Monday, April 29, 2013

On Drones: Yemeni Americans, Yemenis and Americans

This Monday, Aljazeera Stream held a conversation with journalist Jeremy Scahill to discuss his latest book, "Dirty Wars: the World is a Battlefield". The book is over 615 pages and "focuses on America's expanding covert wars and the White House claiming the legal authority to kill U.S. citizens". Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American/Yemeni clerk, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen and is a central figure in Scahill's book. He is the third American killed in Yemen by a drone, the other two are: Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, Anwar's 16 year old son.

After our conversation, it became apparent that the US has no intention of "capturing enemies" because they wouldn't know what to do with them. It is now a war of drones. Evan Cinq-Mars, a fellow speaker on the Stream, asked how this war will end. This is the question that everyone needs to be asking, because the use of drones is only helping AQAP recruit sympathizers which will lead to the use of more drones, and so on...


From left to right: Al-Awlaki's cousin, Activist Bushra Al Maqtari, and Rabyaah

There are obvious consequences to this policy (death, terror, etc) but, there is unrecognizable damage that could lead to sustained nonphysical conflict. There is a clash of cultures and Yemeni Americans are in the midst of it. They are rejected by association; in the US for being Arabs and maybe "terrorists" and in Yemen for being Western and for supporting "terrorists". The struggle within them is a reflection of the increasing tensions between the two countries.

The US and increasing tensions:

Due to the current economic recession, the US is only able to focus on anti-terrorism/security efforts in Yemen. The diplomats at the American Embassy in Yemen are restricted in movement to a small portion of Sana'a where they don't actually meet the real/average Yemeni. It is understandable why Americans would be cautious, especially after the shameful attacks on the US Embassy in Libya and the resulting assassination of the Ambassador there. However, the primary role of embassies is to practice diplomacy and with so many restrictions, it is illogical to expect sincere communication between the two countries.

Prior to 1990, the US was primarily focused on its security. Its foreign policy included countering the former USSR (the South of Yemen, a separate country prior to 1990, was Marxist and an ally of USSR). After unification in 1990, the US focused on some development and educational/cultural exchange programs. There are two challenges facing US-Yemeni relations.

First, the development programs were concentrated on the Northern parts of Yemen while the majority of the drone strikes and AQAP activity is carried out in the South. The role of the US prior to the Arab Spring focused on supporting leaders in the Middle East who, in Yemen's case, weren't interested in the overall welfare of their people. To Southern separatists, former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is an ally of the US but the main enemy. Currently, Southern separatist leaders are snubbed by the Yemeni government and the drone strikes carried out by the US in Southern regions of Yemen exacerbate the tensions.

It appears to some Yemenis that the US continues to support regimes rather than the people. To make matters worse, the US educational exchange programs haven't increased and their efforts are upstaged by several other countries who are providing better opportunities to Yemenis. Furthermore, it is near impossible for Yemenis to obtain visas for travel to the US. Every male over the age of 18 is treated like a suspect and until proven innocent, he will remain in Yemen.

To be a Yemeni in America: 

Some Yemenis live in communities, close to each other and maintain a traditional lifestyle, but others, like me, like to integrate into American society. Over the past seven years, I have come to love this country. Throughout several interactions, it became clear that many Americans don't know anything about Yemen but that the country harbors terrorists. I have been examined carefully because I look and behave in a similar manner. Some would say: "You don't look like a Yemeni!" but since they don't know much about the country, no Yemeni will look like one.

Yemeni-Americans have to challenge the "terrorist" stereotype on a daily basis. This stereotype is harsh and Yemenis in the US are burdened with the responsibility of representing all Yemenis, not just themselves. When disaster strikes in the US, Yemenis across the world, but more specifically in the US pray that the attacker is not Yemeni, nor has ties to Yemen. Yemenis in the US don't need that kind of attention. So we spend our lives telling Americans about our architecture, our coffee, our sky-rises and our queens. But all of that doesn't matter when an event like the Boston Marathon bombing takes place. Reporting on the incident, Chris Matthews proves that stereotypes persist:

"To be blunt and not be into political profiling or racial profiling but when you look at a picture that we’re looking at now are there people in the FBI in the investigative world that can look at the picture, study it ethnographically and figure what the odds are on a fellow like that being from different parts of the world say YEMEN…”

While Yemenis are offended and angry, it is not an option to be so. They have to restrain their anger and accept it for the sake of their heritage. As Americans they love America and don't want it to get hurt. Finally, Yemenis in America, like other Americans, are just as terrified of AQAP.

