Amal Basha – Yemen’s most prominent advocate for human rights

59-year-old Amal Basha is a strong advocate for women's rights. Known as the dean of Yemeni NGOs, she is also a lobbyist for human rights and greater political freedom.

She is the Chairperson of the Sisters' Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF), Advisor for the International Coalition on the Criminal Court and for the Ministry of Human Rights in Yemen.

Biography

Amal Basha was born in 1962 in Taiz, Yemen. In keeping with tradition, her family arranged her marriage when she was just 8 years old. It wasn’t until she was 17 that she would have a baby and succeed in divorcing her husband. Her son was then raised by her mother as Basha decided to focus on her education. Basha’s second husband was an Arab nationalist who died of a heart attack in 1998. Today she is married to a lawyer and has three children.

Basha studied political science, economics and mass communication at the American University in Cairo. She later completed a postgraduate degree in Public Administration at the National Institute for Administrative Sciences (NIAS), and in Empirical Research and Women Studies at Sana’a University. Basha also holds a Master’s degree in International Development and Gender from the University of Sussex, UK.

Following her political science studies, Basha intended to join the Foreign Ministry and become a diplomat. She therefore began her career in politics as Head of Section for Bilateral Relations and then for International Organizations at the Ministry of Economy, Supply and Trade. A few years later, Basha became Head of Section for Foreign Relations at the Ministry of Industry.

However, she did not pursue her ministerial career, but instead chose to get involved in the social and cultural development of Yemeni society and, later, in women’s and human rights. Basha worked closely with the United Nations, in particular as Programme Officer for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and a number of other NGOs in this field.

Throughout her various positions with the United Nations, the International Human Rights Law Group and the International Committee of the Red Cross Delegation in Yemen, Basha became a strong human rights activist, advocating on behalf of arbitrarily detained prisoners and fighting against torture. Together with other Yemeni human rights organizations, she submitted a comprehensive report on torture in Yemen to the United Nations in 2009.

As Chairperson of the Sisters’ Arab Forum for Human Rights, Basha defends the rights of women, prisoners and refugees, and fights for more political freedoms.

In recognition of her contribution to development efforts within the Yemeni community, she has received a number of Letters of Appreciation from the UNDP, NGOs and the government. Basha also received the Golden Medal for Peace Initiative during the Gulf War in 1990, and was honored as “Mother of the Year” and one of the “Most Prominent Working Women in Yemen” in 1997. She was awarded the Bahrain Shura Council Shield, the Palestine Center for Human Rights Shield and the Yemeni Union Medal Bronze for her work defending human rights.

Basha has been providing active support and assistance to the peaceful demonstrators calling for democracy since the beginning of the uprising. She also has been informing the international public on the development of the human rights situation in Yemen.

Situation

Yemen is the poorest of the Arab countries. Ruled by President Saleh since 1978, its culture and society are defined by a patriarchal system, conflicting tribal clans, tension between North and South and a violent oppressive regime. The people of Yemen today face high levels of poverty, illiteracy, oppression and corruption.

Human rights abuses in Yemen include arbitrary arrests of citizens, kidnapping, torture and executions performed by security forces.

The government controls the radio, television and most newspapers. Yemeni journalists who criticize the President or his regime are faced with restrictive laws and repressive actions by security forces.

Women and girls in Yemen are second-class citizens with fewer rights than men, excluding them from decision making and prohibiting them from holding assets. Nearly 70% of women are illiterate and therefore often ignored in this male-dominated society. They also continue to be forced into early marriage and depend entirely on their husbands from that moment onward.

The death of Ilham al-’Ashi in April 2010, a 12-year old girl who died of internal bleeding after a violent sexual attack by her husband, was one of the many cases that demonstrate the discrimination and disrespect women and girls face in this country. Another 12-year-old girl died in September 2011?? while giving birth, a common threat to young girls forced into early marriage.

