PartnersGlobal Director Rasha Abdel Latif Appointed to AIUSA Board

Rasha Abdel Latif, Director of MENA and Civil Society Strengthening at PartnersGlobal, was recently appointed as a member on the Board of Directors at Amnesty International – USA (AIUSA). We could not think of a more deserving person to step into this leadership role at one of the most well-established and well-respected human rights organizations. In this leadership role, Rasha will contribute to the development of a clear vision for AIUSA and provide stewardship for the organization, establishing appropriate and constructive working relationships with staff and ensures the financial health of the organization through fiscal oversight and fundraising.

Rasha brings nearly seventeen years of experience to this leadership role, working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with local and international organizations and activists to amplify citizen voices, increase participation in decision making processes, advocate for human rights, and create innovative solutions to social problems. Throughout her career, Rasha led and coordinated many local and national human rights campaigns and initiatives.

“I strive every day to be a catalyst for change and am driven by making a difference through advocating for human rights issues and for safe environments for women, youth, human rights activists, and marginalized communities.” – Rasha Abdel Latif

Rasha is Arab-American and was born and raised in Jordan. She has Palestinian roots and a passion for global citizenship. Rasha started her journey with The Partners Network in 2009, working at PartnersJordan for eight years. In 2019, she joined PartnersGlobal as the Director for MENA and Civil Society Strengthening where she oversees a portfolio of regional programs focused on social accountability, governance, transparency, anti-corruption, and protecting and defending civic space. Based in Washington DC, Rasha is an active member of the Arab American community and loves the opportunity to showcase and share her cultural heritage and customs with others. You can follow Rasha on Twitter at @RashaAbdelLatif.

At PartnersGlobal, we believe ordinary citizens have a right and a role to shape the decisions and outcomes that affect them. We know that building a resilient civil society is essential to achieving inclusive, just, and prosperous societies based on democratic principles that respect the rights of all citizens. That’s why we work in service of local leaders and organizations to bring about peaceful change to their communities. Because locally led change leads to more sustainable outcomes. And a resilient civil society is a catalyst for change.

Each morning, fourteen-year-old Fairouz woke up early to take the long walk to get water from a spring outside Al-Manwar, a small village surrounded by hills and green terraced fields in Ibb governorate in Yemen. After she completed 8th grade, Fairouz left school to help her family with everyday errands, such as collecting water and firewood.

“In our village, girls have to fetch water, collect firewood, or tend sheep. My father insisted that I stop going to school in order to help get water for the family… I used to get up in the morning to get water and see other girls going to school. I burst into tears seeing them going to school. I used to ask myself, ‘Why do I not do that? Why does my father not let me go to school?’”

The Roots of Community Level Conflict

Al-Manwar is located about 200 kilometers from Sana’a, on a remote clifftop at the end of a series of dilapidated roads connecting the village to the city of Jeblah. Life in Al-Manwar can be difficult for residents of the village – particularly young girls. For years, they trekked across unpaved roads to reach their school, located 1200 meters from the village. Despite this distance, many girls were able to attend school until the country-wide conflict began in 2015. The war waging across Yemen took a toll on the area’s economy and the ability of its people to access basic services. After the conflict began, the electricity that powered local water pumps stopped flowing to Al-Manwar and families started connecting a haphazard network of private pipes to the local spring.

This created tension in the community, with some unable to afford the equipment to build the pipes. In 2016, a group of young men who saw this system as unfair destroyed many of the pipes, disrupting the flow of freshwater to village residents. Since then, young girls have borne the brunt of collecting water for drinking and washing, dropping out of school in order to carry out this task. Throughout each day, girls from Al-Manwar walk more than a kilometer along the long path to the spring and carry water back to their families’ homes. Carrying the containers on their heads, these girls walk down narrow and difficult paths fraught with danger, scared of what they might encounter. Many face sexual harassment from young men when they walk alone.

After several years of conflict within the community, local residents and community leaders of Al-Manwar were desperate to find a solution to repair the social fabric, bring water back into the homes of villagers, and help the girls go back to school.

Then in 2021, local organization Al-Shaimaa Foundation, together with PartnersYemen, designed an initiative centered on community dialogue and building support for a new water system. At the heart of the initiative was the creation of a seven-member Conflict Resolution Committee that included local sheiks, authority officials, and other influential community members and whose mandate was to peacefully resolve community issues in Al-Manwar.

