TAIZ, Yemen – “I’m here, I’m human, just like you. Why are you treating me with such racism?” asked the 21-year-old woman studying in Yemen to become a medical assistant, who agreed to work with Al Jisr about her community.
‘Hajar’, who asked us to use only her first name, belongs to the ‘Marginalized’ community who are Yemeni citizens, most of whom are dark-skinned. In Arabic, they are called “Muhamasheen” and are considered an underrepresented group, known as “minority” in Yemen. A study conducted by the National Union of the Poorest Groups in Yemen found that the number of “marginalized” peoples is 3 million, or 12 percent of the population of Yemen, which is almost 30 million people.
Numan Al-Hudhaifi, president of the Yemeni Union for ‘The Marginalized’, told us that this minority group suffers from major racial and class discrimination in Yemen.
According to studies by humanitarian organizations, people who are marginalized and marginalized live in dangerous humanitarian conditions and are being deprived of their basic rights in Yemen.
We visited Hajar at her home in the city of Taiz. All around were small shacks, mostly built of plastic and tires and without bathrooms or toilets. Residents there suffer from poverty, lack of education and disease.
Hajar, who lives with her parents and has six siblings, spends much of her time collecting plastic bottles to sell to help support her family. Most people in this community cannot read or write. Hajar says few children in the community go to school, and if they can, they are bullied by students in the schools, causing them to drop out early. A majority of the “Marginalized” work in jobs cleaning streets and collecting plastic waste.
Hajar says she started studying at her school with the encouragement of her mother and father. During the study period, there was a lot of discrimination against her, she said, because of her skin color and belonging to the “The Marginalized” community. She told her to sit in the backseat of classrooms, pointing out, “There are special seats for marginalized students.”
Hajar’s dream was to become a doctor and attend a medical school, but she was unable to do so. Only two students from the community “The Marginalized” each year have the right to be admitted to the Faculty of Medicine and Hajar was not accepted. But she didn’t give up. She continued her studies as a medical assistant.
“Even the university teachers used to say bad things to me,” Hajar said. “Some students don’t talk to me because I’m from another class.”
There are a number of “The Marginalized” activists who campaign against racism and classism in Yemen. They struggle to change stereotypes and gain full civil rights for those who are marginalized and deprived.
“I won’t give up,” Hajar said, looking at the horizon with determined eyes, adding that she hopes the word “Marginalized” will cease to exist. “I will do anything for my people,” she said.
Al Jisr | The bridge is a collaboration between students and faculty from four public universities in Yemen and faculty and students from The University of Arizona. Students from the University of Aden, Hadramout University, Taiz University, University of Saba Region and the UA participate in this nine-month cultural exchange project where they talk about media practices in Yemen and the US