[ View the story "The plight of Yemen's 'untouchables'" on Storify] The plight of Yemen's 'untouchables' Black Yemenis continue to live as outcasts post revolution.
Storified by The Stream · Thu, Dec 13 2012 11:07:22
Yemenis refer to darker-skinned citizens of the country as
, or "servants" in Arabic. They, however, prefer to call themselves "Muhamasheen", the marginalised ones.
Many of them have no
to education, healthcare and regular employment:
The women and children are particularly
. Unlike most Yemeni women, Muhamasheen women work outdoors until late at night, becoming easy targets for violence and sexual exploitation. The children often go malnourished, and are in danger of contracting many diseases due to lack of sanitation. The following video, produced by Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights from an NGO called Witness, features the stories and voices of three women:
Akhdam women tell their stories of violence, injustice & poverty in Yemenwitness
They face hereditary
and injustice, which they feel reinforces the idea that they are alien, foreign and lower than Arab Yemenis. Many myths surround the Muhamasheen regarding their habits and supposed origins. One myth is that they are descendents from the Ethiopian Army that crossed the Red Sea to conquer Yemen
1,400 years ago
“People say we eat our own dead,” Ahmed Hussein says as he stands outside his hut in a slum near the capital Sanaa. “And they prevent us from burying our dead in the public graveyard.”Yemen’s “untouchables” | Photographers Blog
“We are black, but we are Yemenis,” says Muhammad Ali as he sits in his tent in a slum area in the south-western city of Taiz. “We are Yemenis, and they keep evicting us from our areas,” he says.Yemen’s “untouchables” | Photographers Blog
The Muhamasheen face regular evictions from the areas they occupy. Many of them live in poorly constructed tents like the one below:
Often times they cannot find enough to feed themselves and their families:
Many families live in cramped quarters without electricity or sanitation:
In the Akhdam slums, it is common to see the one-room huts crammed full with seven to nine family members, all living, cooking and sleeping in the same space just like sardines in a tin.Yemen’s “untouchables” | Photographers Blog
Finding water is a challenge as well. Most women walk to wells to collect limited supplies of water to carry back to their families:
Racism and discrimination make it difficult for the Muhamasheen to integrate into society and obtain the services that are accessible to most Yemenis. One Yemeni
, "If a dog licks your plate, then you should clean it, but if it is touched by a Khadim, then break it", exemplifies the cultural racism facing the "Muhamasheen".
Some have internalized the racism against them, believing there is no way out of their conditions. Many are often discouraged from pursuing higher education or speaking out against the injustice they face every day.
“It’s a difficult struggle when you try to change the fate of your children,” he said.Yemen’s “untouchables” | Photographers Blog
Many cannot obtain the medical care they need. Some die as a result of violence and illness caused by the conditions they live in.
The following report by Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra speaks about their doubts for change:
Yemen's 'untouchables' doubtful of changealjazeeraenglish
Amr and Akbi
are trying to improve the conditions of the marginalised populations by making education more accessible, but widespread support is yet to be achieved.
The following video shows a meeting discussion on the discrimination of the Yemeni Akhdam on March 21, 2010, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It was organised by the French NGO Dia-Social Justice in Development. The speakers assert that the problem is deeply rooted in the manner in which the civil society views the Akhdam, as well as in the government, which adopts policies that hinder their integration:
world day against racial discrimination.3gpdiayemen
Twitter users express their views on the conditions of the Yemeni Muhamasheen:
@ajstream There are more then 10m people in #Yemen suffering from poverty so it's not only those 1.5m untouchables, Akhdam.Mohammed Al-Anesi
@AJStream yes because of ignorance their mind still tuned in the day's of slavery, it is time Yemen must clean their heart's and mindsTalal
@al_habieli @bafana3 The issue here is that some people want to blame us #Yemenis for those untouchables life styleMohammed Al-Anesi
@AJStream "Akhdam" are humans, just like we are. They should be treated w/ respect just like anyone else would like to be treated w/ respectSummer Nasser
@bafana3 they chose not to get education like anyone else, chose not send their kids to schools, refuse to improve their lives. @al_habieliMohammed Al-Anesi
@carvajalf @yemenpeacenews man, I agree with you, the government should have role but Akhdam wouldn't want to change.Mohammed Al-Anesi
@Malanesi | Well, you better inform @ajstream of this : Al Jazeera thinks the Akhdam are not happy being poor & wretched. @al_habieliHaykal Bafana