Car bomb at U.S. embassy kills 16 (Yemen)

A car bomb set off a series of explosions outside the heavily fortified U.S. embassy in Yemen on Wednesday and a Yemeni security source said at least 16 people, including six attackers, were killed.

A U.S. embassy official confirmed that the blasts were caused by a car bomb and that there were reports of casualties.

“This morning a car exploded at the main gate of the embassy in Sanaa. There was an initial explosion and several secondary explosions,” a U.S. embassy spokesman told Reuters by telephone.

“We do have reports of casualties. Right now, I cannot confirm the number, nor the nationality nor the severity of the casualties.”

A group calling itself Islamic Jihad in Yemen claimed responsibility for the bombing and threatened attacks on other embassies including those of Britain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

It had threatened in a previous statement on Tuesday to launch a series of attacks unless the Yemeni government met its demands for the release of several members from jail.

“We, the organization of Islamic Jihad in Yemen declare our responsibility for the suicide attack on the American embassy in Sanaa,” the statement read.

“We will carry out the rest of the series of attacks on the other embassies that were declared previously, until our demands are met by the Yemeni government.”

Smoke was seen rising from the heavily fortified U.S. compound in Sanaa and ambulances and fire engines raced to the scene, which was cordoned off by police, witnesses said.

The security source said that six attackers and four bystanders were killed, while the rest were Yemeni security forces.

Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, has grappled with a spate of al Qaeda attacks this year, including one on the U.S. embassy, another near the Italian mission and others on Western tourists.

An al Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility in March for a mortar attack that missed the U.S. embassy but wounded 13 girls at a nearby school.

The United States ordered non-essential staff to leave Yemen in April, a day after an attack on a residential compound.

The Yemeni government joined the U.S.-led war against terrorism following the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities in 2001.

It has jailed dozens of militants in connection with bombings of Western targets and clashes with authorities, but is still viewed in the West as a haven for Islamist militants.

The government of the poor Arab country has also been fighting Shi’ite rebels in the northern province of Saada since 2004 and faced protests against unemployment and inflation.

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Clerics Warn Women Against Leaving Their Homes (Yemen)

A group of Yemeni clerics warned women from going outside of their homes. The order, they claim, is to protect society from “vice and sexual chaos”.

The clerics also said that political role for women contradicts Islamic values.

“We warn against opening the door for women, who will get out of their houses and mix with men,” the clerics stated in a booklet distributed during a meeting.

“Women getting out of their houses and mixing with men in places of work will lead to non-marital relations … loss of decency, adultery and illegal children,” the booklet said.

A question to these clerics would be- why is the onus on the women to give up her basic rights? A woman cannot cause a loss of decency or commit adultery without a man.  Shouldn’t they both be equally culpable?

It is this backwards thinking that does not do women any justice.

Blaming Others (Farooq Sulehria)

The Amnesty International report on human rights for the year 2007 is out. The Muslim world constitutes, as usual, bleakest chapter. Every single country across the Muslim world has been pointed out by the Amnesty International either for executions and torture or discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities. Punishments never handed down even during the Stone Age, have been awarded in 21st century Muslim world. In one case, two Saudi nationals were awarded 7,000 lashes. Yes, 7,000. And executions? Well, 335 in Iran, 158 in Saudi Arabia and 135 in Pakistan. Violation of human rights, it seems, is the only thing that unites the otherwise divided Muslim world.

The report is no exception. The Muslim world cuts a sorry figure every time a global watchdog releases its findings. Freedom of expression here remains curtailed, Reporters Sans Frontieres annually reports. Regarding freedom of expression, there is a joke often told in Arab world. At a meeting, a US journalist says: “We have complete freedom of expression in the US. We can criticise the US president as much as we like.” The Arab journalist replies. “We also have complete freedom of expression in Arab world. We can also criticise the US president as much as we like.”

Similarly, it is either Bangladesh or Pakistan or Nigeria which is on top of Transparency International’s corruption indexes. However, when Nobel laureates gather in Stockholm every December, Muslim scientists and writers are conspicuous by their absence. In case, as Naguib Mahfouz is crowned, he is stabbed and rendered paralysed. The irony, or tragedy, is that his attacker had not even read his excellent books. Or we disown Dr Abdul Salam just because he belonged to the Ahmadiya community. Salam’s case deserves special mention since it underlines the absurdity that characterises this part of the world.