Employing Dialogue to Find Sustainable Solutions

An initial dialogue was facilitated by Al-Shaimaa Foundation and PartnersYemen to assist the committee in finding a solution to the water crisis. The committee proposed the establishment of a consolidated water supply network to deliver water equally to all local households. Using their enhanced dialogue and facilitation skills, the Committee was able to secure an agreement with all the relevant parties, including a man who lived near the spring and had benefitted the most from the status quo. The negotiated compromise included extending a water supply pipe to his house.

Shortly thereafter, the villagers signed a reconciliation agreement that set the terms for access to the water supply network, formed a maintenance committee for the system, and established a mechanism for dealing with any future conflicts around water management in the village.

Two weeks later, fresh water reached Al-Manwar’s village center.

Today, Fairouz is back in school and excited about the opportunities now open to her in the future. Fairouz’s new reality only became possible after the intervention of Al-Shaimaa Foundation and PartnersYemen, who helped create and then worked together with the Conflict Resolution Committee to address a set of issues that had plagued the residents of Al-Manwar since 2015. Young girls like Fairouz, who had disproportionately suffered before the project, now benefit the most from the new water system. In all, the 23 girls who had dropped out of school were able to go back and continue with their studies.

“Had water not been delivered to the village, my father would not have been convinced to send me back to school… Thank God, I have resumed classes and I go to school regularly,” Fairouz said. “Now, water is in the vicinity of our home. We no longer need to fetch water from that faraway source.”

PartnersYemen’s Work with Communities

Since 2016, PartnersYemen has set up over 90 similar community committees in 18 governorates across Yemen. These committees have served as essential links between community members and local authorities by resolving conflicts that provide more equitable access to local services. Some committees have even established their own new civil society organizations, sustainably advocating for changes at the local level.

In recent years, PartnersYemen and its local civil society partners have found that such committees – when provided with guidance and technical support for facilitation and dialogue – can play key roles in resolving conflicts, forging multiple community reconciliation agreements over resources and service delivery issues.

Partners’ local network of CSOs, of which Al-Shaimaa Foundation in Ibb is a key member, is an important local link to communities across the country. These organizations use their knowledge of local community dynamics to select the local CRC members, develop the Committee’s scopes of work, and provide guidance to help mediate reconciliation sessions with conflicting parties.

While Fairouz and her classmates have benefited greatly from this initiative, important work remains to be done both in Al-Manwar and other underdeveloped rural areas across the country that have suffered under the pressures of the conflict. By utilizing similar conflict resolution and dialogue tools, and with support from Yemeni-led civil society organizations like PartnersYemen and Al-Shaimaa, other communities may be able to work towards sustainable solutions like Ibb’s water system to strengthen their communities and provide opportunities for the most vulnerable.

This piece was co-written by Saddam Al-Dhelaa, PartnersYemen and Matt Ciesielski, PartnersGlobal. For more information on our work in the Middle East and North Africa, please visit our website HERE.

Photo Credit: Girls in School by Julien Harneis

Taiz, the second most populated city in Yemen, has been under siege for almost seven years. Ansarallah forces are exercising tight control over all three entrances to the center city, which is controlled by Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG)-backed forces. Only two rugged, one-lane dirt roads with heavy traffic lead out of the city to the North and South. Overcrowded vehicles carry travelers and commuters between the two sides of the city along with trucks and pickups loaded with supplies – including potable water – that rarely reach residents.

The situation has left Taiz residents in a dire situation with limited water supply. This was further exacerbated when nine water reservoirs inside the city came under the control of an armed group that sold the water for profit.  In response, the government-run Water Authority cut the supply completely, inadvertently depriving residents in three districts – Al-Mudhafar, Al-Qaherah, and Salah —of water. Women, girls, and children were forced to travel long distances on unsafe roads to fetch water, putting them at risk for gender-based violence and sniper attacks.

Challenging Gender Norms

Ola Al-Aghbari is a young Yemeni woman and civil society leader from Taiz who heads the Sheba Youth Foundation. In 2016, Ola participated in a series of trainings that PY conducted with youth and community leaders in partnership with the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and UNDP, and developed skills in conflict mitigation and mediation, gaining practical experience to identify and address community needs and resolve conflict. She founded the Sheba Youth Foundation shortly thereafter to continue serving her community.

In 2021, Ola observed the dire situation in Al-Mudhafar, Al-Qaherah, and Salah and approached PartnersYemen with a proposal to resolve the water crisis. Through the support of a small grant, as well as coaching and mentoring provided by the PartnersYemen team, Ola started working on the issue. Soon after, however, several radical mosque preachers spoke out against her efforts claiming, “People who allow a woman to lead them are doomed.” Traditional gender roles in Yemeni culture frown upon women taking the leading role in certain situations, especially when it comes to anything political. Ola knew she had to get in front of the situation and ensure her legitimacy – and her organization’s – remained intact.

