Bouchra

Produced by: Sharq.Org
Part of the Curated Collection: Taboos & Society,
Original Interview Length:
Interview Location: Yemen
Production Team:
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Women, in Yemeni society in particular, face many obstacles, and the events we went through in the recent period are an example of that. I am a Yemeni girl. My family had to move to another governorate because of the war, the consequences of the war, and the change of workplace. I had to stay in another governorate, at a distance of travel between me and my family, maybe 6 hours. It was difficult for me to move with my family, and it was also difficult for them to stay with me, because my father’s work moved to the other governorate, and all their lives were in the other governorate. As a girl working in a civil society organisation, I go out a lot in the field and engage with people. Recently, there have been campaigns against women working in the humanitarian field, as well as those who travel without a mohram.

I travel a lot and move a lot because of my work. I am the eldest child in my family, and I am supposed to work to help my family in a certain part. My work is humanitarian, and society is supposed to help us to provide service to society and change our societies, but what is happening is the exact opposite of that. They look at religion, religious beliefs, and religious principles from one angle, that you are a woman and there is no reason for you to live alone, mix with men completely, or travel without a mohram [translation: forbidden person; meaning: a male relative whom a women is forbidden from marrying and can therefore act as her guardian].

What I would like to say is that Yemeni women are in a constant battle to prove their presence in all fields in which they are present. Society always does not help women and always puts them in the category of accusation. They do not give the possibility that the problem is from the man and that he is the one who should be punished. The man is never blamed even if the woman is a victim. Because of the war, many checkpoints are present on the way. In order to move from the governorate in which I live to the governorate in which my family is located, I have to go through about 30 points. Instead of spending 5 to 6 hours to get there, the road takes me an additional 6 hours. Because at every checkpoint they ask me about the mohram. I'm over the legal age, I'm 32 years old, I mean, I'm fully mature, I'm not a minor in order to ask for the consent of my guardian, but they try sending me back to the governorate or keep me at the checkpoint. What did I do, I am traveling from my place of work to visit my family, to check on them and spend Eid with them.

There are laws that must be followed. You have no right to scold me for being a woman or use any method under the pretext that I am a woman traveling without a mohram. I think these are the most difficult obstacles that we suffer from in our Yemeni society. Most of the things for which we are held accountable are not based on law or Islamic law. Let's say it is based on societal norms and ancient beliefs. Societal norms and old beliefs are stronger in their application than the law today. We will continue to fight to change this thing, but with difficulty, as there are severe campaigns from society. It is true that women are still resisting, and we are trying, as much as possible, to continue and do something prominent in society. We try helping people and our society, and change taboos whether it is cultural, social or economic in our society, but with great effort and it takes more time. Many campaigns are launched against women who work in the community field, on the pretext that women are not entitled to work and mix with men. What about the widowed women, the divorced women, the women who do not have a family, the women who have an old father and she is the one supporting the family. Those who want to achieve themselves away from anything, what do they do? Is this society that persecutes and brutalises her in an ugly and illogical manner able to suffice her? Is it able to give her a salary and secure a decent life for her and her family without her having to go out into the street?

Well, if she didn't work with her degree or work in the right place that is supposed to work as a civil society worker or a humanitarian worker... When you go to the hospital, you need a nurse to take care of your wife, you need a doctor to treat her, you need female teachers to teach your daughters, not male teachers. When you walk in the street, you want a female to search your wife, a police officer, not a male. When you go to the Passports Authority, the same thing. If you want women everywhere, how can they be abroad when you prevent them from working or going out? Thanks to Allah that there are people who are very educated, very understanding and supportive of the role of women. Perhaps without these supportive men I would not exist or speak. My father, for example, is one of the people without whom I would not have reached my current position. It is true that I have determination, but we need someone to fight with us in order to achieve our dreams. If there are violent consequences from society, someone will stand with me, not just me fighting on my own. I believe that if we maintain our insistence, Yemeni women are able to reach and achieve the highest ranks, and in a large way, many women have begun to prove this and that they are capable of pulling society out of the worst conditions. This has become clear recently. Intellectually, society will change because it saw this work begin to change and develop. I encourage every Yemeni girl and every Yemeni woman to continue her path, no matter the difficulties, no matter the circumstances, no matter how bad the situation, no matter how bad it is. We have many battles, but we will continue fighting until our last breath, and everything will change, God willing.