The Role of Yemen:

In the early 1990s, the Yemeni government promised to care for its people. Prior to that, and after only a few years of ruling in the North, former President Saleh had the key to remain in power for what seemed like a lifetime. Democracy and free elections continued to be a notion that Yemenis talk about but not really experience especially since none of the neighboring countries were democracies (mostly monarchies or dictatorships).

With globalization and the advancement of technology, many things in Yemen changed. Regardless, Saleh continued to rule. The Yemeni government took responsibility for the first drones used against AQAP; not to make the US look good, but rather because Saleh knew that he was betraying his own people. Some accuse Saleh's regime of fostering terrorist groups in order to fill his pockets. Others accuse him of feeding Americans false intelligence in order to attack his own rivals. While these accusations may or may not be true, the fact was that the government was no longer responsible for what goes on in its own land with its own people.

Today, President Abdurabbu Mansour Hadi is expected to meet the demands of the Yemeni people. While he needs to deal with the economic recession, poverty, famine, lack of security, etc. He is still expected to protest the excessive use of drones in Yemen (at least against signature strikes). In a separate conversation, a fellow Yemeni pointed out that president Hadi doesn't have a lot of leverage with the US because they are his main "backers", leaving his hands tied. Still, Scahill's statement resonates with me: "We need to hold our own government accountable"...

To be an American in Yemen:

My last trip to Yemen was in August of 2012 and anti-American sentiments were at an all time high. It was clear that the majority of Yemenis felt let down by their own government but even clearer that they were more so by the US. To them, liberal voices in the United States are silent on the killings carried out by drones on innocent lives. In turn, the liberals in Yemen, abandoned their American counterpart.

When Yemeni-Americans go back to Yemen, they become responsible for representing the values of America in Yemen. In his testimony on drones before congress, Farea' Al-Muslimi states:

"I went to the U.S. as an ambassador for Yemen. I came back to Yemen as an ambassador of the U.S."
When Yemeni-Americans are in Yemen, they feel the need to represent America well. They explain to Yemenis that what they see is a product of fear. Yemenis need to realize that these reactions do not reflect the sentiments of the American people. What Yemenis view as the US is nothing more than the implementation of a policy decided by branch within the US government: not even the entirety of the US government agree on it. However, these facts become harder to swallow as the heedless use of drones continues to increase.

The solution:

American Diplomats in Yemen are in a tough place. President Hadi is in a tough place. People in the US are scared of terrorism and Yemenis are scared of drones. 

No one can predict the end of this "war". The current tactics are futile; they are short term responses that postpone a real solution. To end these conflicts, we need to suspend militaristic realism, and we need to employ empathy and communication to foster amity in the long term. Finally, I have endless gratitude for Yemeni-Americans and Americans in Yemen who inspire peace rather than promote fear.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hadi’s Gamble: Yemen’s Military Restructuring and its Impact on the Future

My latest Op-Ed for The National

On April 10, Yemen's President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi boldly issued a decree to restructure the nation's military. The most notable achievements of this decree was dismantling former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's grip on the military by sending many of his relatives abroad as diplomats.

The decision reinforced Mr Hadi's previous military decrees to abolish the First Armoured Division led by Gen Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, and the Republican Guard, led by Mr Saleh's eldest son, Ahmed. These two units stirred the most controversy.

Still, the decree is a major gamble by Mr Hadi, who is looking to ease the tensions that have paralysed Yemen for the past two years. This move is aimed to define the function of the new military, but it will likely increase tensions in the long run rather than solve them.

The military structure is made up of three different powers: From the north, Gen Mohsen, who defected from the former regime, was named the chief military adviser to the president. As such, he will have major influence on the military. Together with the Islah party the main opposition party in Yemen, they control almost half of the military.