Ola adopted a new strategy to counter the influence of the conservative leaders and build credibility. Ola consulted with local figures and political party leaders in the city and formed a committee with members who were selected based on their status and influence. They included a prominent tribal leader, a local government representative, a Chamber of Commerce representative, a local female mediator, and lawyer, and a highly-respected local caricaturist. With Ola facilitating, the group managed to convince the military commanders to hand over nine water reservoirs to the Office of the Ministry of Water and Environment (OMWE) in Taiz. To date, there are formal agreements to hand over control of six wells, one of which is now officially run by OMWE. This initiative not only gave access to clean water to 41,000 residents in Al-Mudhafar, Al-Qaherah, and Salah districts, but it also supported governance structures in Taiz to deliver services. As the director of OMWE noted,

Thanks to the successful mediation by Ola, taking control of the water reservoirs is a first step to revive the role of the Water Authority so that it can better serve the people.”

Ripple Effects

With PartnersYemen’s support, the Sheba Youth Foundation further developed an interactive map of the water sector in Taiz that will set the stage for future efforts to resolve water-related conflict and improve water delivery to residents in the besieged city. Ola’s efforts spawned demand and support for similar interventions throughout Taiz. Several civilians and community leaders asked the Sheba Youth Foundation to continue its mediation efforts to bring public facilities under the control of the local authority. Toran Al-Hadad, one of the beneficiaries from the initiative shared,

There were several local initiatives to free the water facilities before, but all of them failed. However, there are tangible and sustainable results on the ground led by Sheba Youth Foundation and we hope that continues.

Sheba Youth Foundation was invited to share the story of their successful mediation efforts at the UNESCO conference that took place at the end of September 2021.

  November 24, 2021

This op-ed was written by Mohammed Abu Dalhoum, Senior Program Associate for the MENA Team at PartnersGlobal. It first appeared in the online news outlet Arab News. It is lightly edited and extended here with an addendum from Athir Hatem, General Manager for PartnersIraq. The views expressed by the authors of the piece are their own.

Last month, Daesh carried out an attack on a small village in Diyala, Iraq, killing 11 defenseless civilians, indicating that Iraq’s security forces are unable to protect its citizens. Even more problematically, it warns us that Daesh is anything but gone.

Over the past decade, several scholars have put forth arguments to examine the life cycle of violent extremist groups. They agree that terrorist groups come and go; they will exert their control for a few years, lose out, break into dormant cells, recruit, regroup, and come back in a different shape.

This life cycle is centered on a scramble for popular support between them and governments. At the peak of its control, Daesh recruited more than 40,000 foreign fighters from 120 countries. Such individuals were targeted through social media and face-to-face interactions, and many of them were disenfranchised with conditions in their own countries. Unemployment, poverty, a lack of opportunities, and social marginalization contributed to their decisions to join. Many of them were not necessarily indoctrinated, but child and adolescent recruits were.

Those who defected, in addition to those who were captured upon Daesh’s defeat, underwent certain rehabilitation and deradicalization programs, mostly in prisons in their native countries. Such programs are overly securitized and work on re-educating returnees with counter-narratives. They are also mostly ineffective, as many of those who were captured still retain much of their radical ideology upon their graduation/release. These programs have existed for years, yet more people joined terrorist groups than for any of the previous waves of violent extremism.

Drivers and Conditions for Violent Extremism in Iraq

Looking at the situation today, it is quite evident that socioeconomic conditions in the Middle East and North Africa are worse than they were in 2011. When evaluating MENA states’ ability to have a monopoly on the means of violence, composite data curated from the Global Peace Index, World Values Survey, Arab Barometer, and Transparency International reveals an average score of 49.5 out of 100, whereby 100 means the states can fully protect people, such protection is entirely legitimate, and security spending is transparent.

As such, political and economic disenfranchisement, as well as apathy and social marginalization, are still persistent. Governments are unable to create jobs and the COVID-19 pandemic has been economically disastrous. Further, there are more armed conflicts than before. Power vacuums are still there. Released returnees are still indoctrinated and the formerly adolescent recruits are now vengeful.

Millions of dollars have been spent on countering violent extremism projects, yet the conditions are now ripe for a Daesh 2.0 that may be as destructive as its predecessor. Over the past decade, governments and international organizations have focused on countering violent extremism projects, as they reasoned they could not have anticipated such levels of recruitment. Today, the early warning signs are crystal clear; thus, their efforts ought to be centered on preventing violent extremism projects.

