Yemeni Minister of Immigrant Affairs Holds Event in NYC

Yemen Min 2

                               Yemeni Minister of Immigrant Affairs (second from left)

 

Majahed Al-Qahali, Yemeni Minister of Immigrant Affairs, held an event for the Yemeni community yesterday, October 5th of 2013. The main purpose for this event was to have a dialogue with the Minister and other panel guests in regards to concerns, questions and/or complaints that many Yemenis abroad want answered and discussed.

The event started with a speech from Al-Qahali, who touched upon the general events unfolding in Yemen, such as the National Dialogue and supposed elections. After his closing statement, the attendees were given a short break before questioning started. Not shockingly enough, there has been a trend at some protests and events where special guests and/or attendees randomly start dancing  a Yemeni dance. For this event, the Minister and other men danced a Adeni dance (from what they have claimed it was). A quick dance was over and the serious questioning had began.

As I expected, questions that were asked by the community were detailed and straightforward. Over 12 long questions were asked and discussed lightly by the attendees. Topics of questions included, but not limited to: the National Dialogue and its neglect to Yemenis abroad, voting eligibility for those abroad, Yemenis in Ethiopian jails without charge, Saudi Arabia and its treatment towards Yemenis, passport issues, Yemeni citizens and cases of US passport being taken by US Embassy and poor outreach to Yemeni community by higher officials, Yemeni consulates.

All questions were superb and deserve a long and loud applause because these issues are of concern. I noticed that the most repetitive questions asked were regarding Yemenis living in Saudi Arabia. Many have voiced serious concern and support to those who are struggling to live in decency and dignity in Saudi Arabia. I have concluded that many really worry about this situation and want answers by both the Yemeni and Saudi governments. We all want answers now. In regards to Saudi Arabia and Yemenis in that region, the Minister had explained that, “The problem is not Saudi Arabia. The problem is from us (Yemen). But it will take a lot of people for this case to be helped.” That direct answer can be debatable, depending on how each individual feels about this aching subject.

Going on, the Minister had answered my question in regards to why the Yemeni community abroad were not notified about National Dialogue participation. Since we do have a big share in economic development and investment in Yemen, why weren’t we as important – neglected? Also, I stated the issue of bad outreach and who the panel members and the minister himself outreached to for this important event? Unfortunately, the answer was plainly short and was not answered fully: “I had given names in folder(s) to the government, and other ND board members, but the rest was up to them […] there are laws to abide by.” But I give him props for being speech-savvy.

Going on with answering  the rest of the questions, Al-Qahali touches upon Yemenis in Ethiopia who are in prisons without charge, stating,  “We need a large foundation. Big organizations, a lot of support and effort from those in the United States to help those there.”

Lastly, in regards to passport issues whether US passports being taken away or visa issues, Al-Qahali asked the crowd, “Have any of you wrote to me about this? Gave me names and basic information of those who are having any issues? (Pause) Now, let’s start by writing to me with names, problems and I will personally work on this issue, but you must give me some time to do so.”

Al-Qahali emphasized that the power we (Yemenis abroad) have, can shake Yemen instantly. He recommended that, “Dialogue should be started by us (in the US). We started in Sanaa, you can start in New York; goals, discussions.” Furthermore, he believes Yemenis abroad have the advantage of helping our people in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and even in Yemen. That being said, Al-Qahali asked we organize ourselves to help the problems all Yemenis are facing, whether inside Yemen’s borders or out.

Again, I give him props for being speech-savvy in the Arabic language. But I had hoped for some dual language talent! After a good three hours, we closed the event by standing for the Yemeni National Anthem.

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About Summer Nasser
Blogger, with Yemeni roots based in New York City. Student of Sociology (B.A.) with a focus on the country of Yemen. I would consider myself a student of knowledge.

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