Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Human Rights Do Yemenis Have?!

I am a Yemeni blogger participating in Blog Action Day 2013, which aims each year to raise awareness about a global topic. The topic selected this year is Human Rights. As far as I know, I am the only Yemeni blogger participating this year. Hence, I will be writing about human rights in my country, but let us first get a general understanding of what human rights are by watching this short video which lists the 30 articles in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Now I seriously wonder how many of these universal rights do Yemenis actually have or even realize that they are entitled to. Since this is a blog post I will keep it short and just pinpoint a few of them here.

While food and shelter are a basic human right the UN estimates that more than 10 million people — nearly half of the population — goes hungry or are short of food. Child malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world with close to half of Yemen’s children under the age of five are stunted. Some people in Yemen do not even have houses and are forced to live in caves.

While people have the right to education, illiteracy rate in Yemen is among the highest in the region, 60% for women and 30% for men. Public schools in the capital Sanaa and in many cities are in appalling conditions while there aren't enough schools in many rural areas. Children seeking an education have to walk for miles to reach schools in neighboring towns. Due to economic and social reasons girls education are cut short and are forced by their families to marry. According to HRW 50% of girls in Yemen marry before the age of 18, and 15% marry before the age of 14. In some cases they were as young as 8. There have been many cases of victims of child marriage in Yemen who die in their wedding night from bleeding while others lose their lives while giving birth.

While freedom of opinion and expression is a right, journalist in Yemen are under threat for speaking their mind and reporting on violations. And while article 12 and 20 state "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" and "everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and association", many youth activist in the 2011 revolution who peacefully marched demanding a better life and a change of the regime were killed, arrested and tortured while some are still forcibly disappeared.

Article 18 clearly states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion yet religion has often been misused in Yemen by radical religious cleric as a tool to declare those who challenge the fundamentalist norms as infidels in order to intimidate and silence them.

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services..." as stated in article 25, yet the average Yemeni has none of those rights and the list goes on and on. 

Two years after Yemen's 2011 revolution calling for change, the living conditions of most Yemenis unfortunately deteriorated. Electricity power blackouts across the country have been reported not only for long hours in a day but for days. Yemenis have also been suffering from a shortage in water, fuel and food supply which have been greatly affected due to the economic conditions that the country is undergoing which is putting the lives of many at risk. Therefore the sad reality is that while citizens of the world are demanding more human rights, citizens in Yemen are still struggling today, not only for their basic human rights such as eduction and healthcare - let alone the struggle for democracy, freedom and social equality - but for basic necessities such as food, water and electricity. 

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