DUBAI | burgeoning international movement “Black Lives Matter”, many Yemeni blacks, so-called “marginalized”, see discrimination exacerbate and add to the serious humanitarian crisis that hits a country in war.
A wave of protests has rocked the world after the death on may 25, George Floyd, an African-American 46-year-old, tackled to the ground and smothered under the knee of a white policeman in Minneapolis. The movement “Black Lives Matter” (the life of Blacks account), born in the United States in 2013, has served as a spearhead.
In the capital of Yemen, Sana’a, Haitham Hassan says always feel the discrimination on a daily basis, who often deal with’slave” or “servant” because of his dark skin.
In Sana’a, the members of this minority, called in Arabic “Mouhamachoun”, literally the “Marginalized”, focus Mahaoui, a slum sordid south of the city.
Between the huts made of cardboard and corrugated iron sheets, tents and a few brick-built houses, women cooking in the street.
“It is as if we were second-class citizens even if it has identity as yemenis,” said Haitham.
“In schools, they treat our children differently and we look at bias in the street and on the markets,” says-t it.
“Time for rights”
They are notably present in the plain of Tihama, which extends from the strait of Bab al-Mandeb to the city of Hodeïda, on the west coast of Yemen, and Aden, the largest city in the south.
“There are controversies over the ethnic origins of the group. Some people think that they are the descendants of african slaves or soldiers in ethiopia in the sixth century. Others believe that they are of yemeni origin”, emphasizes Minority Rights Group International.
On its website, the organization lists their difficulties: poor living conditions, no access to basic services such as water, sanitation, and education, unemployment or the trades subordinate, like garbage collection and cleaning works.
Forming between 2% and 10% of the 27 million Yemenis, according to the estimates, the members of this minority are outside the tribal system, a major pillar of the yemeni society and the protective shield of its members, which increases their vulnerability, according to experts.
“We suffer from discrimination (…), but it is time that we are given our rights,” said one of the representatives of the community in Sana’a, Moujahid Azzam.
The commander of the rebel Houthis — who control Sana and much of northern Yemen — Abdel Malek al-Houthi has called in June to “integrate” the members of this community to the yemeni society.
He referred to a long-term programme to achieve this, raising hopes among some as Haitham for which this call “will help to change attitudes towards us”.
“Hell on Earth”
But the leader of the national Union of Mouhamachoun, Noman al-Hadifi, accuses the Houthis of seeking to “enlist, (the members of this community) in the ranks of the rebels”. The rebels “want to send them to fight on war fronts”, he told AFP by telephone.
This war, which pits the Houthis in the government, particularly affects this minority group.
“Before the conflict, for decades, the caste system in Yemen has placed the Mouhamachoun at the bottom of the social scale”, explains to the AFP Afrah Nasser of Human Rights Watch.
The war has accentuated this status, particularly in areas under rebel control, making the life of this community, a “hell on Earth”, with, in particular, less humanitarian aid than other Yemenis, stresses the researcher.
According to Mr. Hadifi, the Mouhamachoun participated in the protests of 2011 in the wake of the arab Spring. He himself has taken part in the national dialogue that was to draw the outlines of a new Yemen, after the departure of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh under pressure from the street.
But, since 2014, the war has slowed this momentum, ” he said.
“It is unfortunate, but nothing will change in Yemen, because the social structure is very complex with discrimination based on tribal, regional or sectarian”, he says.