Yemen's Infidels: Women Seeking Freedom 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Disclaimer: religion is a sensitive subject and this article doesn't condem anyone and does not critique religion. The purpose of this article is to promote religious tolerance and raise awareness on the misuse of it. 


About five months ago, I wrote about Bushra Al-Maqtari, a 31-year-old journalist, who was declared an "unbeliever" for writing a controversial article on the Yemeni Revolution. Al-Maqtari's article was about a massacre that took place in the city of Ta'izz, but many people fixated on a statement she made questioning whether God witnessed the crime that took place. Al-Maqtari then clarified that she considers herself a Muslim, and that she believed in God, but none of that matters when there is a political war being waged on Yemen's Women. Religion in Yemen has become an easy tool to use when trying to restrain women. Now, in January, the same story seems to be repeating itself; however there are minor differences. This time the victim is journalist Samia Al Aghbari.

takfeer samia.jpg

On December 30, 2012, Samia gave a speech in the city of Dimt (province of Al-Dhali') to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Jarallah Omar. Omar was one of the leading figures in Yemen's Socialist Party (YSP). During Samia's speech she exclaimed that Yemen has a triple "ugly" alliance, religion, the military and the tribe. Of course, to many, it was understood that she was talking about radical political Islam and the manipulation of religion to serve hidden agendas. To this day, no arrests have been made for Omar's assassination, but there are rumors that it may have been a religious extremist. The truth is, no one knows for certain. 

Update, one man, Ali Al-Sa'wani, was tried for the assassination of Jarallah Omar and received the death penalty, two suspects are still at large; one of them is rumored to be a woman.

A man by the name of Akram Al-Ghouwaizi filed a complaint with Dimt's district attorney charging Samia of insulting and ridiculing Islam.

Many of the attacks launched against Samia are done on the Ikhwan Al Yemen (Yemen's Brothers) facebook page. This page is probably linked to members of the Islah party (and is not an official facebook page for them). The Islah party is made up of tribesmen and Muslim brotherhood (MB) members, so if Samia stated that the "ugly" triple alliance is that of the MB, the military and the tribe, then perhaps she won't be accused of insulting Islam. 

After brief contact with her, this is what she had to say on the subject: 

What is happening today with me is an extension of a long campaign launched against a number of women like writer Arwa Othman, activist Atiaf Al Wazir,and novelist Bushra al-Maqtari among others. This vicious attack confirms that without a doubt there is a systematic campaign targeting liberal activists and journalists in order to silence our voices.

They [the attackers] believe that they have silenced our voices. In the past, Saleh and his "associates" used religion to eliminate opponents and settle their accounts with opposition. They even used defamation and fabricated accusations of treason, not to forget the abuse of the judicial system that is used as a sword hanging over the necks of their opponents. Today, extremist groups - whatever their affiliation is - are using the same techniques. But we [women] will not fear their threats or their campaigns. We will continue our struggle until we win our humanity back and get the state that we want.

What about the accusation that you slandered religion? 

My sentence was clear and the meaning was obvious. The term that I used, "ugliness", was to describe the alliance, not religion, however, some extremists exploited that situation. What I say is that I can not badmouth any religion, let alone my religion! Clearly, religion here is used to to settle political scores.


A collection of Samia's writings are found here (Ar)