Yemeni Women Burn Veils to Support Anti-Regime Protests
It is common knowledge that Yemen is one of the many countries around the world infamous for its poor human rights, specifically towards women. Although women were granted equal rights with men per the 1994 Yemeni Constitution, women still have struggles with many constraints and secondary status towards men. Women still did not have equal rights and are still excluded from general decision making from marriage, child custody, to divorce.
The country's women's issues came to light for the first time sometime in 2008 when a 10-year-old girl named Nujood Ali succeeded in obtaining her right to divorce due to constant rape by her husband of his mid-30s and abuse by her in-laws. Ali and her lawyer, Shada Nasser, received acclaim by prominent women around the world and were named "Women of the Year" by Glamour Magazine. The two also became an inspiration for Islamic women around the world that with perseverance, patience, and drive that they can succeed in obtaining rights to be individuals rather than remaining silent as second-class citizens under the dominance of males in the Muslim world.
This year, Yemen is one of the many countries among the Muslim nations that sparked an ignition to revolt against their current regimes and demand for a true democracy in their country. The Yemeni uprising began back in early February 2011, demanding their current president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down and end his authoritarian rule over the country. The revolution continues, but this time the government had a brutal crackdown towards the protesters. Officials already reported that 25 people including protesters, government soldiers, and tribal leaders were already killed in the capital city of Sanaa and another city from this government crackdown.
The Yemeni women were in the spotlight again this month, showing their support for the protesters by burning their traditional veils. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman became a call to action for thousands of women to gather at the capital to break their silence. They spread a black cloth across a street, stripped off their full-bodied veils used to cover their faces and their entire bodies in a pile, and set the veils on fire. This particular act is highly symbolic to this very conservative Islamic nation and it was the first time such an act was done since the start of their revolution against their regime. These women believed that this was the time to make noise after they realized that their tribal leaders and other men were not fighting to protect them from the regime's brutal attacks against them by remaining silent. More than 60 women were attacked by the Saleh regime this October alone, which in their customs state that killing women and children is against tribal culture.Continued on the next page