They’re getting closer

Spare a thought for the unfortunate people of Yemen. They’re getting their very own Saudi-style virtue squad, which they didn’t even ask for and don’t actually very much want.

For many Yemenis, and for women in particular, this was another alarming sign of the growth of Salafi extremism — an unwelcome import from neighbouring Saudi Arabia where the “mutaween” religious police are part of the scenery. “These people scare the hell out of me,” complained Nadia al-Sakkaf, the editor of the Yemen Times.

Yeah they’d scare me too if they turned up where I live.

The first signs appeared a few months ago in the Red Sea port of Hodeida, where young men and women began to be accosted by bearded vigilantes demanding proof that couples were related…Daoud al-Jeni, a self-styled “virtue activist’, described his mission as being to curb “obscenity and prostitution”. Anti-vice teams, some armed with sticks, have also been operating in Aden, the former British colony in the south.

Yes but the problem with people like Daoud al-Jeni and other self-styled virtue activists is that they think everything is obscene, especially everything female. The only non-obscene female is one who’s firmly inside a house which has no windows facing the street.

“This is a step backward for human rights in Yemen,” warned Hurriya Mashour, the deputy head of the state-backed Womens National Committee…Zindani and like-minded ulema, or scholars, have long demanded government action against “moral corruption”…They have also opposed calls for a legally enforceable minimum age for marriage in a country where girls as young as 12, especially in villages, are frequently married off to older men.

Because there’s nothing at all obscene about a 12-year-old girl being married off. No, that’s not obscene, it’s just women’s faces (and the rest of them) that’s obscene.

Aid organisations working in the poorest country in the Arab world are also worried by the virtue committee, and especially about the setback it represents to the cause of empowering women, who are already battling 70% illiteracy and one of the biggest gender gaps on earth. “This is a country with so many serious problems and it has a terrible image,” said one foreign development expert. “They are going to shoot themselves in the foot on this. This is not entirely different from how the Taliban started out and it would be a huge tragedy for the women of Yemen if they get caught in the political crossfire.”

Not good.

3 Responses to “They’re getting closer”