The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 81/No. 7      February 20, 2017


Yemeni bodega owners close shops, rally against travel ban

NEW YORK — Over 1,000 Yemenis closed the bodegas and corner stores they own and operate in neighborhoods throughout the city from noon to 8 p.m. Feb. 2 to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from Yemen to the U.S. for three-months. They rallied along with other supporters in front of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall that evening.

“A lot of businesses are shut down,” Abdul Salah, 65, told the Militant. He runs a wholesale deli in Staten Island and has been living in the U.S. for 50 years. “Our message is Jews, Muslims, Christians, we should live together in harmony and be treated as equals.”

He said it was already “hard to get here from Yemen” before the new order. It took five years for Salah to bring his wife over under the Barack Obama administration. Three children from his previous marriage put in for a visa a year ago. These applications “remain in limbo,” he said

Rally organizers said there are several thousand bodegas and grocery stores owned by Yemeni-Americans citywide, many open around the clock. “We are closing our business Feb. 2,” said signs posted on many of the bodegas, “in support of our families, friends and loved ones” stranded overseas. The closures won support from many of their regular customers, bodega owners at the rally told the Militant.

“I’m here to stand in solidarity with Yemeni students and family members,” said Katie Lapham, a teacher at P.S. 58 in Brooklyn and a member of the United Federation of Teachers. She teaches English as second language and said she has many students from Yemen in her classes.

High school student Yasmeem Humood carried one of the most popular homemade signs in the crowd. It said, “If you don’t want refugees, stop creating them,” referring to Washington’s ongoing wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Mideast.

Saris Alkbas, a Yemeni-American born in the U.S., operates a deli in Harlem along with his father. “I voted for Trump because I wanted change,” he said. But now he’s having second thoughts, noting that Trump “signed off on the recent Navy SEAL commando attack in Yemen.”

After just a week in office, the new administration continued in the footsteps of the old, ordering drone airstrikes and the landing of U.S. special operations forces in central Yemen. They attacked the home of Abdul-Raouf al-Dhahab, a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, killing him and 13 others, U.S. military spokespeople said. However, medics on the scene reported that some 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed. This included the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born supporter of al-Qaeda who the Obama administration assassinated in a 2011 drone strike.

Yemen has been wracked by civil war among contending capitalist forces since the beginning of 2015, with working people suffering the consequences. Former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, supported by Houthi militias backed by Tehran, deposed the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition force and Washington. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed and 40,000 wounded, many in U.S.-supplied airstrikes. Millions are on the brink of famine.

Al-Qaeda stepped into the vacuum left in much of the country by the civil war, taking control of a number of areas along the country’s coast and looting area banks, smuggling and imposing taxes on trade.

Washington closed its embassy in Sanaa, the capital, in 2015. Yemenis seeking visas to get into the U.S. now have to go to other countries such as Djibouti or Egypt. Those resourceful enough to get them have had them revoked under the new executive order.
Related articles:
Protests continue against gov’t attack on immigrants
SWP: Join protests, demand amnesty!
Join the protests! Demand amnesty!
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home