Friday, May 14, 2010

Rabbi in Sana'a slams British asylum deal

Yemen Today quotes the San'a-based Rabbi Yahya Yousef, who has criticised the British government's offer of asylum to his persecuted kinsmen in Raida, the north of the country. The deal embarrasses not only the 70 Jews under his leadership, but the government under whose protection the Jews live in the capital Sana'a. Britain's offer is perceived as a slight on on the government's honour - an admission that Yemen has failed to protect the Jews. (With thanks: Lily)

Yemeni Jewish rabbi demanded the British government not give asylum to Yemeni Jews who want to leave their country because of alleged persecution.

“The attempts to take the Jews from Yemen are attempts to damage the reputation of Yemen as a country without tolerance,” said Rabbi Yahya Yousif. “I do not agree with my brothers the Jews, who allow others to distort Yemen, our homeland,” he added.

This comes after press reports that Britain is about to offer asylum to a group of Yemeni Jews who applied for it due to alleged persecution in Yemen. “I have information that a group of Jews in Raidah have the desire to leave Yemen for Britain, but I think this is not justifiable,” the rabbi said. “This is our homeland, and the homeland of our grand parents. We are fine here, secure, and our rights are given.”

Rabbi Yahya Yousif, along with a group of about 70 Jews have been living in a government-run residential compound in the Yemeni capital Sana’a since 2006, when Houthi rebels forced them to leave their houses in the town of al-Salem, in Sa’adah.

There are about 260 Jews still living in the most tribal and conservative province of the town of Raida, Amran province, about 50 km north of Sana’a. The Yemeni government promised to transfer them to Sana’a like the group from al-Salem, after one of them was killed by a religious extremist who had demanded that the victim convert to Islam or die. Later the killer was sentenced to death.

The Jews in Raida have complained to journalists and human rights groups of instances of harassment and persecution, yet they are not able to leave for Sana’a. They also face difficulties in selling their houses and lands.

“We want to move to Sana’a like our brothers from al-Salem, but we want compensation for our houses and lands first. The government kept promising us, but nothing has happened,” said one of the Jews in Raida. “If our problem is not solved, we’ll go to hell, not only to Israel or Britain,” said the Jew, who asked not to be named.

A source close to the Jews in Raida said that all of the 260 Jews are only waiting for the appropriate time to leave Yemen for Britain. A diplomat from the UK embassy in Sana’a declined to deny or confirm that asylum had been granted.

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