Our young people are more at risk of falling into the vicious hands of terrorist groups. With record-high unemployment and rising drug addiction rates and suicide cases, governments and international organizations need to act pre-emptively. Youths in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan are particularly susceptible, given the security situation in these countries.

With the danger of another wave of terrorism in the region looming on the horizon, there must be comprehensive, holistic, and consistent preventive strategies. These strategies ought to encompass non-security actors and they need to address the underlying causes contributing to the susceptibility of our youth. It is the responsibility of decision-makers to find whichever means necessary to address the issues of unemployment, political and economic disenfranchisement, and social marginalization.

We cannot ignore the clear signs pointing toward another catastrophic wave of terrorist activity in the region. It is imperative to intercept it before it starts. The Global Coalition Against Daesh was successful last time, but we cannot afford to hope for the same political will and the presence of adequate technical and financial capabilities this time around. Resources are better spent on prevention, while international cooperation is a must if we are to avoid an inherently international disaster.

Reflections from Athir

Achieving the preventive mechanisms combating violent extremism is a collaborative responsibility amongst the community, governmental institutions of both the local and federal levels, and local and international civil society organizations. It should include various educational, religious, tribal, legal and other sectors, and is inclusive of all segments of society, such as community leaders, youth, women, civil activists, and others. Therefore, success does not fall on one entity or the other and is not ascribed to one specific party; rather it is a result of collective efforts.

Achieving justice within official legal and institutional structures and systems is crucial. Also, it is necessary to establish and track early warning indicators to help avoid or mitigate the drivers of extremism, such as ensuring a safe environment, providing social welfare, practicing political moderation, adhering to good governance principles and frameworks, investing in a sustainable economy, and promoting rule of law.

As for the reintegration of extremists back into society, we must advocate for developing collaborative mechanisms with the security services, local and central governments, and human rights committees to implement reintegration and rehabilitation programs during the sentence period in prison and beyond, providing protection and care for their reintegration into civil life.

In October 2021, PartnersGlobal launched ResiliencyPlus in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. ResiliencyPlus is one of PartnersGlobal’s signature methodologies for transformative organizational development in times of change and uncertainty and is especially relevant for civil society experiencing the impacts of closing civic space.

The virtual three-day workshop brought together twenty civil society leaders within the Partners Network – a coalition of some of the world’s leading peacebuilding and democracy organizations – including PartnersJordan, PartnersYemen, PartnersLebanon, and PartnersIraq. The purpose of the workshop was to introduce the ResiliencyPlus Framework and process to our network members and begin to sow the seeds of a future cadre of Regional Resiliency Coaches and Facilitators. Institutionalizing the methodology through local leadership helps to build understanding about the ways in which organizational resiliency manifests in the MENA region and how best to adapt the framework and process to respond effectively to regional dynamics.

“The workshop showed us how important it is to understand the internal factors the organization faces,” noted Fahd Saif, Deputy Executive Director of PartnersYemen. “In Yemen,” he continued, “we are definitely in need as individuals and as organizations for such analysis to serve our community better.” The participants from Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon agreed with him. 

The ResiliencyPlus methodology analyzes an organization’s internal vulnerabilities and external threats that must be mitigated and managed adaptively to remain viable in the face of shrinking civic space. It then explores an organization’s level of resiliency as it relates to seven key factors related to internal and external dynamics – adaptive capacity, contextual awareness, communications, staff commitment and capacity, legitimacy, entrepreneurial mindset, and connectedness.

Closing Civic Space in MENA

The MENA region faces various levels of closing civic space which impacts civil society in different ways. Some countries in the region that have well-established, long-standing civil society organizations are experiencing excessive responses by security forces against recent anti-government protests organized by civic actors and activists demanding accountability and justice. Other countries are witnessing a rise in the detention of journalists and human rights defenders, as clampdowns on freedom of speech increase. And for others that rate among the region’s most closed civic space environments, civil society is faced with navigating complex civic space dynamics in addition to the destabilizing elements of protracted conflict.

Throughout the workshop, network member participants reflected on the similarities and differences at the individual, organizational and sectoral levels of resiliency. Not surprisingly, the Resiliency factors resonated in both shared and nuanced ways, depending on the country context. For PartnersIraq, a relatively new member of the Partners Network, public image and legitimacy were front and center. For PartnersJordan – the oldest MENA Centers in the network – financial stability, preparedness, and contingency planning were the most pressing needs. All participants agreed that the ResiliencyPlus framework and process was necessary for their organization and throughout the region to better prepare for, adapt, and respond to changing civic space dynamics.