Mr Hadi, who hails from the south, controls the second large portion of the country's forces. The last component of the military belongs to the remnants of Mr Saleh's regime.

Based on these divisions, it is apparent that the military wasn't able to shake off former tribal influences, which leads to the conclusion that three main struggles are likely to arise due to geographical and ideological differences.

First, the northern powers of Gen Mohsen and Islah could threaten the Houthis, who control a largely autonomous area on the border with Saudi Arabia. Second, the southern powers of Mr Hadi could try to curb Hirak's separatist influence in the south. But th real struggle will manifest within the military, between the components as they strive for power and dominance.

In the past decade, the Yemeni government has fought an on­again, off­again guerrilla war against the Houthis, a Shia revivalist group. All of the six wars were spearheaded by Gen Mohsen under Saleh's regime. But, once Mr Saleh agreed to step down in late 2011, the conflict took on more of a sectarian character, as the Houthis increasingly clashed with tribal and religious militias linked Islah. These two strands of anti­Houthi resistance are now coming together.

Gen Mohsen may have lost his armoured division, but he remains a key military figure in the new order. More importantly, two of hi allies have been named regional commanders in the areas bordering the Houthis' stronghold in the north. As expected, the Houthi have marched against Mr Hadi's military reshuffling, believing that their enemies are looking to surround them and destroy them.

The threat to the Houthis is highly dangerous, particularly since the Houthis tend to lash out whenever they feel cornered. 

In the south, the rest of the military will be occupied with a different conflict. The leadership of Hirak, the southern movement pushin for secession, has refused to join the National Dialogue which is now underway. Almost all of the south's leadership, including Mr Hadi himself, belonged at some point to Yemen's Socialist Party.

Today, these leaders are divided between those who support the president, and in turn unity, and those who do not. Personal vendettas and long-standing feuds still colour much of the interaction in the south.

Two scenarios are possible: First, as is the case in the past, mysterious assassinations could begin between these opposing forces. Or, the conflict could morph into several regional conflicts.

Ultimately, the lives of separatists will be in danger. The military will always support the home region of the president, Abyan, and Islahis will not hesitate to involve their militias and their hold on the military to gain control over southern territories.

Yet the most important struggle will be the one within the military itself. The two dominating powers of the military, Gen Mohsen and Islah on the one hand and Mr Hadi's forces on the other, could easily result in a typical north-south regional schism. But it could also take on a more ideological flavour between those aligned with Islah and those who oppose the conservative religious party. Islah is looking to rule and Mr Hadi, at some point, will have to seriously consider joining forces with them.

That leaves Mr Saleh's allies, the vulnerable component of the military, to seek new alliances outside of the military. It is likely that they will collaborate with the Houthis and Hirak.

The new military decree suggests that Mr Hadi is unlikely to step down in 2014, or even 2016 for that matter. Through the military, Mr Hadi is finally establishing his authority and if he leaves in the near future, the balance of power in Yemen will be skewed. Yemenis will continue to battle over political, ideological and regional influence.

The military restructuring doesn't solve Yemen's infighting. Rather, it could exacerbate it at a time when the country has more pressing issues. Within this military reshuffle are the seeds of years of future conflicts.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Military Restructuring in Yemen: Exploring Transformation

President Hadi's decree no. 16 for 2013 on military restructuring has been dubbed "historical" and "unprecedented". It was welcomed by most media outlets. On Yemen's ground, the news received mixed reviews: those who protest Saleh's immunity are upset that these appointments "reward criminals", while those who are skeptical of the transitional period are relieved to see many of Saleh's men transferred outside of the country. It is a chance for stability. Like Yemenis say, Le Kol Hadethen Hadeeth, For each occasion its own conversation.  So, in today's post, Yemeniaty examines the focal points of the new appointments and whether it is really historical. 

The New Military 

The previous chart reveals the new power distribution based on governorates/region. The regions colored in white didn't gain any influence. Conversations on military restructuring can prove confusing; however, one must remember these key points: 

1) Mohsen's First Armor Division and Saleh's Republican Guard are dissolved. 
2) Regional Military Commanders are independent from local military units. 
3) The Military reserve now follows the Ministry of Defense and no longer the President. 
4) Military divisons are now based on tasks and each have designated weapons (Yes, it was a mess!).
5) The Military will be composed of seven commands based on geographical divisions. However these commands will be labeled numerically rather than regionally. (Note Hadi's Southern Mentality: after independence from British Colonialism, Southerners referred to governorates by numbers rather than by their traditional names).

