Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Yemenis Feel Brunt of Arab Split Saudi Arabia Ends Special Relationship with Neighbor and Sends Thousands of Yemenis Home

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Yemenis Feel Brunt of Arab Split Saudi Arabia Ends Special Relationship with Neighbor and Sends Thousands of Yemenis Home

Article excerpt

FOR 10 years, Izmat's corner grocery store has been a fixture in one of Jiddah's prosperous downtown neighborhoods, as integral a part of the community as the mosque just down the street.

Today, as he packs away the last of his goods and pries down shelves that displayed everything from shampoo to soft drinks, the Yemeni responds softly to a reporter's questions about a recent Saudi edict that will force him to leave the country.

"This is my home. I wanted to stay," he says. "But what choice do I have? They have forced me to go."

Izmat is one of thousands of Yemenis who have become the latest, largely unnoticed victims of the historic changes set in motion by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Once part of an network of industrious shopkeepers and merchants which formed the backbone of Saudi Arabia's local economy, the Yemenis are suddenly perceived as security risks. This is because their government has chosen to provide moral support to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, even while honoring the United Nations trade embargo against Iraq.

Together with 300,000 Kuwaitis and tens of thousands of Palestinian and Egyptian workers, the 500,000 Yemenis now expected to leave Saudi Arabia have become part of the most extensive transfer of populations in the Middle East since the end of World War II.

The estimated 1 million Yemenis living in Saudi Arabia were told last month that they would have to return home if they did not find Saudi sponsors within 30 days. Although the timetable was subsequently relaxed and exemptions added, most Yemenis have been left with no choice but to pull up stakes and return home.

Saudi officials insist the sudden decision is merely an effort to put the Yemenis on the same footing as other foreign workers, who have always been required to have visas and obtain sponsors.

"It was an old decision that we implemented now," comments a Saudi official. "Yemenis have had special privileges for years. It was just a way of equalizing things."

But most observers see less coincidence in the timing of the decree, which followed reports of pro-Iraqi demonstrations in the Yemeni quarters of Riyadh and Jiddah and in Sana, the Yemeni capital. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.