Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Human Rights Defender: Ahmed Kulebi

Image: Ahmed Kulebi
Ahmed Kulebi, a human rights defender from Yemen, shares his story.

1. What's happening with the human rights scene in Yemen right now?
I would like to let you know about the situation of Human rights in Yemen, as you know the Arab culture - Yemeni especially - suffers the consequences of social relations, which take the nature of coercion, oppression and domination, which are rooted in families, schools and in the public life of these communities. These relationships affect young people, adults, parents and children, females and males, and the poor and the rich, the weak and strong. There are five vulnerable groups in Yemen:
·         Akhdam: They live a miserable life where they live in poverty and lack of food and basic services (education and health among others)
·         Slaves: This segment reveals the defect of the government and the society in which  there have been reports in the recent  that there are dozens of cases of slavery in certain areas,
·         Ismailia: A range of people that suffered and continue to suffer marginalization and exclusion and have been historically ill abuse and defamation and oppression throughout history. After the revolution of September 26, the law gave them the right of citizenship and freedom, but it is just a formal right. Reality dictates otherwise where members of this community are suffering from the official and social marginalization.
·         The Jewish: After being a subjected of persecution and prosecution, some of them having even been murdered in the past, their presence is limited in Sana'a and a small minority of them live in the district of Raida  Kharif and Thaibeen in the province of Amran.
·         The Women: Arab women in general tend to suffer from the male discrimination in varying degrees from country to country, but in Yemen, the rights of the women are digestible, especially in the rural areas,
2. Can you tell us your story as a Human Rights Defender on field in Yemen? 
I have worked as a human rights defender for eight years at the Dar Al-Salam Organization, or DASO. During this period, I have worked hard at trying to stop conflicts in my village many times, through the cooperation of many sheikhs to mediate a truce among them, and to solve the conflict and help them to arrive at an agreement. The end result was the creation of an agreement that obliged everyone in two villages and prevented the conflict from restarting for many months. I also worked hard towards promoting a new culture in Yemen for the first time in the Middle East, to exceed the debt-to-human relationship and to improve schools, universities, and primary schools. In the process, I have strived to persuade many young people affected by the culture of extremism and terrorism to exchange this for a culture of peace. During the years 2011-2012 and in partnership with international backers, I worked towards training 360 trainees in the construction of peace, tolerance, and conflict resolution. I have also successfully secured the peaceful release of many abducted foreigners.
My village has experienced tribal war for over thirty years. I lost my father when I was just seven because of this conflict. I don’t want any other child to lose his father like I did. That made me work to defend human rights. I started working within my village, especially with young people because often, it is they who are the victims. I wanted to change their mindsets by shifting them from being victims to being the solution. I tried to make them understand that conflict is a mistake our fathers made, and that we, as the succeeding generation, should not continue it. I have drawn up several campaigns to help young people to leave behind any conflict that was passed down to us, and instead, to move in a new direction. Instead of continuing to be involved in a conflict, I encourage them to put their energies into useful directions – such as studying and contributing to development of tribal societies.
3. What have your major challenges been?
My life has been in danger a lot of times for the work that I have done. When I work with DASO, I feel I am making an important contribution to Yemen’s transition process and to building a more stable and peaceful society that is conducive to true democratic development, the rule of law, and promotion of human rights and social development.  This work has been profiled on Al-Jazeera in print and video. My desire to resolve conflict and promote social development also motivated me to pursue my undergraduate studies at the Sana’a University’s College of Law. I have a Licentiate's Degree. After my life was in real danger, I couldn't apply to complete the LLM programme in Public International Law and Armed Conflict. I hope I will be better able to apply to do this through any programme abroad.
4. Has any segment of society given you any difficulties or challenges in your path as a Human Rights Defender? Can you tell us about it?
The government does apply laws and regulations of course. Without laws and regulations, their rights are stolen in so many ways. The powerful groups don't apply the law, and if they do apply them, they do it carelessly. People in Yemen live as communities. The minorities suffer, almost systematically, the consequences of marginalization, persecution and exclusion. The most basic of rights are violated, which affects the process of construction and development in all fields. This slows down evolution of civilization and progress of the social structure, diminishing and belittling the dreams and ambitions of these groups as they attempt to move from what it is now - bad - to what it should be – good.  Consequently, these are the challenges we all face as people, and especially as a human rights defender:
·         Violence, marginalization, humiliation, persecution and discrimination.
·         Lack of equal citizenship
·         Ignorance and illiteracy in practicing the democratic rights
·         Conflicts and prejudices
·         Religious extremism and lack of accepting opinion and the other opinion.
·         Gearing, extortion and slavery (slavery) and trading their sons and handed down from generation to generation
5. What do you see as a solution to the issue, and how do you see peace unfolding in the region?
Issues like these require the development of human rights in the country through the institutions of civil society, with the assistance and cooperation of the political, intellectual and legal elites along with the support and sponsorship of the donors, with close monitoring of the process and their supervision which will focus on promoting equal citizenship. The Constitution of the Republic of Yemen committed to the principles of human rights and their international regulations, besides the legislation and laws which in its entirety calls to alleviate the suffering and violence, discrimination and violation of these categories, but they were useless because the old community culture is still being followed. This makes the issue of emerging from the ashes difficult, and this has made these groups in the country isolated and imposed social restrictions on them, that are not religious and have no ethics at all.