The seven regional divisions are as follows: Regional Division 1 (Sayoun), Regional Division 2 (Al-Mukalla), Regional Division 3 (Marib), Regional Division 4 (Aden), Regional Division 5 (Al- Hodaydah), Regional Division 6 ('Amran), and finally Regional Division 7 (Dhamar). 

The New Power Struggle 

The main distribution of military power reveals three key players. First, it is important to note that Saleh's power is not entirely gone as he did rule the country for 33 years.Thus, one of the key players is (what is left of) his regime. Out of the new seven military commands, Saleh's allies still have two.

The two other key players are relatively new: in the North there is Ali Mohsen and Al-Islah and in the South there is Hadi. 
In the North, Ali Mohsen came out on top while Al-Ahmar's family, still belonging to Islah, did not really get what they want. Colonel Hashem Al-Ahmar was sent away as part of Saleh's men to Saudi Arabia to hold the position of Defense Attaché. Carefully, Islah is strengthening its relationship with Ali Mohsen. Under Mohsen's direct influence are Major General Al-Sawmali, First Regional Military Commander (Region Sayoun), Major General Al-Maqdashi, Sixth Regional Military Commander (Region 'Amran), and Brigadier General Shamiri, Commander of the 27th Mechanized Brigade. Islah's most influence is on Brigadier General Muthana, Seventh Regional Military Commander (Region Dhamar). The combined Northern powers control almost half of the seven military commands. 

As for the South, Hadi distributed a generous amount of positions for people who were once members of the former YSP. Recalling Al-Toghmah and Al-Zomrah YSP divisons, one might be pleasantly surprised to know that Hadi, a Zomrah himself, appointed 13 Al-Toghmah members. Some might, wrongfully, consider it a peace offering to the Southern Hirak. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Those specific Toghmah individuals abandoned their former allies and are now loyal to Hadi. Furthermore, all of the Toghmah individuals were secondary commanders to begin with. 

Not to mention that Hadi is using a familiar tactic. Saleh previously appointed people from his town/village in important positions and now Hadi is following suit. Take Major General Mhanaf, the new Chief of the Intelligence Bureau; he replaced the Southern Al-Yafi'i, mainly because Mhanaf is from the same part of Abbyan as Hadi. Not to mention that the New Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Hujairi, and the Assistant Secretary of Denfense for Human Resources, Major General Ben Fareed, are all Hadi's men. Assertively, Hadi positioned his authority as the new kid on the block. The new military is in the hands of Mohsen and Islah in the North and Hadi in the South. 

Farewell Saleh? 

Every time we begin to forget former President Saleh's name, a news article here or there reminds us of his presence. Whether is it news over his health, an opening of a "Saleh museum", or delivering a speech about freedom, he somehow reappears. Saleh would have been forgotten a lot quicker if it wasn't for his carefully formulated central authority. He spent years positioning those who are near and dear to him in powerful positions.  Just when Yemenis were giving up hope, President Hadi decided to play scramble with his men. Hadi, diplomatically, gave them ambassadorial and consular positions. 

In a twist of fate, this move, applied on Saleh's allies, was utilized by Saleh himself. For years, he sent individuals inconvenient to his authority into the foreign service program. For instance he sent  the three following men to Washington DC as Ambassadors: Yehya Al-Mutawakkil, Mohammed Al-Eryani and Mohsen Al-'Aini. Now, it is Hadi's time. 

Hadi began with Ahmed Ali Saleh, previously expected to inherit Yemen's presidency. Saleh the son will settle for the position of Ambassador in the United Arab Emirates. There, he can join other members of his family who settled in Abu Dhabi over the past two years. He is guaranteed to live in luxury and to relax for the rest of his diplomatic career.  As for the rest of Saleh's family and allies, they were appointed as Defense Attachés to the following countries: Qatar, Egypt, Germany, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. 

