Sunday, December 28, 2008
YEMEN: Jews in north fear for their lives
SANAA, 24 December 2008 (IRIN) - Members of the Jewish community in Amran Governorate, northern Yemen, say they fear being attacked by Muslim extremists, after Moshe Yaish Josef Nahari, a Jewish teacher, was gunned down on 11 December in Raydah District.
"We really live in fear. We fear for our lives. We are mistreated by some Muslims who are demanding that we convert to Islam or leave the area," said a Jewish community leader who preferred anonymity.
He told IRIN that the more than 250 Jews in Raydah District were unable to lead a normal life and many had stopped work after receiving death threats. Many Jewish men worked as silversmiths or carpenters.
"We now stay at home, and our life has become chaotic and unsafe. How can we live this way?" he asked.
According to him, the Jews are demanding to be moved from Amran Governorate to a safe city such as Sanaa, Ibb or Taiz, "where people are educated and men do not carry guns". However, they do not want to be relocated hastily: They fear losing their property, as happened to the Jews of Saada in 2007.
Photo: Muhammed al-Jabri/IRIN
Tribesmen carrying their guns in Raydah District
On 16 September, President Ali Abdullah Saleh met Jewish community leaders and suggested the Jews move from Amran to Sanaa city, and that each family be granted a small piece of land in the city.
"But how can we leave our homes, businesses and land and come to Sanaa? There was no talk of financial assistance. We were told to sell our property and come to live in Sanaa," said the Jewish leader.
Four days after the killing of Nahari, a grenade was thrown at the house of a Jewish man in Raydah, further raising fears. The authorities have not managed to identify the perpetrators.
On 20 December, Abdul-Aziz al-Abdi, a 39 year-old former military pilot, confessed in court to killing the Jewish teacher in order "to get closer to God".
He said he had warned the Jews a month ago to convert to Islam or leave the area, and that he had informed the authorities six months ago about his intention to commit a crime if the Jews were not deported. "The Jews are creating problems and worries in the country and have relations with Britain and Tel Aviv," he said.
Relatives of al-Abdi said he had psychological problems and had killed his wife a few years ago, prompting Nahari's relatives to ask how it was he had been allowed to carry a gun in such circumstances.
Photo: Google Maps
A map of Yemen highlighting Saada and Amran provinces
The victim's sister, Malakah, told IRIN that going to court without protection was dangerous as al-Abdi's relatives "carried guns".
"We had to take a detour to reach the court. The al-Abdi family threatened us, saying they would not allow any Jew to live safely, and would kidnap Jewish women. If their relative was executed, they would kill 20 Jews," she said.
According to her, Nahari had nine children and was the family bread-winner.
The Jewish minority in Amran Governorate has been there for centuries, though thousands left for Israel in or after 1948.
Currently some 270 Jews live in Amran Governorate, all in Raydah District - a district well-known for its gun markets and where carrying a gun is considered normal.
In early 2007, scores of Jews in Saada Governorate, northern Yemen, received death threats from Shia rebels and were moved to Sanaa city.
FAST FACTS ABOUT THE SITUATION:
Yemenite Jews have limited rights in Yemen. They are not allowed to bear arms, while everyone else carries daggers and guns. "Abandoned" women, those who have no husband, are under the care of the government and are not given passports. Many of the families still there have relatives who have been kidnapped by Yemen Moslem families.
Two weeks ago, a Yemenite rabbi, Masha Yaish bin Yahya, was murdered in broad daylight in a marketplace in Raidah. The President of Yemen agrees that the Jews in Raidah are no longer safe there. He proposes moving them into Sana'a, the capital city, to be under his protection. However, he promises them a plot of land and tells them to build houses on this tract of land, but gives them nowhere as an immediate safe haven.
Two sisters of the Yemenite murder victim who had years ago moved to Bnei Brak, flew in from Israel upon hearing of their brother's murder. A car drove head-on into the vehicle carrying them from the airport. The two sisters were hospitalized. (http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/2008/12/yemen-murder-victims-brother-protect-us.html ) At this point, they would like to return to Israel but want to take their elderly, blind father and the widow and orphans of the murdered rabbi. Thus far, their request is denied.
TALKING POINTS TO HELP YOU GET INVOLVED:
What the Yemenite government ought to be doing:
• Facilitate immediately the safe return to Israel of the two sisters with their requests fully granted and the safe relocation of the entire family to Israel. The widow and orphans of Rabbi Masha must be allowed to move to Israel.
• Give an immediate safe haven for the Jews from Raidah, not some far-off long-term resettlement plan.
• Grant each and every Jew currently in Yemen a valid passport, no questions asked about what they will be doing with such passport. This must include each man, woman and child. If they would like to leave Yemen, that should be their right.
Amnesty Statement: www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE31/013/2008/en
Yemen Ministry of Human Rights
P.O. Box 16313, Sana'a
Yemen ambassador in Washington: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
News report fromYemen Times: http://www.yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1216&p=front&a=1