Going Forward

At PartnersGlobal, we are committed to authentic partnership and locally-led change. This workshop was the first step in a journey the PartnersGlobal team will take with the regional centers of the Partners Network. Our vision for 2022 is to invest in a Regional Resiliency Coaching Team by selecting a specialized group of seasoned facilitators/trainers and civil society experts to lead the charge and become certified Resiliency coaches – thus localizing the methodology in the MENA context and guaranteeing that there will be an ever-deepening capacity to undertake ResiliencyPlus long after our inaugural initiative is complete. 

PartnersGlobal is currently implementing ResiliencyPlus in East Asia, Eastern and Central Europe, East and West Africa, and Latin America. Adding the MENA region to existing efforts is paramount, as individuals, organizations, and the civil society sector around the world face increasing government restrictions that impact their ability to work freely and independently. 

by Fatema Al Majed   January 24, 2021

Female citizens of Bahrain married to foreigners demand citizenship for their children

Through its Strengthening Implementation of the Personal Status Law in Bahrain program, PartnersGlobal focuses on the citizenship topic as one of several areas for improvement in the implementation of the personal status law

This article was originally published in Arabic by Raseef22. The English version below has been edited for clarity.

There are many questions that Bahraini women who are married to foreigners carry as a weight on their shoulders, which raise certain fears for their future.

This anxiety overtakes their hopes, and their lives begin to seem like open-ended stories. These women are in constant search for answers to their endless questions and their children are in constant search for identity. It is an identity that they know very well but that does not officially belong to them or appear in their documents, even though they feel it in their sense of belonging, dialect, and customs!

Apprehensions around residence permits of a foreign husband and children

Shaikha, one such woman in this position, tells Raseef 22:

“The future worries me, for a person could die any time, and I can’t help thinking: ‘What will my children do after my death? How will they remain in Bahrain?’

I currently do not face any financial difficulties due to my good financial situation and my position at work, but I cannot help thinking about my children’s residency in Bahrain after they exceed the legal age as I will not be able to sponsor their stay after they exceed the legal age. So, what will happen if my son does not find a job after completing education? Will he be deported? Should they find a job, will they be treated as foreigners in the only country they have known?”

Shaika’s suffering started 13 years ago when she married a Moroccan man. Although Bahraini law allows Bahraini men to sponsor (citizenship for) their foreign wives, this does not apply to Bahraini women married to foreigners.

“My fears started to grow after I had my kids,” Shaikha says. “Will my kids be able to inherit my house if I died? Today foreigners are allowed to own property only in investment areas and my house is situated in a residential area. Will my children’s rights to the house be acknowledged?”

She continues: “I have been able to overcome many situations but there are many more to come.  For instance, at the beginning of my marriage I received the electricity bill, which had not been paid by the government as it should be for Bahraini citizens. I went to the authorities with complete certainty that it must be some sort of mistake, for I am a Bahraini citizen, and the lease agreement is under my name, and it is my right that the electricity should be supported by the government! The employee working there told me, “The word ‘citizens’  refers to male citizens!”

No right to housing, no accommodations

“I feel helpless, and my children’s basic rights have turned into unattainable dreams for me.”

This is how 27-year-old M.A.H (who chose to be referred to by her initials for this story) describes her situation. She dreams of enrolling her 5-year-old daughter in nursery school. However, financial difficulties stand in her way.

In a voice filled with pain she says, “The suffering I am going through is bigger than me finding words to describe it. I am a mother of two girls, the eldest is five and the youngest is one and a half. I am married to a Pakistani man. He had applied for citizenship in 2006 and is still waiting. I am worried that my children’s future will be like their father’s, especially since the law today prioritizes Bahrainis. We do not receive help from the government in terms of financial support, employment, or unemployment.”

She adds: “I am facing family issues with my husband’s family, and we do not have a place to live. So, my family and I keep moving from one place to another without any source of income, for my husband is currently unemployed and is ineligible to receive unemployment from the Ministry of Labor and Economic Development because it is only given to Bahraini citizens, even though his mother is Bahraini! I borrow money every time his residence permit is due for renewal and I live on the charity of others that may or may not come! So, I wait and worry!”

Citizenship application requests stopped for an unknown period!

M. points out that she submitted an official application request for her 5-year-old daughter with the Nationality, Passports and Residency Affairs by filling out the application forms, attaching the birth certificate, the Bahraini mother’s passport, a letter from the mother, as well as an official paper showing that the children are in the custody and sponsorship of their Bahraini mother. Yet there is no specified timeframe for her to get an answer to this request.