Achievements

Basha works hard to improve Yemen’s civil society and fights for human rights, especially women’s rights and the rights of prisoners and refugees. She has written a number of articles and has lectured on human rights and citizenship. Her work with the United Nations and a large number of NGOs, plus her role as advisor to various working groups on human rights and civil society development, have enabled her to raise awareness of Yemen’s situation and actively lobby for progress.

The SAF, chaired by Basha, joined with other organizations to submit the Second National Shadow Report on Torture to the United Nations Convention against Torture in Geneva in 2009. As a result, the United Nations called for an investigation into unlawful killings by security forces.

The report also resulted in a campaign of attacks against the SAF’s office, repeated harassment of Basha and other members of the organization and an assassination attempt where her car’s brakes were sabotaged.

Basha has not been intimidated by this harassment and continues her efforts in furthering the cause of human rights and the development of Yemeni society.

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6 comments

  1. Mahmud Abughalia

    Sustainable Global Peace

    We know that war-related inventions and their applications are designed, manufactured and used by well educated people. Unfortunately that means well educated people and leaders do not share the culture of global peace.
    Sustainable Global Peace should be enhanced through educating future leaders and all universities students around the globe that one and unique culture which develops over time a driving force for ending disputes around the globe.
    Narrowing the gap between educated people of one world through mandatory universities courses of Global Peace Culture is a tipping point if the United Nations adopts it. The United Nations could play an important role in Global-Peace movement by emphasizing those universities curriculums contain unique global peace culture.
    Adding more than one course to universities curriculums that designed or adopted by the United Nations is a quick way and first step for achieving this goal. Training lecturers over the internet might come as a second step. In the third step, local UNESCO offices might check that universities’ cultural or religious courses do not conflict with the GlobalPeace culture courses.
    Any form of your non material help and support to this idea is a tremendous gain.

    Thanks,
    Mahmud Abughalia
    Tripoli University
    AbughaliaMahmud@yahoo.co.uk
    Tripoli, Liby

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  3. Warso

    Hello Mrs Amal
    Here is Kayad a human dignity activist from Djibouti and member the Association for the Respect of Human Rights in Djibouti which all its member do not live Djibouti.I guess you could understand why is the reason why none of us live in our country .You have been a prominent activist, advocate and leading figure for human rights and freedom of expression for many years.Me,speaking on the name of World Youth Alliance, the Association for Respect of Human Rights and even with my own name we acknowledge, appreciate your dedication to improve the Human person. We took a big responsibility when we chose to work as human rights people.You and I or anyone else who reserved its life to work as human rights activist.The reason why I contacted you today is we got a situation here in Yemen.It ‘is about Mr. Mohamed Saleh Alhumekani ,it is a Yemeni, Djiboutien,Belge as you could understand he is got three nationality.Mohamed Saleh Alhumekani was the former head of the presidential guard of Djibouti, has implicated the current President of Djibouti Ismael Omar Guelleh and his entourage for death in 1995 of Bernard Borrel a French judge magistrate in Djibouti. then he went to Belgium as political asylum in where he later acquired the citizenship. He was arrested on August 24 on his arrival at the airport in Sanaa, and imprisoned in the Yemeni capital.<>said, deeply moved, his wife Asmae Abdelkadous during a press conference in Brussels. The umbrella of Djibouti’s human rights activists all around the world are asking the Yemeni government to not extradite Mr Mohamed Saleh Alhumekani.Mrs Amal, we’re asking you to denounce and to protest if such act is attainted to do by th Yemeni government.We live under one roof, we believe one thing <>
    Thank you Mrs Amal,

  4. Irving Roshannon

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  5. Hulda Butterworth

    Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing some research on that. And he actually bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

  6. Khaled Ali AL-Quzahy

    So happy to have such Yemeni activisits and advocate for rights of women as well as of humanity and wish indeed more work to be done because the situation of Yemeni women can get improved if such women work a little harder specially these days !!!

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