The Rise of Ali Mohsen

Major General Ali Mohsen is from the same city as Saleh, Sanhan. Ali Mohsen served as Saleh's right hand man for decades as the president's Chief Military Advisor. Some called him "the second most powerful man in Yemen" and others who knew him more closely called him "the most powerful man in Yemen". In December of 2012, some thought that Mohsen's glory was coming to an end since his First Armoured Division was terminated. However, in April 2013, and according to Hadi's decree, Mohsen is once more a presidential Military Advisor. 

The rise of Ali Mohsen was expected, and in fact slower than anticipated. Ali Mohsen's defection in March of 2011 from Saleh was the catalyst that encouraged 
those who were loyal to the former president to oppose him publicly. Mohsen abandoned his life long friend after rumored disagreements on Ahmed Ali Saleh's (Saleh's oldest son) growing influence in Yemen. In this power struggle, Mohsen came out on top. Shortly after Mohsen declaration of "supporting and protecting the revolutionaries" Islah welcomed Mohsen as a freedom fighter, forgiving all his past sins. On the other hand, independent revolutionaries considered his role in the revolution as a clear indication that Yemen's revolution was hijacked and doomed. Realistically, it would be near impossible to dispose of Mohsen. His influence couldn't be shaken and now he is part of the new system. So today, we have the "March 21st Garden" in Mathbah (Sana'a) as a park for Yemenis in place of Mohsen's former First Armor Division. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Female Agency in the Yemeni Transition

This is published in the International Training Programme for Conflict Management (ITPCM) and can be found online here.