When all else fails, “Jews” and “Christian” West are there to lay the blame for all our ills. Conspiracy theories instead of scientific, rational thought holds sway across much of the Muslim world. And every time a rights abuse is highlighted in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, a typical Muslim answer is: Look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Chechnya. True, imperialism and Zionism have a hand in our predicament. However, there are many wounds one can only describe as self-inflicted.

Take, for instance, the Iran-Iraq war, one of the last century’s bloodiest conflicts. There is no denying the fact that the United States backed the Saddam regime. But it was the Arab sheikhdoms, panicked at the Iranian revolution, that stoked the flames of war. And, ironically, now in the post-Saddam era when the “Christian” West has written off Iraq’s Saddam-era debt worth $66 billion, Iraq’s Arab brothers refuse to write off that country’s $67 billion loans.

Similarly, last century’s bloodiest Muslim genocide was not carried out by Serbs, Israelis, Americans, Europeans or Hindus. It was Pakistan’s military that refused to respect a democratic verdict and plunged East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, into an ocean of blood. Millions were killed, maimed, raped and rendered homeless. Luckily, Pakistan has a “Hindu” neighbour. “Hindus are born enemies of Islam’. Hence, Pakistani children are now taught that a Bengali traitor (revered by Bengalis as founder of Bangladesh), in connivance with our “Hindu” neighbour, dismembered Pakistan. Ironically, of all her South Asian neighbours, Pakistan enjoys most cordial relations with the world’s only Hindu state, Nepal. The other big genocide was perpetrated by Indonesia. The target was: its own citizens who were members of the Communist Party.

Figures are not available but Israel perhaps cannot match Iran in executing Arabs. Iran’s confessional regime is a champion of the Arab cause in Occupied Territories but Arabs of its Khuzestan province are regularly sent to the gallows. Seizing the opportunity, one may also point out how only recently Afghan refugees were driven out of Iran as if Afghan refugees were not as Muslim as Palestinians. And, by the way in the fallen “Emirate of Afghanistan” itself, Hazaras were slaughtered by the Taliban in their thousands almost a decade ago – mainly because Hazaras are Shia. In Iraq, more people have been killed in Shia-Sunni clashes than in resisting the US occupation. Shia-Sunni clashes in Pakistan have claimed more lives than those lost in its wars against India. Ironically, this only “nuclear power” of the Muslim world is not being occupied on its eastern front by its “Hindu” neighbour but is losing territory on its western front to its own citizens.

One can mention from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait to the recent Hamas-Fatah infighting (a shameful tribute to Israel on its 60th anniversary). The list is long. Indeed, unending. However, the solution to all our problems is always simple: return to an imagined past which, mercifully for the people of the seventh century, never existed. Every time, a scientist in the West is ready with an invention, our readymade answer is: we knew about it 1,400 years ago what the West has found only now. We kill Theo van Gogh when confronted with a film. We burn down our own cities in response to a blasphemous and racist caricature. Still, we refuse to understand that our answer to every “provocation” is either a fatwa or mindless violence – perhaps because creativity is anathema to us. Not because we lack fertile minds, but because we lack liberation and freedom — liberation from self-imposed mental, moral, and cultural censors. And freedom to think and express. Time to heed the great Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, who said:

Five thousand years

Growing beards

In our caves.

Our currency is unknown,

Our eyes are a haven for flies.

Friends,

Smash the doors,

Wash your brains,

Wash your clothes.

Friends,

Read a book,

Write a book,

Grow words, pomegranates and grapes,

Sail to the country of fog and snow.

Nobody knows you exist in caves.

People take you for a breed of mongrels.

This great article appeared in the The News International:
http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=118852

Over half of married women under 15, says report (Yemen)

Sanaa, 9 June (AKI) – Over half of women who marry in Yemen are under 15 years of age, said a field study conducted by Yemen’s Women and Development Study Centre, which is affiliated with the University of Sanaa.

According to the study which was cited in the Yemen Times newspaper, the rate of child marriage among females in Yemen reached 52 percent, compared to less than seven percent among males.

On top of that, in rural parts of Yemen, girls usually get married at an average age of 12 to 13 years old.

