By NY Staff
Erkan Saied is one of the marginalized people in Yemen who works ardently to be the best in his class. Despite his strenuous living conditions, Erkan has achieved “92%” in his high school science section received first rank in his school. However, Erkan didn’t get any congratulations from the media, Kerman, or Minister of Education. This is because Yemen is plagued by abundant racism.
Some may wonder, why didn’t this industrious student receive any encouragement or motivation from media or others?
In Yemen there is a class of people known popularly as “Akhdam” and more officially as “marginalized.” They are Yemen’s blacks. For them, there is a red line around all government positions. Some Akhdam scholars have announced the establishment of a National Federation of Marginalized Persons as a key step in the struggle of securing their equal rights.
Marginalized people in Yemen number over one million, but their plight hardly receives a correspondent degree of attention. Perhaps this is because they are kept out of sight; many marginalized persons live in shanty houses and shacks propped up far from the rest of Yemeni society. This is the effect of discrimination and racist attitudes passed down generation after generation.
Fifty years after the establishment of the republican regime in Yemen, public jobs and government positions are still entirely off limits for this class of people, whose men can only work cleaning streets and whose women can only beg. The strange irony is that the sanitation work done by these people creates the healthy environment for the rest of the society that turns a blind eye to their tragedy and stymied quality of life.
Today, the marginalized people of Yemen consider the National Dialogue Conference a chance to offer their vision of a better reality for their class. The marginalized have been voicing this vision and recommendations for the future through Noaman al-Hodefi, the representative to the NDC of the marginalized issue in Yemen. Marginalized people look forward to participating in various national bodies and competent committees and joining the effort to implement the Gulf Initiative. As they say, their exclusion from all of Yemen’s bodies and institutions since the establishment of the Yemeni revolution till today only exacerbates their bad situation, especially when there is no channel for their voice to reach Yemen’s decision-makers.
Marginalized people also say that Yemen’s institutions work for all Yemenis except for them and their marginalized brethren. This is because Yemen’s laws do prioritize toward social integration for these people, and development plans fail to take into account their special needs.
The marginalized vision is of a world in which their rights are respected as much as those of other Yemenis, and one in which they are able to benefit from the political transition and this pivotal shift in Yemen’s history. This will require real representation of marginalized persons in various bodies and political organs in Yemen. Until now, they have been excluded from all areas of representation: the House of Representatives, the Shura Council, and the government in general.
In their vision, Yemen’s marginalized people also call for a constitution that provides for the equality of all Yemeni citizens, regardless of differences in color, sex, race or religion. They look forward to reform of the education and health laws to include the right of marginalized persons to free education and healthcare. It is only through these steps that they can improve their situation and emerge from the shadows of marginalization into the light of a complete, inclusive Yemeni society.