Yemeni immigrants focus on future in US amid war back home

Yemenis living in the US are making culture a key part of the business proposition. (AP)
Updated 06 March 2018
0

Yemeni immigrants focus on future in US amid war back home

DEARBORN, Michigan: Ibrahim Alhasbani is like generations of Middle Eastern immigrants in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn: He fled war, came with dreams and worked for others until he could strike out on his own.
Now, like an increasing number of people from Yemen who have come to the US, he sees a long-term future outside the country he left and seeks to bring aspects of his native country into America.
“Here you build; over there you have memories,” said Alhasbani, owner of Qahwah House, a cafe that serves coffee made from beans harvested on his family’s farm in Yemen’s mountains. “I live here, so this is the main thing. This is what’s going to help first build my career, build my business ... and help the people over there.”
Yemenis have been coming to the US for more than a century — especially since the 1960s — but in recent years they have been planting stronger roots, raising their profile and looking outward — opening upscale restaurants and cafes and running for political office.
And, in cases like Alhasbani, they are making Yemeni culture a key part of the business proposition.
It is a path that is not unusual for first- and second-generation immigrants in the US. For Yemenis, the shift is also a reaction to chaos in their homeland.
“People are coming here and bringing their resources here,” said Sally Howell, an author and associate professor of Arab American Studies at University of Michigan-Dearborn. “In the past, they weren’t really committed to here. Now the situation has been so bad in Yemen for so long, they’re doing what other refugees and exiles do: They’re acknowledging their future is here.”
The highest US population of Yemenis is in the Detroit area, where Syrian and Lebanese immigrants had already settled and became more prominent in business. Unlike their Arab neighbors, many Yemeni men came alone and did not have relatives follow them, so they were more likely to go back and forth between the US and their homeland.
“We’re not going back to Yemen like we did before,” said Rasheed Alnozili, publisher of The Yemeni American News. “We learn from Lebanese. They built here then they built there. We made a mistake: We built there, now we built here. ... We learned late, but we’re still in process.”
The New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Buffalo, New York, areas also have Yemeni communities. About 43,000 people of Yemeni ancestry are in the US according to a 2015 census survey. However, advocates say the number is much higher because of historical undercounting, and has significantly increased since that last survey because of deteriorating conditions in Yemen.
Then, in September 2014, the Houthi militia seized the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, after driving out the internationally backed government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The Arab coalition has been fighting to defeat the Iran-backed Houthis since March 2015.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
0

Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.