As for her second daughter, the mother learned that the window for submitting citizenship applications is currently closed for an unknown period due to the coronavirus.

She explains: “Following up on the matter has become difficult, and the wait has become terrifying because it means that my daughter will wait longer until she is granted citizenship. These requests take a very long time, and I am afraid that she will reach the legal age without a citizenship and then be trapped in this dilemma of solving her residency.”

M. continues: “I feel that everything in life is against me. I even requested financial aid from the authorities that provide financial support to low-income citizens, and my request was rejected because I am married to a non-Bahraini.”

She concludes by saying that she still tries communicating with the relevant authorities from the Royal Court to the Supreme Council for Women as well as all the civil women associations with no solution whatsoever!

Amending the law to be in line with the Bahraini Constitution

Article 4 of the Bahraini Nationality Law of 1963 states that a person is considered a Bahraini if he was born in Bahrain or outside Bahrain and his father was a Bahraini at the time of his birth. It is also possible to apply for citizenship upon fulfilling a set of conditions set forth in the law itself.

In 2017, The Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defense and National Security in parliament rejected two proposals for a law aimed at granting nationality to the children of a Bahraini mother married to a foreigner, explaining that “the issue of granting Bahraini nationality is related to the state’s sovereignty, which does not require expanding the grant of the citizenship without restrictions.”

In this context, Mariam Al Rowaie, an activist in the field of women’s rights and empowerment, says: “The fundamental solution to this issue is to amend Article (4) of the Bahraini Nationality Law to be in line with the spirit of the Bahraini constitution, which stipulates and affirms equality between women and men.”

Regarding temporary solutions for this matter, Al-Rowaie – who is a member of the Nationality Committee of the Bahrain Women’s Union and the head of the Tafawuq Consulting Center for Development – stated that it is possible to take measures to treat the children of Bahraini women equally when it comes to Bahraini citizenship. She pointed to the issuance of Law 35 in 2009 requiring that non-Bahraini wives married to Bahraini citizens and children of Bahraini women be treated the same as citizens in the fields of education and health. However, there are some loopholes and is not effectively implemented.

Al-Rowaie continues in her interview with Raseef22: “The children of Bahraini women are still deprived of scholarships. There is a woman whose son’s average exceeded 98 percent, and he did not obtain a scholarship. These children do not fully benefit from health services like the rest of the citizens, and their residency in the Kingdom is temporary and not permanent.”

Until the law is amended, Al-Rowaie demanded real solutions that end or alleviate their suffering, such as issuing a card that qualifies children of Bahraini women to benefit from privileges in employment, housing, social insurance, and residency.

Efforts of governmental and civil institutions

More than ten years ago, the Supreme Council for Women in the Kingdom of Bahrain launched a service to follow up on citizenship requests for the children of Bahraini mothers married to foreigners after these requests are submitted to the Nationality, Passports and Residency Affairs at the Ministry of Interior. The service seeks close out the requests with relevant authorities and expedite the acquisition of citizenship for these children.

In 2005, the Bahrain Women’s Union launched a campaign called, “Nationality is a right for me and my children.” The ongoing campaign activities include holding educational and awareness events, sharing information through media and social media, and meeting with members of parliament and with the Supreme Council for Women.

Children without citizenship and rejected requests

In one of the seminars organized by the Bahrain Women’s Union, Muhammad Ghulam, the son of a Bahraini woman who married an Iranian and separated from him a year after she gave birth, said, “I lived all my life with my mother in my grandfather’s house, and I do not have any nationality. I married a Bahraini woman, and we had our first child, and now my child is suffering from what I suffered because she is like me. She also is without a nationality!”

Nedaa Ali recounted her story in the same seminar. Some parts of the story were shared with Raseef 22.

She says, “I am a Bahraini citizen who married a Pakistani man and gave birth to three children born in Bahrain. Then my husband died. I have knocked on the doors of the Ministry of Housing more than once for being a widowed citizen, unemployed, and the sole breadwinner of my family, but my application was rejected because the children are non-Bahrainis.”

Zahra Salman narrates her story at the same seminar, stating, “I married an Iraqi man 37 years ago, and when we wanted to settle in Bahrain, I was unable to sponsor him back then and today he must be registered as an employee. Now that he has reached the age of sixty, we are facing difficulties in renewing his residency because of a law that stipulates that expatriates over the age of sixty can only renew their residency if they are in specialized occupations.”

She adds, “As for my children, I cannot sponsor them because they are over the age of eighteen and face difficulties in acquiring residency. I also have a daughter who is married to an Iraqi citizen, and I suffer greatly whenever we try to issue a visit visa for her.”

