Annual Report: Yemen 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Yemen 2011

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Unrest in the south

Mass and generally peaceful protests organized by the Southern Movement continued, and there were growing calls for secession of the south. The authorities used excessive and sometimes lethal force against protesters. They accused elements in the Southern Movement of links with al-Qa'ida and in some cases targeted individuals or communities for attack. The government temporarily blockaded some areas by establishing checkpoints and shutting down mobile phone networks, leading to food shortages, and imposed travel bans on some members of the Southern Movement.

Hundreds of people were detained in waves of arrests. Most were released soon after, but some were held incommunicado or for long periods, and some were sentenced to imprisonment after unfair trials before the SCC.

  • On 1 March, security forces shot dead a prominent member of the Southern Movement, Ali al-Haddi, in his home several hours after they had raided the house, held his family captive and shot him in the leg. His body was later mutilated, apparently by the security forces. Another relative in the house, Ahmad Muhsen Muhammad, was also shot dead by security forces.
  • Qassem Askar Jubran, a former Yemeni diplomat and supporter of the Southern Movement, was released in July 2010. He had been held since April 2009; he appeared to be a prisoner of conscience.

Freedom of expression - attacks on the press

Restrictive press laws and repressive actions by the security forces continued to undermine freedom of the press. People linked to the media were harassed, prosecuted and imprisoned. Some faced unfair trials before the Specialized Press and Publications Court in Sana'a.

  • Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi', a freelance journalist who specializes in counter-terrorism affairs and had interviewed alleged al-Qa'ida members, was arrested on 16 August. Kamal Sharaf, a cartoonist who campaigns against corruption, was arrested the next day. They were both held incommunicado until 11 September. Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi' had injuries on his chest, bruising on his body and a broken tooth, which he said he sustained when he was beaten after arrest. On 22 September, the SCC ordered the release of Kamal Sharaf, but this was ignored until his release on 5 October. The same day it extended the detention of Abdul Ilah Haydar Shayi' who, along with another man, Abdul Kareem al-Shami, was tried on charges that included membership of al-Qa'ida and communicating with "wanted men".
  • On 4 January, staff of al-Ayyam and supporters began a sit-down protest outside the newspaper's offices in Aden to mark eight months since the authorities effectively silenced the newspaper. On 5 and 6 January, Hisham Bashraheel, the 66-year-old editor-in-chief, along with his two sons Hani and Muhammad, both of whom work for al-Ayyam, were arrested. Hisham Bashraheel was initially held incommunicado and his health deteriorated. He was released on bail on 25 March. His sons were released on 9 May. All three continued to face charges.

Discrimination and violence against women and girls

Women and girls continued to face severe discrimination in law and practice, and particularly in rural areas were still subject to forced and early marriage. A draft law to raise the minimum age for marriage for girls to 17, approved by the parliament in 2009, had not been enacted by the end of 2010. Large rallies were held in support of and against the proposed reform. The government pledged to implement plans aimed at increasing the participation of women in political, social and economic life.

  • Twelve-year-old Ilham al-‘Ashi died on 9 April, days after her wedding, as a result of internal bleeding reportedly caused by a violent sexual attack by her husband.

Maternal mortality

Maternal mortality rates remained significantly higher in Yemen than in other countries in the region. The authorities continued to work with international aid agencies to increase provision of free health care to pregnant women. The problem of accessing adequate health care for women in remote rural areas remained acute; for many, there was no antenatal or emergency obstetrics care as the nearest clinic was too far away.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In February, the authorities established a General Department for Refugee Affairs.