For the first time since unity in 1990, Yemeni women are challenging tradition. Breaking curfews, participating in political activities after nightfall, reciting folkloric poetry and shouting revolutionary slogans became common during and after the Revolution. For women, the Revolution was truly exceptional. They participated in sit-ins and addressed mixed crowds. The decoration of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman underscored the activism of Yemeni women around the world. Yemeni women were featured in numerous magazines, websites and newspapers as champions of civil society. During the uprising, women were equally as influential as men. In essence, women initiated a revolution within a revolution. The presence of Arab women in the public sphere during the Arab Spring misled many observers to believe that a women’s right movement was underway. Others were skeptical, warning that once political regimes began to collapse, the status quo would be restored. Only a few bothered to ask: what do women want from their Revolution? Yemeni women cannot uniformly answer this question because their experiences are not monolithic. The political dichotomy of the North and South produced alternate realities for women, especially as the North is more conservative and tribal than the South. After the unity in 1990, these realities continued to change based on the location, affluence and heritage of a woman’s family. Coupled with Yemen’s patriarchal and conservative culture, it was difficult to establish a unanimous movement for women. The current transitional government has three women Ministers out of 35. The Technical Preparatory Committee (TPC)[1] for the National Dialogue was composed of 19% women. One female out of 301 members is a parliamentarian and two women are members of the Shura Council. These political positions, none of which are decision-making, give the impression that women in Yemen have a greater role in the executive branch. The term “feminism” in itself remains controversial, and gender issues must be handled with care. In a system that is discriminatory in its legislation[2] against women, “feminist” objectives can be sidelined. Since women’s freedoms were restricted after Saleh’s fall, it became apparent that some of the women who participated in the uprisings were merely pawns for opposition parties. Despite these setbacks, there have been minor improvements to women’s political participation. On March 18, the National Dialogue began, leaving the fate of Yemen’s entire female population in the hands of a few women from various political backgrounds. Their goal is to simultaneously advocate on behalf of their parties and organizations, as well as women more broadly. As of now, existing accommodations made for women are insufficient, making it difficult for the National Dialogue to facilitate gender equality. Women must lobby for their rights outside of politics, and approach the problem from a different perspective to see results. As Feminists or as Politicians at the National Dialogue?
Current president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, made a point of advocating a 30% female quota in the National Dialogue. The conference will separate members into nine working committees.[3] Members have submitted their committee choice to the President[4] of the dialogue and his six deputies, none of which are women. Soon, these committees will begin their deliberations. Even though women’s issues deserve broader representation across the board, the topic will be examined under the eighth committee, “Rights and Freedoms”. Constitutional reform will be discussed in a separate committee, “Good Governance”. The structure of the dialogue does not support wholesale changes to the status of women’s rights, and it is not evident that discussion of women’s issues will make it into questions concerning constitutional reform. The status of women and their inability to affect change through the Dialogue are exacerbated by two problems. First, some of the women selected to participate are at a crossroads: are they feminists or politicians first? Are they representatives of their party or of women? Yemen’s “democratic” transition has played out as an exclusively political process through which women are incentivized to champion ideas that oppress other women. Unified by gender but divided by politics, women in the National Dialogue will frame gender issues like women’s security, economic poverty and illiteracy as political issues. Based on political divisions, the methodology of dealing with these topics will vary. Religious parties like Islah, Ansar Allah (Zaydi), Al-Haq (Zaydi and Hanafi) and Al-Rashad (Salafi) would approach women’s issues from a Shar’iah perspective, but ideological differences are likely to cause disagreements. Socialist groups, independents and even Ba’thist will advocate non-religious reforms or a mixture of both. A single group of unified women is much more powerful than smaller groups of women that are at odds. These political issues will polarize the women’s agenda and make it susceptible to the principle of divide and rule. Second, the same tactics used to question the legitimacy of the dialogue can be used to challenge solutions proposed to promote women’s rights. Any “feminist” agenda could be quickly dismissed as part of a Western conspiracy, since the dialogue itself is viewed as a foreign initiative rather than the result of a grassroots national process. Like several Arab Spring nations, Yemen is witnessing a rise in Islamic fundamentalism. Four religious parties will participate in the dialogue, and since Islah gained more influence beginning in 1994, female judges were dismissed as “incompetent in Islamic Law” and public schools were gender segregated after the sixth grade.[5] A narrow implementation of Islamic Shari’ah is expected. In Yemen, female equality is argued as a social liberalization process antithetical to religion, which could guarantee its failure. In Yemen’s conservative culture, religion dominates politics. The prevalence of early marriages in Yemen provides a revealing case. When Islah gained influence in Saleh’s government, the marriage age of 15 was abolished[6]. Since 2007, several governmental and non-governmental campaigns were launched in hopes of mandating a marriage age, but none of them succeeded. Radical interpretations of Islam were used to manipulate and limit the scope of female self-determination. The problem of child marriages still persists. According to Amal Basha, the spokesperson of the TPC, it has been a struggle to add the issue of underage marriage to the agenda of the National Dialogue. Eventually, TPC members “unanimously agreed to give it social priority.” Addressing child marriages, again, as a social issue with the same political actors makes it hard to fathom how social transformation can emerge through the National Dialogue. If previous methods proved futile, Yemeni women need to seek alternatives. Gender Strategies Outside the Social Realm
To improve women’s conditions, women need to frame their arguments outside of politics. A strategy that separates women’s issues from traditional values could prove successful in Yemen. Currently, 54% of Yemeni women are married before they reach the age of 18.[7] By tackling the “side effects” of child marriages, Yemenis can limit its social prominence without causing an overwhelming social backlash. About 58% of Yemeni women are illiterate.[8] Educational policies put in place by the government can assure that more girls are going to school. In Yemen, marriage means being a full-time homemaker, and if more girls are going to school, then they are less likely to marry or having children at a young age. Other strategies can tackle the same problem. Innovative health policies can produce substantial changes in reducing the high maternal and infant mortality rates.[9] Poverty alleviation programs are another method through which women can lobby for reform. Since 44% of the Yemeni population is acutely malnourished[10], financial incentives can promote the use of contraceptives[11] to control population growth and address food scarcity. It is unlikely that women’s issues will receive special attention, since Hadi’s administration has been preoccupied with more pressing issues like security and military reforms. With soaring inflation and an unemployment rate at 42.5%[12], the nation is facing several challenges. Therefore, women need to address their needs by mobilizing collectively. Between Sa’dah’s six wars and Al-Qaeda’s occupation of Abyan, 50% of Yemen’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are between 5-17 years old[13]. Only a quarter of IDPs from all age groups return to their homes[14]. These challenges impose damage on the female body. Displacement can also lead to rape, gender violence, human trafficking, and prostitution. Women as a group need to realize that protecting their gender is feasible through security programs. Another collective concern is the deteriorating economy. In March, Friends of Yemen pledged around 7.5 billion dollars[15] in assistance to Yemen. While the majority of the money is allocated to development programs, the government must assign a portion of it to specifically empower female entrepreneurship Without change, the nation will continue to be the lowest ranked country in the world in gender equality. Increasing female participation in the labour market can decrease harmful social traditions. Using women as agents of economic reform can result in the creation of a new workforce that facilitates the self-determination of women. Conclusions
The national dialogue promoted the inclusion of women in the transitional process, but this inclusion does not guarantee a transformation of reality in Yemen. Previous tactics, like addressing women’s issues as social concerns, could lead to political manipulation. Also, these measures have been proven ineffective. The dialogue is still in its infancy. Until a clearer picture of the Dialogue’s trajectory emerges, women will not be able to formulate a viable strategy. The National Dialogue is attempting to address numerous concerns at once, while struggling to maintain unity and reform a corrupt political system. For the time being, women need to advocate through each of the nine working committees. The female members of the dialogue are responsible for tackling women’s issues strategically from every possible front, because the obstacles facing them are not independent of each other, but are closely related and must be treated as such. To restrict the harmful consequences of tradition, non-social solutions should be considered. For instance, increasing female participation in educational programs, health programs and in workforce can alleviate problems such as child marriage. If more girls are going to schools then less of them are available for marriage. Affordable and accessible health care can reduce early deaths amongst young mothers and infants. Economic opportunities for women can provide families with additional income. While it is challenging to demand equality in a conservative culture, it is reasonable to demand equal access to health, education and economic opportunities. For the full emancipation of women, Yemen’s constitution must clearly delineate women’s rights, otherwise laws will continue to sanction the oppression of women. Women in the dialogue need new methods and must remain cautious of political ploys. Gender equality is difficult to achieve, but it will only become possible once we are aware of alternative options.