These are the voices that we were able to hear, but there are many others that we could not reach. Whenever we hear a story, we say that it’s terrible, and then we hear of greater suffering. The suffering grows and multiplies, and only the questions and confusion remain.

We wonder and search for solutions. We want to know how granting citizenship to the children of Bahraini women will affect the state’s sovereignty. What are the obstacles coming between granting the children of Bahraini women permanent residency? How long will these voices continue calling and remain unanswered?

by Hala Noman   March 9, 2021

Al-Anood is a young Yemeni woman (age 19) who was forced into an early marriage to a man who had originally wanted to marry her sister, but she refused. Once they were wed, the man regularly beat and insulted Al-Anood. After they divorced, the abuse continued, and he threatened to end Al-Anood’s life and her sister’s. Last October, he marched into her house and assaulted her acid, causing burns to her eyes, face, and across her body.

While this horrible crime happened in October 2020, it wasn’t published in the media until February 2021. For more than two months, no one knew about Al-Anood’s story. After the case was published in local news and social media, many people showed great empathy for Al-Anood and advocated for justice on her behalf.

This story came on the heels of other reported incidents of gender-based violence in Al-Mukalla, which many referenced in comments about the case on Facebook. Commenters stated that there are hundreds of  unknown “Al-Anoods” out there who are treated just as poorly if not worse.

However, not all commenters showed empathy or advocated for justice. Some posted excuses for the perpetrator or pointed the finger at Al-Anood.

“Some women deserve to burn. They have loud voices and want to work in NGOs. They lack minds and their proper place is in the kitchen.” said one of the commenters

A fear of reporting gender-based violence

In a country like Yemen, where the majority of the demographic structure is tribal, acts of violence against women are often not discussed and are rarely covered in media.

Affected by strict masculinity traditions, a lack of information about possible protection laws, and fear of stigma, many women stay silent when they are violated or subjected to violence.  Harassment or sexual abuse are extremely sensitive issues that women too often do not report due to fear of further stigma, family rejection, and other negative social implications.

Even female journalists often avoid covering issues related to gender, gender-based violence, sexual abuse, or other topics that may provoke the authorities or place a target on them or their families.

According to a 2010 Country Assessment on Violence Against Women:

“Violence Against Women (VAW) is rarely addressed in media policies, strategies, and programs. The media often avoids addressing such issues, considering them sensitive…Also, the media does not help overcome the discriminating circumstances; rather it deepens the stereotyped pattern of women. Furthermore, the media is not conveying repeated message of deep resolve to curb VAW. In fact, the media only covers occasional events on women’s issues, such as International Women Day on 8 March or events implemented by women organizations sporadically. Apart from that, programs on combating VAW are not an integral part of media strategies and programs”.

More than ten years later, these words sadly still ring true.

Attacks against women on social media

Facebook became the most used social media platform in Yemen in February 2019 at which point there were more than 2 million Facebook users in the country, 86 percent of whom were men. The majority of female Facebook users use fake names and profile pictures as women are regularly targeted on the platform and may face danger offline as a result.

Yemeni Facebook users write vicious comments that attack women and girls. This past Valentine’s Day, for instance, some couples in Taiz shared pictures on Facebook of them carrying red roses. Afterward, a bullying campaign attacked these couples, targeting the women in particular.

Changing roles of women, same narratives

After more than six years of ongoing conflict, the roles of Yemeni women have changed dramatically. With many male family members leaving their homes to fight or seek work, women became heads of households and took on new tasks outside the home.

Women suffer greatly when male members of the household die, are injured, detained, or disappeared. Yet the media rarely convey this suffering or present it to the public, not only because media channels, broadcasts, and newspapers are geared to serve the interests of a specific conflicting party, but also due to a lack of media professionals who understand and are willing to openly discuss the perspectives and challenges of women.

When a women’s case is published in media outlets, the empathy of the audience will depend on the way the case is presented. Lack of objectivity in presenting women’s experiences during the conflict or using women’s tragedies to drive donations make the audience less interested in following these issues.

To better protect women, to raise awareness of gender-based violence, and to better represent women’s experiences and perspectives, we need to change the way media engage with and cover “women’s issues.” Here are three recommendations:

  • Media professionals should receive intensive training on how to report objectively, especially around sensitive topics and incidents of violence against women;
  • Media outlets need to dispatch more positive stories of women, not just women as victims, and women’s suffering shouldn’t be misused or misreported;
  • We need to increase legal protections for journalists, so they have the freedom to report openly and objectively.

