.
2- The milieu (tribe or social surrounding).
3- Economic conditions.
4- Political conditions.
5-Ignorance of religion and its abhorrence of violence.
Violence Targeting Women: Cause & Effect
The fourth paper was presented by Ms. Eshraq Ahmad Hasan Al-Iryani. It surveyed the causes and effects of violence against women. The main reasons cited by the researcher are:
1- Discrimination in raising males and females.
2- Spread of illiteracy (76.9% among women).
3- Clinging to out-dated traditions in the family.
4- Misunderstanding of Islamic rules and norms.
The results of violence against women are:
1- It distorts society’s structure and values.
2- It affects women’s physical and psychological well-being, which leaves its indelible mark on the personality of their children.
3- It is a violation of human rights.
Anti-Social Behavior
This paper was presented by Dr. Ali Saeed Al-Tariq, chairman of Psychology Department, Sanaa University. It has introduced five factors behind this anti-social behavior in society:
1- The family factor.
2- The psychological factor.
3- The social factor.
4- The economic factor.
5- The political & literacy factors.
The paper then presented the definition of the anti-social personality and its traits. Some of the these attributes are:
1-Inability to benefit from experience.
2- Absence of a sense of responsibility.
3- Recklessness.
4- Inability to be reformed by penalty.
5- Inability to feel guilty.
The paper recommended the following:
1- Establishing a supreme council to combat violence in Yemen to protect the rights of the people.
2- The importance of the role of the informative media.
3- Increasing the number of judges.
4- Activating the religious and political guidance to put a limit on crimes of violence.
5- Introducing new codes for organizing the carrying of firearms.
6- Increasing the number of courts all over the country for receiving many cases.
7- Solving all the political disputes between the political parties.
8- Educating and raising our children on the basis of the Islamic rules.
Fragile Judicial System
The sixth paper was presented by the lawyer Jamal-u-deen Al-Adeemy. He introduced many issues related to the judicial system in Yemen. The most important of which is the absence of respect to judges, lawyers and other people working in this institution.
The paper indicates that we can not talk about the independence of this system while harassment and violations are perpetrated against people working in it. The judicial system should be independent and powerful. The paper recorded 28 violent incidents targeting people working in this system. Then, it recommended the recording of violent incidents against people working in the judicial system and studying the reasons behind such violence, for it might help tackle this problem.
The seventh paper was presented by Dr. Abdulmalik Al-Makramy, head of Psychology Department, Sanaa University. He focused on violence in Yemen and its nature. The Yemeni society has witnessed many shocks and adversities during this decade, and it will also witness radical changes in the political and economic systems. Such adversities include the Gulf war and its aftermath, the 1994 civil war, rapid population growth, difficulties of balancing the political, the social and economic systems, and the launching of the economic reform process.
The paper recommended the following:
1-Taking care of the qualified manpower in Yemen.
2- Allocating a good amount of money for scientific research.
3- Rationalizing the political decision by relating it with scientific research.
4- Studying all social phenomena through research which should be conducted by specialists.
5- Holding more workshops and seminars on violence in Yemen.
Violence Against Women in The Media
This paper was presented by Ms. Sabriah Al-Thawr and Ms. Reda Qarhash. It highlighted the unacceptable way in which Yemeni women are portrayed by the media – very weak and controlled by their emotions. They are also incomplete in thought and religion. The paper also criticized the women newspapers and publications which do not address the essence of the problems facing Yemeni women. The recommendations were as follows:
1- Tackling the explicit and implicit abuse of Yemeni women.
2- The inevitable role of the mass media in raising public awareness towards women’s dormant faculties and abilities.
3- Giving women’s issues a good space in radio and television programs.
4- Choosing good programs to present the favorable aspects of women.
By Mohammed Al-Qadhi,
Assistant Managing Editor,
Yemen Times