Yemen: Women are not the decision-makers but they bear the brunt of the war

Amnesty International

The Yemeni authorities, facing growing internal and external pressures, are abandoning human rights in the name of security says a new Amnesty International report, Yemen: Cracking down under pressure. The role of armed Islamist militants in Yemen rose to prominence during the civil war in 1994, when they fought alongside the army of the former YAR (North Yemen) to defeat the armed forces of the former PDRY (South Yemen). The PDRY was a secular state, widely perceived to be communist and backed by the USSR. The Islamist militants siding with the YAR comprised Yemenis and other nationals, mainly from Arab countries. Many had settled in Yemen, with the encouragement of the government in the north, after taking part in the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s.

Following the civil war, some militants, with the acquiescence of the authorities, acted as a kind of religious police, particularly in the south. There, they attempted to enforce their own vision of Islamic morality, such as strict dress codes for women and the prohibition of alcohol, and used violence on occasion.

In early 2009, according to media reports, al-Qa’ida in Yemen merged with its counterpart in Saudi Arabia, some of whose members are believed to be in hiding in Yemen. Estimates of the size of the group, said to be called al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, range from a few dozen to several hundred. The government tends to blame all attacks by Islamist militants on al-Qa’ida, but some militants have said they belong to other groups, such as Yemeni Islamic Jihad and the Brigades of the Soldiers of Yemen. Some have been accused of belonging to such groups when brought to trial. It is unclear to what extent such groups are affiliated with al-Qa’ida.

In a cramped and crumbling house in Sana’a, two women described to Amnesty International their families’ gruelling journey of survival across several mountains from Razih in Sa’dah to the capital Sana’a. The women were among around 20 displaced people aged between three and 65 at the house in Sana’a. Most were young children. Almost all were gaunt and struggling with hacking coughs. One of the girls was yellow with sickness and mute with trauma. One of the boys had been left deaf by a bomb.

To read the full Amnesty International report, please see attachment

MDE 31 010 2010 'Yemen - Cracking down under pressure' EN.pdf2.49 MB