The Happy Yemen


By Hesham Hussain

Imagine this.

You’re sitting at home, watching your favorite TV show. Suddenly the power is cut off!  The electricity of the one square mile neighborhood is down. Even though you are tired, you decide to leave the house and go out with some friends. You get ready, and now as you are taking a shower, the water is cut off! The water in your private water storage tanks is completely empty. The public utility water supply is only available for three days each month, so you have to store water in your private tanks to be used for the rest of the month; however, this water will not be enough, which means you have to buy water from private companies at least twice a month.

Being unable to finish your shower, you manage to somehow get dressed and leave in your car. Since you are a big fan of safety, you click in the seatbelt. But as you are driving, a cop standing at a major intersection to organize the traffic waves at you to stop.  He ignores the traffic at the intersection that doesn’t have traffic lights, and walks up to you, asking, “Why are you wearing the seatbelt, are you gonna fly away or what?”  You realize he only stopped you for that reason, and wished that you didn’t click it!  He then asks you for your license and registration. After reading through them, he’s not satisfied because the registration is under your brother’s name. The cop then asks for a written authorization from your brother to drive the vehicle, which he knows you won’t have on you. You try to convince him that this isn’t a reasonable request and he just asks you straight up, “Fine, just give me some money and I will let you go.” Knowing that bribery is normal, you take out a few hundred Riyals, hand it to him, and continue driving.

After driving for sometime around the beautiful city of Taiz, your friend Mosleh calls you and asks you to come over to pick him up. Mosleh is at the city’s DMV getting his license. He tells you that he had to bribe a DMV worker 6,000 Riyals to complete all the necessary procedures for getting the license on time. You end up waiting a couple of hours with Mosleh until the worker comes out and hands him the license. You ask the worker how come there isn’t a driving test? The worker simply mocks, “You aren’t in Switzerland.” Mosleh then rides along with you to go for dinner. You arrive at a restaurant on a cliff overseeing downtown. What a beautiful view! But when you look over the cliff, beneath there is garbage everywhere. You have accepted that there isn’t an effective waste management department in the city.

Several hours later you arrive home and you see your niece studying hard for her high school final exams, which are unified state exams for the whole country. You encourage her to study hard to be ranked amongst the top ten students in the country.  But she laughs and tells you that no matter how hard she studies, she won’t be in the top ten. Then she goes on about how corrupt the education system has become and how the students are supplied with testing materials prior to the exam dates. She also mentions the big role that money plays in educational “success” and how often people of powerful position abuse the system to get ahead. You get shocked from what she says, and as you make your way towards your room, your brother enters the house and seems very upset. He then informs the family how he has been deprived from a government sponsored scholarship to the U.S.A. because he is not well connected. Even though he is known to be the most intelligent student at his university, since he doesn’t have any friends in high government positions or wealthy relatives, he can’t get a scholarship. On the other hand, those with very poor academic standings, but who have the necessary connections, manage to easily receive the best scholarships.

At the end of the day you feel that something is seriously wrong, and that something must change. You browse the Internet to understand historical events and what this country lacks. You find some statistics that show unbelievable numbers referring to inflation, poverty, literacy, and corruption. You try to reason that perhaps this country is just poor, but when you research, ask, and investigate, you find out that the country is actually wealthy. It is blessed by a strategic location, and it is the home of an ancient civilization. It also has sufficient fossil fuels and natural gas reserves for its own use and for exportation. On top of that, it has the soil needed for agricultural purposes, and to make it self sufficient with food crops. Its attributes are many, and its wealth is abundant, so where did all this go?

The scenario described above is only a glimpse of what the wise, hospitable, and kind people of Yemen may encounter in one day. This does not take into account the lands that more powerful people confiscate from civilians. It definitely does not include the large percentages imposed on investors, which they call “protection benefits” – a very ironic principle! They become business partners without any input whatsoever other than protecting the investors from other people of power. There are thousands of untold stories of oppression, corruption, and theft. Yemen has been on the decline for years. Yemen has been squeezed to the last drop. All it takes is a drive down the streets where government officials and people of power live. They don’t live in luxurious villas. They don’t live in spacious apartments.  They live in palaces; palaces with imported fixtures and furniture. While the gap between the poor and the rich continues to grow, the middle working class has nearly disappeared. Is there hope for Yemen to flourish?