It was easy for me to move because my father gave me the necessary support. He believed in me and that I have the ability and competence to prove myself. There were many security difficulties, especially during periods of security tightening, and it was not permissible to ride the bus, for example, without a mohram or an official paper signed by him. My father prepared the paper for me, and told me to show it when needed. And he wrote his number on the back in case they needed to call him. Having agreement between family members is very important and their understanding of the nature of the work, and that I move a lot and them being confident that I am qualified to be present in such place. This gave me more comfort to move around and travel without fear or anxiety when traveling from one region to another and that my father won’t tell them to prevent me from traveling. It did not happen because the most helpful thing is that the parents, even when they are far away, know what I am doing. They understand the nature of my work, and that they are aware of it, and know that if I say no to something, this thing is not good, and when I say yes to something, this thing is definitely good and for my benefit. They trust my decisions, and that's why I don't find it difficult to communicate with them and tell them that I'm going somewhere or some governorate. If someone called them, they would be aware of my whereabouts and travel, and also for the sake of my safety and security if something happened, God forbid, due to the current circumstances. The current changes are not normal and we suddenly wake up to bombs and war. That is why, for my safety, it is necessary that they know where I am. This understanding is important, as well as knowing my work and their understanding of the nature of the work. This helps and supports me a lot, and they gave me confidence and a space that enables me to move comfortably, and I also know what I mean, what I want and what I am supposed to do.

Everything related to women is forbidden and not allowed. We, women, keep fighting over the simplest things. For example, going out to the street, going to the market, or any place, has become forbidden without mohram during this period. The simplest things are forbidden, not permissible and not valid. Internal peace is supposed to exist so that we can depend on it to build a comprehensive peace for Yemen. There is supposed to be internal peace, societal peace, peace and coexistence. We are suffering from a lot and we need restoration.

Restoration over long periods of time, but we need the community itself to move. Society has become coexistent, adapting to the situation, indifferent. They said that it is not allowed to go out without a mohram. For example, one percent of people would move and they are women, but men do not. Well, you find that there has been violence against women in the economic field, and it has become forbidden for women to work in various fields, whatever their circumstances. They would prefer her and her children die inside the house, but she does not go out to the street to work. They implement what they want, women don’t go out on the street and work. If we avoided these things, I think we will reach peace or prosperity. The first thing is coexistence and social peace, and then peace. We need a period, but we change many things, many prohibitions, many taboos, and many beliefs and ideas that have no basis.

These beliefs are personal individual ideas that are adopted by a society due to the person's influence on society. Perhaps what we should do is focus with those people who are affected by these ideas that may bring us back to tribalism, the clan, the authority of the sane neighbour, and the sheikh of the neighbourhood. These people need a long session. There are many people who are gradually starting to help. You may find a governorate that differs from another governorate in Yemen in terms of its support for women and in the spaces, it gives to women. And literally some governorates may feel as if they are in the stone age. Beliefs and living are as if they were the Stone Age in their dealings with women. But currently there are provinces, places and people who seriously support women. The movement and visibility of women in some governorates is greater than in any other governorate, such as Dhi Taiz, Dhi Hadramout, and in the recent period, places such as Aden, Al Hudaydah, and Sana’a somewhat increased, and in some places, you feel that they have begun to move, help, and push women to be at the forefront of the scene. There is more than one thing, and there is a great development happening in these areas, which are really improving, but there is still work in the coming period. I believe that if space is given, many things will change and we will reach the internal peace that we aspire to, and thus general societal peace, comprehensive peace for all. Yemen.