Yemen Celebrates the 51st Anniversary of Human Rights [Archives:1999/48/Law & Diplomacy]

November 29 1999

Jamal Al-Awadi, 
Yemen Times 
On December 10, 1999, the world celebrates the 51st anniversary of human rights. This is the final celebration of the 20th century. These rights are incorporated in the international treaties and constitutions of all countries. 
Yemen is one of the countries which gives top priority to this issue. Yemen recognizes that human rights are not an alien matter, but that they have deep religious values too. We, as Moslems, have the noble duty to apply these rights and to work towards achieving them. Therefore, the Republic of Yemen has signed all international treaties in the field of human rights. Respect for human rights is one of the basic values necessary for the development of Yemen. 
In this respect, the constitution of the Republic provides the following article for the preservation of human rights: 
1- Article (6), Yemen abides by the international treaties of the United Nations, and endorses for human rights issues with the rest of the Arab League, and the international rules. 
2- Article (40), all citizens are equal in rights and duties. 
3- Article (47), the state preserves and protects freedom of people. 
Yemen has a close affinity with those countries which support human rights. Yemen has issued legislation which respects human rights. There are many organizations established in Yemen to defend human rights. A committee has been formed in the Parliament, and in the Consultative Council to look at matters relating to human rights. The proper boundaries of human rights in Yemen is well-defined.The current political, economic and social climate in Yemen is due to the bad economic conditions and the weakness of law. In addition to this, there is a deteriorating attitude towards woman, and to people in the lower strata of society. All these circumstances stand as an obstacle for the implementation of human rights. The main cause of these problems is illiteracy and lack of awareness. It is clear that the matter needs a lot of thinking to strengthen human rights in Yemen. All people should work together and cooperate to improve human rights. 
We will talk about one of the issues in which the President himself had to intervene. This problem reflects the snobbish attitude to some groups of people such as the ‘Akhdam,’ and those who belong to poorer classes. The late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf and Dr. Abu Baker Al-Qarbi played important roles to put an end to this problem. A citizen complained that an officer, who works in the Ministry of Interior shot him with his gun as he came out of the mosque. The officer complained that this poor man had a charge against him. As the man is a member of the weaker classes, he took the matter to the courts, but he could not get justice. He lost one of his legs, and is now an invalid. 
There was no other way for that man than to appeal to the President through the late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf. The president immediately ordered the security forces to action, and the officer was arrested, although he was released after a few days. The question arises, ‘Is it possible to refer all such matters to the president, when there are courts specifically to hear public grievances?’ This instance proves that the law is weak, and there are some people who believe that they are above the law. They also believe that law is not applicable to the poor people. 
This distortion of judgement helps promote violations of human rights. In spite of the laws which protect human rights, the situation remains unchanged. Despite the difficulties that we are facing, Yemen has greater freedom of press than other Arab countries. Additionally, opposition forces here can express their ideas freely. One of the important matters in this regard is women’s status as human beings who work at home and take care of children. In spite of the slight improvement in women’s position in Yemen, they are still victims of different violations. Parents force their girls to leave school and marry men whom the parents want them to according to their tradition. What kind of a democracy are we talking about? 
In the field of education, there are many obstacles for the development of women. The low percentage of educated women is due to many reasons: 
1- Traditions and customs give priority to men. 
2- Decrease in family’s income, making it difficult to cover the cost of education. 
3- Few girls’ schools in rural areas. 
4- Widespread illiteracy in the rural and urban areas. 
Urban woman are not getting equal participation in administrative work. If we compare women to men, we find that for each 1000 male general managers, there are only 79 women. Regarding political participation, women have not been given the opportunity to participate and work. Women only have one portfolio in the Republic. Women’s lack of adequate representation in the judicial corps is due to the same obstacles which prevent women from working in the administrative sector. If we look at the statistics, we find that there are only 32 women who work as judges, while there are 1002 male judges. 
In parliament, there are two women out of a total of 301 members, but they won in the parliamentary elections under the umbrella of the People’s General Congress. We find that the Yemeni constitution provides equal opportunity for women, but we have not witnessed any improvement in this regard. The decrease in women’s participation in political activities is due to: 
1- Social life of women and illiteracy. 
2- Lack of importance of women’s opinions. 
Women’s participation in the political fabric will not work well except with political support. We also have to emphasize women’s outlook. 
If we visit some prisons in the Republic, we find that women prisoners face very difficult circumstances; There is bad health-care and bad food. Some of those woman are still staying in prisons in spite of orders for their release. There is another tragedy which happens inside prisons. There are some mothers who have their children inside prisons, some of those children are born there and some live inside the prisons up to the age of seven years.Therefore, we find that social discrimination, traditions, and the bad condition that most of families face are the main obstacles for women to enjoy their rights. The flaws in education and a lack of awareness play an important role in the deterioration of women’s position. 
Until now, women do not have the opportunity to freely express their own ideas, and to assert their rightful place in the society. 
There are also a number of matters which reflect the misunderstanding of human rights. For example, there are human rights violations in the offices of investigations, and in some prisons, etc., but we find that there is a positive intention on the part of the state to improve human rights, although we need more cooperation and support. We also need proper implementation of decisions.