Minority Fellow Fuad Ahmed Al-Selwi: defending the rights of the Al-Akhdam community in Yemen

The Al-Akhdam minority group from Yemen is discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity and color according to 34-year-old Fuad Ahmed Al-Selwi. He says the Al-Akhdam “don’t know about freedom” and he intends to help educate the community so that they understand their rights and can build better lives.

Al-Selwi, himself a member of the Al-Akhdam minority, participated in the five-week United Nations Human Rights Office Minorities Fellowship Programme in Geneva. The Office launched the Programme in 2005 to offer persons belonging to ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities an overview of the United Nations human rights system with minority rights as a key component.

Al-Selwi says the Al-Akhdam do not enjoy the same freedoms as other communities. They are often seen begging in the streets, performing menial jobs as street cleaners or acting as servers to officials and tribal chiefs. The Al-Akhdam children, he says, rarely receive an education.

Akhdam means servant in Arabic and, although, like the rest of the Yemeni population, they are Muslim and Arabic speaking, traditionally they have been regarded as outcasts and are deprived of most social, economic and cultural rights.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in its concluding observations on Yemen in 2011, said that it was concerned at the “persistent and continued social-economic exclusion of descent-based communities such as the Al-Akhdam.” It recommended that the Yemeni Government “strengthen its efforts to improve the welfare of all marginalized and vulnerable descent-based groups, particularly the Al-Akhdam, in the fields of education, access to health, housing, social security services and property ownership.”

Al-Selwi hopes to use the skills and experiences acquired through the Fellowship Programme to focus on improving, in particular, the lives of Al-Akhdam women.

Al-Selwi has experience in educating minorities on their political and social rights as well as helping them access basic services. He plans to become a human rights trainer where he can help “the marginalized poor in reaching a free and dignified life.” 

20 November 2012

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