The parliament in Yemen is reportedly working to raise the minimum marriageable age, which currently stands at 15 years old and so far there is no punishment for those families who allow their daughters to marry under this age.

“Recently the case of early marriage in Yemen has come to light, especially after the divorce of a little girl last month,” said Amatalrazaq Hummad, Yemen’s Minister of Social Affairs, in an interview with the Qatari daily Al-Watan.

Hummad was referring to the case of ‘Noujoud’, the first eight-year-old child to obtained a divorce from her husband who is in his early 30s, through a court in Sanaa. n [digg=http://digg.com/world_news/52_of_Married_Women_Under_15_Years_Old_Yemen]

8-year-old girl asks for divorce in court (Yemen)

Brave Nojoud Muhammed Nasser YT
(Photo by Hamed Thabet)

SANA’A, April 9 – An eight-year-old girl decided last week to go the Sana’a West Court to prosecute her father, who forced her to marry a 30-year-old man.

Nojoud Muhammed Nasser arrived at court by herself on Wednesday, April 2, looking for a judge to handle her case against her father, Muhammed Nasser, who forced her two months ago to marry Faez Ali Thamer, a man 22 years her senior. The child also asked for a divorce, accusing her husband of sexual and domestic abuse.

According to Yemeni law, Nojoud cannot prosecute, as she is underage. However, court judge Muhammed Al-Qathi heard her complaint and subsequently ordered the arrests of both her father and husband.

“My father beat me and told me that I must marry this man, and if I did not, I would be raped and no law and no sheikh in this country would help me. I refused but I couldn’t stop the marriage,” Nojoud Nasser told the Yemen Times. “I asked and begged my mother, father, and aunt to help me to get divorced. They answered, ‘We can do nothing. If you want you can go to court by yourself.’ So this is what I have done,” she said.

Nasser said that she was exposed to sexual abuse and domestic violence by her husband. “He used to do bad things to me, and I had no idea as to what a marriage is. I would run from one room to another in order to escape, but in the end he would catch me and beat me and then continued to do what he wanted. I cried so much but no one listened to me. One day I ran away from him and came to the court and talked to them.”

“Whenever I wanted to play in the yard he beat me and asked me to go to the bedroom with him. This lasted for two months,” added Nasser. “He was too tough with me, and whenever I asked him for mercy, he beat me and slapped me and then used me. I just want to have a respectful life and divorce him.”

Nasser’s uncle, who does not want to reveal his name, is following the case now as her guardian. According to her uncle, after Muhammed Nasser, the girl’s father, lost his job as a garbage truck driver in Hajjah, he became a beggar, and soon after suffered from mental problems.

Thamer is in jail now. “Yes I was intimate with her, but I have done nothing wrong, as she is my wife and I have the right and no one can stop me,” he said. “But if t

The husband YT Photo by Hamed Thabet

he judge or other people insist that I divorce her, I will do it, it’s ok.”

So far, no accusations have been made against her father, who was later released due to health problems, or Nasser’s husband, who will remain in jail for further investigation.

“So far there is no case and no charges, as Nojoud arrived by herself to court asking just for a divorce,“ said Shatha Ali Nasser, a lawyer in the Supreme Court who is following Nojoud Nasser’s story.

Shatha Ali Nasser confirmed that item number 15 in Yemeni civil law reads that “no girl or boy can get married before the age of 15.” However, this item was amended in 1998 so parents could make a contract of marriage between their children even if they are under the age of 15. But the husband cannot be intimate with her until she is ready or mature,” said Nasser.“This law is highly dangerous because it brings an end to a young girl’s happiness and future fruitful life. Nojoud did not get married, but she was raped by a 30-year old man.”

Nasser confirmed that Nojoud Nasser’s case is not the first of its kind in Yemen, but it is the first time that a girl went to court by herself to ask for a divorce.

“We are not planning to return Nojoud to her family. Who knows? Maybe after a few years the same thing will happen to her again,” said Shatha Ali Nasser. “We are planning to put her in Dar Al-Rahama [an non-governmental organization that works with children], where she can have a better life and education. We do not want her family to pay her expenses, as they are poor.”

Congratulations to this young girl for standing up for herself and her rights as a human.

Article source: Yemen Times