Category Archives: Gender

Mazher Nizar, Yemeni Artist


Divided between two cultures, it has been two decades ago since I came from India back to Yemen. Yemen has always inspired me  since 1985 especially the old city of Sanaa where I have been painting views and veiled women. The rich history and culture of Yemen allowed me to work with Queens and women of this beautiful country.

Since I studied arts in the “Government College of Art and Craft” in Calcutta,  India still remains my first love as I have been among the contemporary Indian artists who inspired me, to name a few Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi, Sunil Das, M.F. Husain and many others. My works are influenced by the “Kolkutta Modern Art Group”.

There is still so much to do and I am always feeling that I am still at the beginning. I have worked with several mediums like oil-acrylic, mixed media and water colour. I work as an eclectic artist and  I don´t like to stick on one medium for a longer time. Since Yemen has only a hand full of artists and not much has been done here yet in Contemporary Art, I am still working with different mediums and techniques to create varieties of artworks.

These are my recent works on canvas, mostly untitled, but women remain the major subject in my abstract compositions, sometimes combined with fragments from the old city of Sanaa.

Mazher Nizar

See his art at

International Women’s Day 2017

drivingIn celebration of International Women’s Day 2017, the Middle East Program, the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, and Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center collected essays from 33 women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the United States, and elsewhere to mark the occasion. We bring together their responses—which cover a wide geographic region and a wide range of views—in this publication. The full publication is available here.

Amatalalim Alsoswa, former Yemeni Minister For Human Rights, and founder of Yemeni Women National Committee (Yemen)

Unfortunately, the United Nation’s attempts to establish a ceasefire in Yemen to stop the war that began on March 26, 2015 have been unsuccessful, because of the intransigence of the involved parties.

According to the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan, in 2017, 18.8 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, and 10.3 million people are in “acute” need of humanitarian aid. Health care, educational services, and the public treasury are collapsing, and famine has become widespread. Many people are unable to send their children to school because so many people have stopped working, there is a shortage of textbooks, and the costs of studying in government and private schools are high.

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Poets against Prejudice: Yemeni Style


A Film Directed by Faiza Almontaser

Faiza Almontaser is a 17-year-old senior attending the Brooklyn International High School. In 2006 Faiza immigrated with her family to Brooklyn, NY from a small farming town in Yemen. Raised as a religious Muslim, she often struggles to reconcile her cultural background with the realities she meets as a high school student in one of New York City’s most socially dynamic neighborhoods.

At age 10, Faiza enrolled in the sixth grade as the only Muslim in her school. She had high hopes for her new education, but was soon discouraged by her minimal understanding of English and the anti-Islamic fervor she encountered among her classmates. Without the knowledge of language to defend herself, Faiza spent her first few months suffering in silence.

Determined to find her voice, she spent six months learning enough English to begin speaking out against the discrimination faced by Muslims in her community. Now in high school she works as a peer trainer with the Anti-Defamation League, teaching her classmates the dangers and repercussions of racism. Faiza also works to combat her struggle with the written word; through poems and essays she challenges common misconceptions of Islamic culture, and expresses her visions for change and equality.

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Yemen Exchange in Beirut

April 12-16, 2017
Application Deadline I March 15/Deadline II April 1, 2017
35 slots only/Rolling acceptanceThe First Yemen Exchange (convened in Beirut, Lebanon) is co-hosted by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies (SCSS) and During the five day program, participants from around the world will listen and engage Yemeni politicians, civil society figures and analysts in order to provide direct and intensive insight into Yemen, from several differing perspectives. As such, the Exchange is a fundamental part of SCSS’s attempt to increase the content, space and conversations on Yemen with the hope that increased dialogue and understanding will ultimately help to create the conditions for sustainable peace-building. The five day Yemen Exchange rests on two tracks:

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Tribute to a Friend

The following obituary was published in Anthropology News by Dr. Najwa Adra on June 16.

Bint al-Wadi’i, Al-Ahjur, Yemen (circa 1944-2016), الله يرحمها ويعوض اهلها

Written in memory of a friend whose support was crucial to my understanding of life and etiquette during my ethnographic research in Yemen.

In 1978-79, my husband, Daniel Varisco, and I spent 18 months conducting dissertation fieldwork in the beautiful basin of al-Ahjur, located in Yemen’s Central Highland Plateau. I studied the semiotics of dancing in a project that morphed into the semiotics of tribal identity, while Dan’s work focused on the ecology of irrigation systems. Neither of us hired a paid informant. We spent most days going out into the community, Dan observing and talking with farmers in the fields, while I hung out with women and sometimes women and men together, since village life is not usually gender segregated. Occasionally each of us conducted formal interviews with local specialists, and it seemed that we spent an inordinate amount of time writing diaries and typing field notes.

We were fortunate to rent a room in the house of the respected leader and mediator, Al-Sayyid Abdallah Abd al-Kader. Our lodgings were extraordinarily comfortable by fieldwork standards, but more importantly, being guests of a respected family provided our presence with a legitimacy that opened doors to all of the houses in nearby villages and towns. Sayyid Abdallah and his family were more than gracious hosts. They were mentors, spending time and energy responding to our questions (and I’m sure the questions of others about us.) I spent hours with my hostess, known locally as “al-Sharifa” or “bint al-Wadi’i,” sometimes helping in the kitchen, other times sitting together chatting. She taught me local dialect and patiently answered my long lists of questions. Village gossip travels fast, and the goings and comings of local anthropologists are prime topics of conversation. She patiently explained local etiquette whenever she heard my faux pas, or I registered surprise at someone’s behavior. We became fast friends.

In 1983, I spent 4 months with them while Daniel was in Cairo. I did not realize until years later that my presence without my husband was troublesome. They had to defend my reputation in several ways, but she never let on. Our friendship continued over the years. I would visit whenever I returned to Yemen, and we talked occasionally by phone, although I often had problems connecting with them from New York. I am grateful that communication has been easier from Doha.

I never think or write about Yemen without remembering bint al-Wadi’i and her wonderful family. Both Dan and I owe so much to their help. Today, I learned that my friend passed away May 2 from a heart attack. May she rest in peace, and may God give her family solace.

The AN Column on obituaries is reserved for anthropologists, but many of us also mourn the passing of individuals we knew during and after our fieldwork. The following tribute was written by Najwa Adra,, on May 6.



From Weddings to Funerals


As the war in Yemen drags on over a year, the people face a humanitarian crisis that has no recent parallel in the country’s history.  Humans rights violations have occurred on all sides, as the fighting takes a major toll on civilians.  Mwatana Organization for Human Rights has produced a documentary on a Saudi coalition bombing strike that killed men, women and children at a wedding in a rural village with no military significance at all.  There is a desperate need for an end to all the fighting and a recognition that the sectarian violence behind the current conflict is in no one’s favor, least of all the vast majority of Yemen’s suffering citizens.

If you think Mwatana is one-sided, check out this critical report on the Huthis.

Yemen through its literature

Yemen through its literature:
A nation besieged

The recent Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen has been reduced to a simplistic narrative of a Sunni-Shia divide driving national conflict – reminiscent of an essentialist “clash of civilizations” trope. This sectarian paradigm attributes all conflict to the notion of cultural boundaries developed over centuries-old divides. Although limited in publication and certainly by translation, Yemeni literature (and lack thereof) functions, on the other hand, as a prism of a nation riven by years of occupation, civil war, corruption, and poverty – issues that far transcend the simplistic sectarian narrative willingly peddled by the media. While the isolated, impoverished nation struggles to negotiate a fraught economic and political terrain, poetry and verse have never ceased to dominate the country’s cultural landscape.

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