Category Archives: Development

AIYS at MESA 2014: Tribes in Yemen: The View from Within

[P3658] Tribes in Yemen: The View from Within

MESA Annual Convention, Washington DC
To be held Sunday, 11/23/14 11:00am

•    Chair:  Dr. Najwa Adra
•    Poetry and Tribalism in Yemen by Dr. Mohammed Sharafuddin
•    The Future Political Role of Yemeni Tribal Sheikhs in Light of the Expected Outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference by Dr. Adil Mujahid Al Sharjabi
•    The True Role of the Tribe in the Arab Political Scene: The Case of Yemen by Dr. Fuad Al-Salahi
•    Tribalism in the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference by Dr. Abdul Karim S. Al-Aug
•    Discussant:  Dr. Charles Schmitz

SUMMARY:

An estimated 80% of Yemen’s population is rural, and a large majority of this population self-identifies as tribal. Further, many recent urban migrants, as well as some influential political leaders and wealthy business magnates also self-identify as tribal. Tribal participation in peace building efforts and entrepreneurial economic activity indicate that tribes in Yemen are not peripheral to political, social and economic processes, nor are they homogeneous. In this panel Yemeni scholars present their research on the place of tribes and tribalism in Yemeni society today.

The wealth of literature in Arabic on Yemeni tribes, dating back at least to al-Hamdani’s work in the 9th Century, has not been easily available outside of Yemen. This panel introduces the nuanced and varied views of four Yemeni social scientists on tribalism in Yemen today. The first paper situates Yemeni tribes through their poetry, the preferred tribal medium of self-representation. It argues that a lack of communication between Yemen’s tribes and the outside world has led to misunderstanding and misrepresentation of tribalism. The second paper analyses the political roles of tribal leaders during the previous regime of past-President Ali Abdallah Salih and during the current transition period. It examines the potential impacts of political change on the power of tribal leaders. The third paper begins with the observation that tribalism in Yemen is neither homogeneous nor stagnant. It analyzes tribal participation in Yemen’s Spring Revolutionary process and explores recent changes within tribal society that both encourage and abet political participation. The fourth paper brings together the issues discussed so far and explores the potential significance of recent tribal participation in politics to the shape of Yemeni political processes: do they indicate a democratization of Yemeni politics or a “tribalization” of democratic process?

Najwa Adra on Yemen

AIYS member and fellow, Najwa Adra, now a Visiting Scholar at the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University, has been active speaking about her research and consulting experience in Yemen over the past academic year. Dr. Adra first arrived in Yemen in 1978 to conduct ethnographic research in the highland valley of al-Ahjur.  She has returned many times since then on projects for the Population Council, FAO, UNICEF, USAID and the World Bank.

Publication:

• 2013 – 2014 Women and Peacebuilding in Yemen: Challenges and Opportunities. Policy Brief, Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF). Available online: http://www.peacebuilding.no/Regions/Middle-East-and-North-Africa/The-Gulf/Publications/Women-and-peacebuilding-in-Yemen-challenges-and-opportunities  Republished in Open Democracy, January 21, 2014 http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/najwa-adra/women-and-peacebuilding-in-yemen-challenges-and-opportunities

Seminars, Professional Papers and Lectures:

Continue reading Najwa Adra on Yemen

Carapico on Yemen

sheila
[AIYS board member and former president Sheila Carapico published a commentary on Mouftah about the ongoing political crisis in Yemen.]

Of Transitology and Counter-Terror Targeting in Yemen

by Sheila Carapico, Mouftah, April 22

Far from the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, tucked at the underside of the Arabian Peninsula where the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean, Yemen is at the periphery of Middle East studies and beyond the attention span of mainstream American media. It is a counter-terror target.

It is as if this country of some 25 million citizens is not a real place, as much as it is an outer space or a basket case. According to various journalistic tropes, Yemen is a ‘terrorist haven,’ the ‘ancestral homeland of Usama Bin Ladin,’ an untamed frontier where presumably the only choice for the United States is to shoot first and ask questions later.

To the extent there is conventional wisdom on Yemen, it presents the country as host to all manner of problems. It is the poorest and most poverty-stricken Arab country, with the youngest population. The capital city and other metropolitan areas have soaked up all the fresh water. There is an openly irredentist popular movement in what used to be the People’s Democratic Republic of (South) Yemen, and an obscure but persistent rebellion near the Saudi frontier by a group known as the Huthis who the Saudis say are backed by Iran. Yemen is also a sanctuary for a terrorist entity called al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, often abbreviated as AQAP, the target of American drone strikes that occasionally kill hapless civilians. Tribesmen blow up oil installations, block roads, and occasionally take hostages. Most of the remaining detainees at Guantanamo Prison come from Yemen, but even after being cleared for release US authorities are reluctant to repatriate them to their home country.

Continue reading Carapico on Yemen

Gender Issues in the New Yemen

[The following commentary by Samira Ali BinDaair was first published on Tabsir on April 15 and reposted in the Yemen Times on April 22.]

When it comes to women and gender in Yemen, I see the discussions inevitably alternating between what is happening in politics and then back again to the same old arguments about women’s rights. I think the problem is that we always look at women’s issues from a very narrow angle lens even though we profess to uphold women’s rights, whatever those are and by whosoever’s definition. After working for the past 20 years in development programmes that spanned different agendas and a variety of target groups and where gender analysis always featured largely, I can safely say that this whole concept of gender mainstreaming was introduced to Yemen without being communicated through more cultural-sensitive strategies. The result has been considerable confusion. Because it was introduced by Western agencies, it was sometimes greatly misunderstood, misimplemented and misused by people with vested interests, just as some men with vested interests have misinterpreted the role of women in Islam. Continue reading Gender Issues in the New Yemen