Now, with the wind of change blowing over the Arab World and reaching Yemen, there is hope.  The Yemenis who have sincere intentions are optimistic. They are praying and hoping that change will take place soon. The people in Yemen have now broken their silence and gained courage to refuse their condition; the fear barrier has been demolished. It is now the point of no return. Change is imminent. Insha’Allah.

If I say to any Arab, “I am from Yemen,” I am confronted with a reply in Arabic “alyaman alsa’eed,” which means “The Happy Yemen.” The word “Yemen” has always been tied with the word “happy,” yet it hasn’t been happy for decades. It is time for Yemen to become happy again, only then I can say I am from alyaman alsa’eed.

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14 Comments

  1. salih says:

    MashaAllah!!! Very nice and deep article.

  2. Mohsin says:

    JazakAllah khair. So sad :(

    Reading about the corruption is more difficult than reading about the hardships they face. iA things will get better for the people of Yemen soon.

  3. Hesham Hussain says:

    Please support this rally for our brother and sisters in Yemen and the Arab World:

    Facebook Event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=200172920002725

    Website: http://supportyemen.com/?p=252

  4. Muslima. says:

    I love how this article started out as a story, and the story motivated you to keep reading. A very nice, thoughtful article that really makes us think!

  5. Mohsin Saad says:

    Its very sad to say agree with this article. But I lived in Yemen and I how is the daily life.

    The arguments are supported with useful pieces of technical information.It was a wonderful article

  6. albaadani says:

    Very nice brother i liked it and inshalalh we will see Yemen happy as we always dream

  7. Cartoon M says:

    It’s so sad. There’s nothing that prevents a country from succeeding than corruption. It wastes the minds of the country’s best and brightest. May Allah make them successful in changing their condition.

  8. Khaled Hussein says:

    The article mentions most of what happen in Yemen. No one can deny that. We are way behined. If things continue like that, our country will never devolope.

  9. Lamya says:

    Just another day in Yemen–have hundreds of stories to tell about daily hardships in Yemen–they are not infrequent occurrences but part of every day struggles. Corruptions is suffocating Yemenis to degree unimaginable. May Allah have mercy on the people of Yemen, and grant them victory in their noble cause to bring about dignity for all Yemenis–in Yemen and abroad. Ameen.

    Lamya

  10. Yemeni Sister says:

    Salam,

    This is a great article mashaAllah – a great narrative, whilst highlighting the key issues facing Yemen.
    I do however, have a few points of concern.. you wrote –

    ” It also has sufficient fossil fuels and natural gas reserves for its own use and for exportation. On top of that, it has the soil needed for agricultural purposes, and to make it self sufficient with food crops. Its attributes are many, and its wealth is abundant, so where did all this go?”

    Yemen, is the poorest country in the Region, its oil reserves are dwindling VERY sharply, and its natural gas reserves are also depleting, and will not be self sufficient because the demand is increasing as the population continues to boom.

    With regards to the Soil, Yemen’s agricultural aspect has been destroyed due to over irrigation of the land – due to Qaat.

    Yemen needs to look toward a post oil economy as its natural resources are fast running out – unfortunatly. And its imports more than it exports…

    Its a sad case for my beautiful country, and solutions need to be found quickly..

  11. Hesham Hussain says:

    Dear Yemeni sister,

    Thank you for the wonderful comment. Your concern is very true and to the point.

    Qaat has destroyed Yemen’s agricultural. However, compared to the countries in the region, Yemen has a great potential to be successful in agriculture, if managed well.

    In regards to natural resources, they are running out as the predictions say. But in my story/article, I was specifically talking about past and present and trying to show that the current regime mismanaged the resources at hand, and that Yemen didn’t see any good from these natural resource before they run out!

    God bless Yemen. Allah won’t let Yemen drown, and something good will happen inshAllah.

    Jazaki Allah Khair

  12. Mohamed says:

    Thank you for sharing this article with us.
    Looking forward seeing more :)

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