With Yemenis in America [Archives:1998/05/Law & Diplomacy]
By Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Times Managing Editor
During my visit last November to Washington D.C., USA, to attend a workshop organized by the World Bank, I had the opportunity to meet some members of the Yemeni community there. They ranged from the shopkeeper to the university professor and other highly educated professionals as well as their families. We discussed their problems, hopes, aspirations and other social, political and economic issues concerning the Yemeni expatriate community in the US. Also, they intimated some of the troubles they had in Yemen before emigrating. The Yemeni community in the US has recently made a qualitative step by publishing four different weekly newspapers to report on events in Yemen and the issues which affect the Yemeni community in the US. The newspapers are published both in English and Arabic.
I- In Michigan Yemeni Societies There are three different Yemeni societies in Michigan: – the Yemeni-American Association (around 600 members); – the Yemeni Charity Association; and – the Yemeni Cultural Center. There have been some attempts to unify these associations, but because of political reasons they have failed. This means that the Yemeni community cannot become a pressure group. The Yemeni-American Association’s activities are concentrated around children, schools and education. It offers 11 scholarships for the best 11 Yemeni school graduates in Michigan. Each student is given $1,000 per year. This fund began in 1997.
General Problems The Yemeni community is one of the oldest immigrant communities in Michigan. It is continuously expanded by new waves of immigrants. Since the early 1990s, these Yemeni immigrants started to be from highly educated classes. But most of them suffer from language obstacles because they either studied in Arab or Eastern European countries. That is why they cannot play a major role in the American public life.
Problems with Yemeni Authorities There are double standards in dealing with immigrants by the Yemeni authorities, sometimes by different government organs. By pretending to represent certain groups or blocs supporting the Yemeni state, some immigrants get large sums of money from the Yemeni government.
Problems with US Authorities Since Yemeni immigrants, in general, are not well educated and can’t speak English, they can’t communicate with the US authorities. They gradually become isolated. They don’t know their rights and duties as American citizens. For example, they don’t care about the American public life and don’t take part in elections. Yemeni immigrants generally work as laborers in auto factories, sailors in cargo ships, or have their own small groceries. There are exceptions. New Yemeni generations now work as clerks and administrators in some companies and in local municipalities. The US immigration and asylum laws are changing. Many Yemenis have not been able to get legal residence status. They are liable to be deported.
II- Yemeni Businessmen Mr. Ahmed Ali Al-Homeiqani studied international relations and has an M.A. in management from Minnesota University. He has been living in the US for the last 22 years. He worked as a sales manager in an electronics company, and now has his own computer company. He returned to Yemen with his American wife who has a B.A. in biochemistry and opened a laboratory on Hadda Street. The 1994 war forced them to leave the country. They had to sell their lab equipment very cheaply. This has made him not want to live and work in Yemen.
Mr. Abdulmalik Ali Al-Masri has been living in the US for 15 years. He opened a gift shop two years ago selling traditional Yemeni and oriental handicrafts and antiques. He always wonders why the Yemeni community has not been able, like other communities, to establish big firms and businesses, considering that it is easy to get bank loans to start a business.
III- Yemeni-American Children The Yemeni children represent the third generation of Yemeni immigrants in the US. They were quite articulate in expressing their hopes for the future and opinions about the old country and their life in their families’ adopted homeland.
My name is Naema Ghazi Ahmed. I am from Yemen. My goal is to lead the girls to a higher society. Why? Well I live in America for the education because in Yemen the girls do not have many opportunities to go to school and to be someone. My dream is to go to Yemen one day and change all of this to give the girls opportunities and the chance to be someone.
The schools over there will have more education and more staff to teach. Every day in America someone is inventing something, even in Europe there are people inventing something. Why can’t Yemen do something and be something? Yemen can be the best country in the entire world if they put their mind to it. They could be the same if they build their country to be a modern one. And they can start whenever they want. That’s my goal.
My name is Farouk Ghazi Ahmed. I’m 10 years old. I’m proud to be a Yemeni. I love our heritage, that is thousands of years old. I’m proud that Yemen is one country now, not like it used to be, South and North. That also makes it stronger and richer and I hope people are happy now that it’s one country.
I hope the people and the Government are helping the poor people in Yemen. I hope Yemen can build more homes for the poor, more hospitals for the hurt, and more schools for our children. I hope that Yemen becomes a democratic country, not a dictating country, because people get help and are able to tell their problems and people can solve them. In Yemen we have two great revolutions. One is the South – 14th Oct., the other one is the north 26th September.
Great leaders from the north and south were the ones that led the two great victories for our country and people. Freedom will let us go to a higher step. It is a good thing and chance to write this letter to my people and the leaders of these two great revolutions.
Rima Abdulrazzak Al-Dhahbani Q: What is your opinion about Yemen? A: It is a beautiful places except for the garbage and there are not enough schools there. There is also too much violence. I think in Yemen there are not enough hospitals and I think that is not good in Yemen. Really Yemen is a beautiful place.
Q: Can you compare Yemen with the United States? A: America is organized, beautiful and clean and the water is very clean. I think in America you get more education than you get in Yemen. So, for these reasons I prefer USA to Yemen.
Q: Do you speak Arabic? A: Not perfectly. I am studying it in school.
Q: Do you wish to visit Yemen? A: I go to Yemen to visit my family: my grand mother, my uncle, my aunt, my friends and all my family there.
Q: What do you think about qat? A: I think qat is bad for health and I do not think qat should be in Yemen and smoking too.
Q: What do you not like about Yemen? A: Some small children smoking with Qat and small children drive cars which is dangerous.
Q: Where do study? A: I am in the Saudi academy. I do Arabic, English and Islamic subjects.
Ramy Abdulrazak Al-Dhubhani Q: Do you speak Arabic A: kind of. Q: Are you willing to study this language? A: yes, because it’s my father’s language. Q: What is the image of Yemen in your mind? A: My friends are over there and my family too. Q: Do you like to go there or stay here? A: I want to stay here in the USA.
My name is Ali Ghazi Ahmed
I hope that every kid in Yemen has a good education and to be friendly to everybody. I hope that I can help all children to get good education so they can be the best children and good people. I love my country.