Last Updated: Tue May 01, 2012 12:47 pm (KSA) 09:47 am (GMT)

Al-Qaeda targets Yemeni women for not wearing face veils

Women in south Yemen have complained of harassment at the hands of militants who want to enforce the wearing of the full face veil. (Reuters)
Women in south Yemen have complained of harassment at the hands of militants who want to enforce the wearing of the full face veil. (Reuters)

Al-Qaeda militants in southern Yemen have begun to harass women who do not wear the veil with Bikya Masr reporting on one instance of physical abuse as militants forced a woman to don the full face veil in Aden.

The group, known as Ansar al-Sharia, believes a woman should follow the example of the Prophet’s wives and be fully covered, including her face.

Women in Aden, however, have expressed outrage at the recent form of harassment against them, according to a report on Sunday.

“How can they dare attack girls and women who do not wear the veil? It is a personal choice, which should not be imposed on anyone,” school teacher Anessa Abdelaalem was quoted by Bikya Masr as saying.

Ansar al-Sharia has also been accused by local authorities of throwing acid on several girls “for refusing to bow to their demands.”

Deep rooted problem

Harassment is not limited to Aden or to intimidation or attacks by militant groups.

Yemen is considered one of the poorest countries in the world with a terrible record on gender equality. However, during the protests against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, more women stepped out of their homes to join the demonstrations.

The Arab world’s first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, Tawwakul Karman, is Yemeni.

But women remain marginalized and have little recourse to justice when it comes to harassment.

A 20-year-old woman from Ibb, who only gave her name as Zainab, complained of being harassed by a police officer in Taez, according to a report Monday in Yemen Times.

When she shouted at him in the hope that he would be intimidated or she would attract attention of people around her, she was arrested by the police man for indecent behavior.

The issue is not effectively dealt with by law enforcers as a result of which women do not report incidents.

An official from the interior ministry, Lieutenant Haifa Hussein told the Yemeni paper that although a phone line for complaints has been set up, few people call in due to fears of being stigmatized.

Yemenis will go to the polls in 2014 to vote in the first independent elections. Women activists are pushing for a law that will guarantee them 30 percent representation in parliament – a move they hope will help them challenge traditional norms from a legal perspective.

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