These changes won’t solve our problems overnight and won’t end violence against women or harmful depictions of women in the media. But they are one way to start building a media culture, and a greater Yemeni culture, that support equality.

Hala Noman is a Program Manager for PartnersYemen

  January 15, 2021

PartnersGlobal and PartnersYemen strongly urge the U.S. Department of State to reverse the designation of Ansar Allah, commonly known as the Houthis, as a terrorist organization.

Because of this decision, desperately needed humanitarian aid, as well as goods and personnel coming from the United States of America, will be prevented from entering northern Yemen, where 70 percent of the population lives. Today, after six years of war, nearly 80 percent of Yemen’s population is living below the poverty line; 120,000 have died and 500,000 have been wounded; and more than 7 million have been displaced both internally and outside the country. Those that remain lack access to basic necessities—food, water, and medicine. Every day this designation remains, the suffering of the most vulnerable families in Yemen will mount. The lives of millions are at stake.

Further, this designation counteracts years-long peacebuilding efforts by the international community and impacts the United Nations-led political peace process. This is not in the interest of Yemenis, the international community, or the United States. Therefore, we call on President-elect Biden and his administration to freeze and revoke this decision upon taking office; and we call on Congress to respond immediately to reverse this designation.

For over a decade, PartnersGlobal and PartnersYemen have been working with communities most besieged by the conflict in Yemen, including those in northern Yemen. We have gained the trust of actors on both sides of this conflict and together worked to mediate disputes, improve governance and service delivery, and, most importantly, lay the foundations for long-term stability and peace. PartnersGlobal and PartnersYemen are part of a network of humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding organizations working throughout the country to similarly build the foundations for lasting stability and peace. This new designation threatens this work and only serves to prolong the conflict.

Scott Paul, Humanitarian Policy Lead at Oxfam of America, said, “Secretary Pompeo’s designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization is a dangerous and useless policy, and it will also endanger the lives of innocent people. This designation will not help in resolving the conflict, nor in achieving justice for the violations and abuses committed during the war; this will only escalate the suffering for millions of Yemenis who struggle to survive.”

One former minister and businessman said, “The decision will return us to the starting point of the conflict at a time when the various parties had entered a phase of fatigue and found a willingness to make painful concessions.”

Unfortunately, this sentiment has been echoed by Yemeni leaders throughout the country as well as those in the international community most familiar with the conflict.

We are calling on the United States to play a constructive role in resolving Yemen’s devastating conflict and mitigating the disastrous effects on the population. The United States is uniquely positioned to do this, but this new designation does the opposite.

  September 21, 2020

On this international day of peace, let us shape peace together, recognizing and supporting the important role of local women mediators in community based conflict resolution efforts. In Yemen, women peacebuilders have used their conflict resolution skills to prevent local conflicts, promote social cohesion and women’s participation in community and social initiatives.

PartnersGlobal and its affiliate, Partners Yemen, collaborated in a community-based conflict mitigation program to create sustainable mechanisms for local conflict resolution in Yemen’s tribal areas. The program supported local women peacebuilders in: coaching on mediation approaches to proactively address and reduce violent conflict, creating the space and opportunities for women to engage in conflict resolution, and building women’s knowledge and capacity in conflict management, mediation, arbitration, negotiation, and communication.

Spotlight on Local Yemeni Peacebuilders:

Hayam Talib Al Qarmushi is Chairman of the National Committee in Shabwa Governorate, Yemen.  Hayam has worked as a trainer in conflict resolution for various civil society groups in her community after being involved in training programs provided by Partners Yemen. Hayam participated in the national dialogue conference in Sana’a and has been active in media, working with Shabwa Radio locally, and has participated in several meetings and television dialogues to address societal issues in Yemen.

Nusiba Saqaf Mohammed Alawi is the Executive Director of the Ruwad Foundation for Development and Human Rights in Lahj Governorate, Yemen. She is a longstanding collaborator of Partners Yemen in conflict resolution, women’s empowerment and dialogue in tribal areas, contributing to the creation of community committees to solution community grievances. Furthermore, Nusiba has involved her local community in activities proving women’s role in enhancing social cohesion and community participation.

Athar Ali Mohammed Yahya is the founding member and Director of Planning and Development of Alif Baa in Aden Governorate, Yemen. Alif Baa was also a participating organization in Partner’s Yemen’s conflict mitigation and local engagement and advocacy dialogue program. Yahya’s professional expertise spans conflict, peacebuilding, transitional justice, and institutional strengthening. With her outstanding experience and skills in conflict resolution and mediation, Athar has helped establish a second generation of young women activists who are able to work in different social fields in a society where conflict constantly permeates.