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Daniel Martin Varisco is President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.

Human Rights Watch Honors Arwa Othman


Human Rights Watch, September 16, 2014

Human Rights Watch’s Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.

Arwa Othman is a writer, journalist, anthropology researcher and leading advocate working to end child marriage in Yemen.

Women in Yemen face severe discrimination in law and in practice. More than half of Yemeni girls are married—often to much older men—before age 18, making them more likely to drop out of school, die in childbirth, or experience physical and sexual abuse. During the mass protests that erupted in Yemen in 2011—ultimately ending then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule Othman was among the most outspoken activists calling for human rights and gender equality.

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Art and Islam in Yemen

The ongoing controversy of art and Islam

by Mohammed Al-Khayat, Yemen Times, August 7, 2014
One Yemeni artist was beaten for having painted  a woman wearing a traditional Yemenis dess (pictured).

One Yemeni artist was beaten for having painted a woman wearing a traditional Yemeni dress (pictured).

From the US to Yemen, the cliché of the starving artist is nearly universal. The word “artist” is nearly synonymous with “struggle” for those who make the pursuit their life’s full-time work, whatever their geographic location.
Artist Radfan Al-Mohammadi, who is also the head of the Arabian Forum for Fine Arts, has paid a high-price for his art, including the breaking-off of an engagement when the uncle of his future bride learned of his profession. Like concerned relatives around the world, he feared that Al-Mohammadi would not be able to support his daughter.

There was a secondary concern as well. Like many—but not all—Muslims, he feared that his daughter’s fiancé was pursuing a haram (“forbidden”) activity under Islamic doctrine. The subject has been widely debated by religious scholars.

“[The] rulings come from God and his prophet. It is not permitted to re-create the image of a human being under any circumstance,” said Mo’amar Al-Dhafree, an imam at Al-Sunna Mosque in Taiz and a Salafi clergyman.

However, a high-ranking official from the Rashad Union, a Salafi political party, told the Yemen Times the situation was not so straight forward.

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New Report on Poverty and Gender in Yemen


Poverty, human capital and gender: a comparative study of Yemen and Egypt

[There is a new report by Eldis, an NGO co-ordinated from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Brighton, United Kingdom, about poverty and gender in Yemen and Egypt.  For a pdf of the report, click here. Here is the summary from the website.]

The objective of this study is to examine the impacts of poverty on children’s health status and educational attainment in Yemen and Egypt. The hypothesis is children from poor families, particularly girls have lower health status, lower educational attainment, and are most likely to engage in child labour. We will test for wealth and gender inequalities in educational attainment and health status of children.

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Is there a “Middle Arabic”?


Map of Aden in Ibn al-Mujāwir’s text

There is an important new article on so-called “Middle Arabic” from historian Rex Smith and Alex Bellem in the Supplement to the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 44 (2014): 9–18. Below are the title and summary.

‘Middle Arabic’? Morpho-syntactic features of clashing grammars in a thirteenth-century Arabian text

by Alex Bellem & G. Rex Smith

There is a body of texts in Arabic the language of which has traditionally been called ‘Middle Arabic’ (MA). The term persists,
although often taken to relate to chronological and historical ‘middleness’ rather than linguistic intermediacy. One perhaps less well-known text composed in this style is Ibn al-Mujāwir’s thirteenth-century Tārīkh al-Mustabṣir.  As is typical of so-called ‘MA’ texts, Classical Arabic (CA) appears to dominate the style, with many non-CA features mixed into the CA base. Often, the non-CA features are essentially typical of Spoken Arabic (SA), so that the language is generally said to be a mix of CA and SA. There are, however, many non-CA features of Tārīkh al-Mustabṣir that do not conform entirely to either CA or SA, yet their use is not unsystematic. For these reasons we reject the term ‘MA’ in favour of ‘Literary Mixed Arabic’ (LMA).

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AIYS and YCSR Conference on National Dialogue

The Outcomes of the National Dialogu​e: The Risk of Failure and the Horizon of Implementation
by Dr. Salwa Dammaj , Resident Director of AIYS
The American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS) in Sana’a organized, in collaboration with the Yemeni Center for Studies and Research (YCSR), a seminar themed: The Outcomes of the National Dialogue: The Risk of Failure and the Horizon of Implementation. The function was held on September 2, 2014, in the headquarters of the Yemeni Center for Studies and Research (YCSR) in the capital Sana’a.
As Resident Director of the (AIYS), I gave an introduction in which I said: “Firstly, I would like to express thanks and gratitude to Yemen’s great poet and outstanding national and intellectual figure Dr Abdul-Aziz al-Magaleh, the chairman of the Yemeni Center for Studies and Research who always has been a genuine supporter of the (AIYS) activities; thanks also goes to the staff and management of the (YCSR). I would like also to convey to you the greetings of the president at AIYS, Prof. Daniel Martin Varisco.
I continued, saying that this seminar is being held amid a very critical crisis while the country has been experiencing serious complexities and acute variations among the different political forces and social constituencies. It is an alarming dilemma that embodies existential threats which have seriously destabilized Yemen and have grave impacts on Yemeni peoples. Likewise it highlights the pressing need to invoke immediately the National Dialogue’s outcomes.

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Bonnefoy on the Yemeni Revolution


Laurent Bonnefoy and Marine Poirer have just published “The Structuration of the Yemeni Revolution.  Exploring a Process in Motion” in Revue Française de Science Politique 62 (5-6):131-150, 2014).  This is an English translation of an article originally published in French.  Dr. Bonnefoy has uploaded it to his site.

In honor of Abdullah al-Baradduni


لذكرى 15 لرحيل الشاعر والمؤرخ والمفكر عبدالله البردوني
بمناسبة الذكرى 15 لرحيل شاعر اليمن الكبير وضميرها الإنساني الأستاذ/ عبدالله البردُّوني، تنظم جبهة إنقاذ الثورة السلمية الصباحية الموسيقية للفنان/ عبدالفتاح القباطي، التي يغني فيها عدد من قصائد البردُّوني. ومعرض الصور للفنان/ عبدالرحمن الغابري، الذي يستعرض ما إلتقطته عدسته من صور تعبر عن مراحل عدة من حياة الأستاذ عبدالله البردُّوني.
تقام الفعالية، العاشرة صباح السبت 30/8/2014م ببيت الثقافة/ شارع القصر/ صنعاء

New AIYS Resident Director

Dr. Salwa Dammaj, AIYS Sanaa Resident Director (left)
and Dr. Khalid Abdullah

The Sanaa office of AIYS has a new resident director, Dr. Salwa Dammaj.  Dr. Dammaj has a Ph.D. in International Relations from Malaya University (2013) on the topic “United States in the Red Sea: An Analysis on Foreign and Security Policy, 1990-2008.”  She is also Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Sanaa University.  On August 26 Dr. Dammaj hosted around 25 guests to a public discussion event, at which two new AIYS Yemeni fellows for 2013/2014 talked about their research proposals.  The first was by ‘Ali Faisal, who spoke on recording popular stories from Socotra and translating them into Arabic and English. His proposed research was amazing and he surprised the audience.  The second talk was by Khaled Abdullah on a historical study of colonial Aden’s political development and the election of councils from 1937-1967. His proposal was well done too. Most of the audience were professors in Sanaa University and YCSR.