Almeezan – Michigan
Yemeni American community members and leaders met with Timothy Lenderking, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs on Thursday August 15th in Dearborn Michigan. The group discussed the conflict in Yemen and submitted a letter of requests and strategy on what Yemeni Americans hoped to see happen in Yemen.
Over the past six months, leaders held extensive meetings and consulted many community members that are reflective of Yemen’s makeup. They convened representatives of several organizations, activists, community elders, political groups, human rights groups, journalists and members of the media to discuss a pathway forward for Yemen. This collective of people and institutions came together as the Yemeni American Task Force. “Our goal was to develop a strong, genuine, and workable set of initiatives to deal with Yemen’s conflict without any strong bias favoring any side,” says Nasser Alriyashi of YAPAC Dearborn.
The meeting with Mr. Lenderking was an opportunity to present the findings of the community conversations. There was one consistent message the leaders delivered: the United States has been complicit with some of the casualties and has taken a backseat role. There was a desire to see the United States take a more active and engaged approach with the conflict. Many expressed frustration with the Saudi-led coalition. “When they started four years ago, we thought they were serious about helping Yemen from a unified stable government. Now, we have no more confidence in Saudi Arabia or the coalition,” said one attendee.
The meeting happened just as the UAE began to withdraw troops in southern Yemen just as the UAE backed separatists took control of Aden. “We don’t want to see a divided Yemen, that is one thing we all can agree on,” emphasized Mansour Alguhaim. “We want a government that respects democracy and drives out nepotism and corrupt in a unified, sovereign Yemen.”
The more than 30 attendees made it clear that the United States needed to ensure that humanitarian aid was being delivered to Yemenis in a timely fashion. “We all have different political views, but we all agree that Yemenis need food, medicine, supplies,” said Akil Alhalmi.
In addition, the Muslim Ban was discussed several times. When asked about the Ban, a representative from the state department said that it was not a Muslim ban. The “presidential proclamation,’ as she referred to it, was put in place for US security interests. She noted that countries like North Korea and Venezuela are not “Muslim majority countries” so it’s hard to refer to it as a ban. Many were frustrated by that classification and pushed back on that.
“It’s disingenuous to suggest that this ‘proclamation’ wasn’t targeted toward Muslims. The first couple of iterations of this was indeed a ban on Muslim majority countries,” said Abraham Aiyash.