OP-ED

Aden’s Lost Freedom

National Yemen

A picture from the old past of Adeni

Social Culture in Aden Has Changed Over 24 Years

By Tamjid Alkohali

24 years ago, the social culture in Aden was completely different.  Women had complete freedom and had the same rights as men.  Women participated in all fields of the life: political, social, economic and cultural. There was deep respect between men and women. Social problems were also less than today. Now, the culture in Aden and the way of life has changed completely. People in the south and north Yemen justify this change differently.

The manger of AB Foundation for Civic Education, Baheeh al-Saqqaf, said that the change in the social culture of Aden is normal, because all communities must change over time. Unfortunately, the social culture in Yemen generally and Aden particularly has changed with regime change. Women’s freedom at that time was imposed by the Socialist regime. The regime equated women with men in everything. It allowed women to enter decision-making positions. Women’s rights and freedoms continued until after unification, but then began disappearing with coming of the northern regime.

Al-Saqqaf considers respect between women and men a result of cultural prosperity at that time. “27 years ago, culture in all its forms, cinema, painting, and theater, was prosperous. All these kinds of activities helped to create a sophisticated civil society where people respected and accepted each other as they were,” she said.

Al-Saqqaf added that education at that time was also good, and people were interested in reading books. Most of people were participating in mass organizations and cultural seminars. This led to economic prosperity which made all people in Aden have good incomes and stable lives.

Al-Saqqaf explained that  the former regime imposed a different system. It was a tribal system while the socialist system was civilian. The former regime took away women’s rights and  influenced in the  social and cultural change for bad.

Arwa, 42-years-old , a professor at Aden University, explained that change happened in the social and cultural realm in Aden. According to her, before unification, women in Aden were and ideal models for modern women due to the civil life at that time. That civil life was a result of the British occupation, which focused in the improvement of  education for both men and women.

“Men’s respect for women was created by co-education in which girls were studying beside boys from the primary school until graduation from university. This kind of education made boys respect girls and believe in their capabilities. It also made strong women who could impose respect everywhere.” Arwa continued, “However, there is no good education today, and women suffer from marginalization and exclusion.”

After long years of development and freedom enjoyed by Aden, today like other governorates, Aden suffers from deterioration in all areas of life. Most people in Aden believe that deterioration is due to the former  regime, which today makes them demand secession. At the same time, other people prefer the way of life after unification for many reasons.

Ahmed, 23-years-old and a student at Aden University says that although most people had good incomes in the past, the socialist system took a lot of people’s possessions. However, after unification, the regime made people earning what they deserved. “In fact, the socialist system had defects. It was hearing and implementing only what they want. The people didn’t own  full freedom of opinion like today,” he said .

On other hand, Ahmed likes the women of today more than the past. “The socialist system imposed women to be without the Islamic veil, but today people are aware of religion’s rules more than before unification. Wearing Islamic veil doesn’t prevent women from being active members in the community,” he added.

Moreover, Saleem Ramadan, who works as a teacher in the Moaeen School in Krater, Aden said that the reason for the changing social culture in Aden is that people of Aden are affected by other cultures quickly. “I still remember when groups of Indian groups and individuals came to work as traders in Aden; I noticed the Indian culture began spreading among people in Aden at that time. After that, the social culture in Aden was affected by people who came from villages and then the tribes from the North after unification,” he explained.

However, the manager of Prefect Institute for Languages, Sahar Qayad, emphasized that people in Aden have their own social culture, despite the many foreigners in Aden with different cultures and religions. “I consider the communications revolution and social networking sites responsible for the change of social culture in Aden, Yemen, and Arab countries. They made the youth abandon reading books and focus on the culture of social networking sites, which have random and superficial information most of the time. Therefore, men stopped respecting women, and as a result, freedom of women began to disappear as well,” she added.

Whatever the reasons, change in the social culture of Aden is a fact. Despite the vanishing freedom of women in Aden, they are still strong and represent women in many issues in the country. Aden still has its special flavor and style.

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