________________ [1] A 31-member Committee commissioned by President Hadi to decide on the size of participants, the rules for eligibility and for the mechanisms used during the dialogue. [2] Laws do not dictate but rather permit discrimination. For example, the Personal Status Law on wife’s obedience sanctions marital rape and restricts women’s freedom of movement. [3] Committees are divided based on Issues: Southern Issue, Sa’dah Issue, National Issues, State-building, Good Governance, Military & Security building, Independent Agencies, Rights & Freedoms, and Comprehensive Development. [4] President of the Dialogue is President Hadi. [5] Molyneux, Maxine, “Women’s Rights and Political Contingency: The Case of Yemen, 1990-1994.” Middle East Journal 49.3 (1995): 418-31. [6] Khalife, Nadya, How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?: Child Marriages in Yemen. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch, 2011. [7] “Yemen: A Wake Up Call to Early Marriage.” Oxfam International Blogs. Oxfam, 30 August 2012, retrieved on-line 15 March 2013. [8] According to World Bank Indicators, 2010. [9] “Yemen: A Wake Up Call to Early Marriage.” Oxfam International Blogs. Oxfam, 30 August 2012, retrieved on-line 15 March 2013. [10] Burki, Talha, “Yemen’s Hunger Crisis.” The Lancet 380.9842 (2012): 637-38. [11] Only 9.3% of Yemen’s population uses a modern form of contraception. USAID Country Health Statistical Report, Rep. Washington DC: Bureau of Global Health, 2009. [12] The Second National Millenium Development Goals Report. Sana’a: United Nations Development Fund and the Republic of Yemen, 2010. [13] The Republic of Yemen. Operational Unit for IDPs Camps. Information Center.Summary Showing the Number of Households by the Orginal District and Governorates. Sana’a: ROY, 2013. [14] Ibid. [15] Andersen, Inger. “Friends of Yemen: World Bank Vice President Inger Andersen Urges Support for Yemen’s Transition.” Friends of Yemen: World Bank Vice President Inger Andersen Urges Support for Yemen’s Transition, The World Bank, 7 March 2013 retrieved on-line 14 March 2013.