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
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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.


US targets two individuals, three entities in Hezbollah-related sanctions program

Updated 19 min 36 sec ago
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US targets two individuals, three entities in Hezbollah-related sanctions program

  • Targeted for sanctions under US regulations aimed at suspected terrorists or those who support them
  • Comes at a time of growing US concern about role of Hezbollah in Lebanese government

WASHINGTON: The U.S. Treasury, moving to boost pressure on Hezbollah, imposed sanctions on Wednesday against two people and three firms that Washington accuses of being involved in schemes to help the armed Shi'ite group backed by Iran evade American sanctions.

The Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it was targeting Belgium-based Wael Bazzi because he acted on behalf of his father Mohammad Bazzi, a Hezbollah financier.

OFAC also took action against two Belgian companies and a British-based firm controlled by Bazzi.

In addition, the US Treasury designated Lebanon-based Hassan Tabaja, who it said had acted on behalf of his brother Adham Tabajha, also a Hezbollah financier. The U.S. action freezes their assets and property and prevents U.S. citizens and businesses from dealing with them.

The two men and three businesses were targeted for sanctions under US regulations aimed at suspected terrorists or those who support them, the Treasury said in a statement. Hezbollah is considered a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.

"Treasury is relentlessly pursuing Hezbollah's financial facilitators by dismantling two of Hezbollah's most important financial networks," Treasury Undersecretary Sigal Mandelker said in a statement.

"By targeting Hassan Tabaja and Wael Bazzi and their European-based companies, this administration is continuing to disrupt all avenues of financial support relied upon by Hezbollah," he said.

The US State Department earlier this week offered a reward of up to $10 million for information that could help disrupt Hezbollah's financing.

The move to boost pressure on the group comes at a time of growing US concern about its role in the Lebanese government. Hezbollah's regional clout has expanded as it has sent fighters to Middle East conflicts, including the war in Syria, where it supported President Bashar al-Assad.