The youth of Yemen in the Arab spring

“The revolution is driven by the youth,” says Hend Nasiri, a 21-year-old human rights activist from Yemen. “It has given us hope and it has brought us together to demand our rights.”

A protester holds up a flag with an inscription 'Yemen is the most important' © EPA/ YAHYA ARHABMass protests in Yemen started in January 2011, following similar events in the Arab world: thousands of people took to the streets asking for change and urging Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. According to the World Food Programme more Yemenis are going hungry because of rising food prices and severe fuel shortages brought about by months of political unrest.

Nasiri has an academic background in economics and, despite her young age, she has co-founded many youth organizations and coalitions. She is also very active in promoting women participation in development and human rights.

For Nasiri, training and education are needed to raise awareness and understanding of what human rights are. During the protests, she went to the streets and told young people to continue demanding their rights. “You have rights,” she would tell them, “right to education, to a nationality, to universal social security, to health care. This was my role in the protests: to educate people about human rights.”

“The revolution gave us the opportunity to get out and speak about human rights and demand them,” she says. “During the revolution we shared hopes and demands while becoming more aware of our rights and needs.”

Nasiri says that social media is used to share information about human rights. “We started raising awareness about the role of social media and how to use it to pass our ideas along to others, through the internet. Social media is good to share ideas in a quick, simple way to as many people as possible.”

In her fight to promote human rights, Nasiri is also inspired by Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman, one of three recipients who split the award this year. “The award was dedicated to the youth of the revolution in Yemen and to all Yemenis,” Nasiri says.

For months, top UN officials have been voicing growing concern about the human rights and humanitarian conditions inside the country, where hundreds of people have died since mass protests began.

A small team of UN Human Rights staff visited Yemen in June and July 2011 to assess the human rights situation in the country. The report of the assessment mission to Yemen (PDF) was made public and presented to the Human Rights Council in September 2011.

Another progress report on Yemen will be presented at the 2012 March session of the UN Human Rights Council.

8 December 2011

Nasiri, together with other human rights activists, attended a briefing session on human rights and the work of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva.

This year, Human Rights Day celebrates the work of human rights defenders and focuses on their efforts to galvanize and inspire support and inspire support for change via social media. The UN Human Rights Office has launched a global social media campaign that will encourage people to commit to taking action for change by becoming human rights defenders.

Join us to celebrate human rights!




Human Rights Day 2011


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