Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Yemenis are welcome in the Gulf | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Yemen’s President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, (L), walks with Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed Bin Salman as he arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 26, 2015. (SPA)

A mixture of nationalities, sects and ethnicities has been working in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf since early last century. Just as millions of migrant workers have played a role in the development of the Gulf states, so have Yemeni workers, who are among the first migrants to have worked in Saudi Arabia. Yemenis in the Gulf include those who have settled and deservedly obtained citizenship, enjoying the same rights and duties as nationals; those who worked for years before returning back home; and those who are still working in the Gulf. Migrant workers from Yemen have been among the best to have worked in the Gulf and coexisted with its people. This is not to underestimate migrants from other countries but rather it is out of the consideration that Yemen is a neighboring country and part of the Arabian Peninsula. This is not to mention the close habits and traditions shared between Yemen and the Gulf states.

Were it not for the status that Yemen and its people have, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members would not have rushed to rescue them from the coup the Houthi militia mounted. Were it not for the political and social significance of Yemen for the countries of the region, they would not risk standing with their neighbor. Regardless of the battles currently raging between the Gulf-led coalition on the one hand and the Houthis and the forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh on the other, the hundreds of thousands of Yemeni migrant workers in the Gulf will still be welcome as they were before. Operation Decisive Storm is not directed against them nor has anything to do with them. The Gulf street is not known for having ever punished the people of a certain country for the actions of their political regime. Nor have they been aggressive or antagonized a certain nationality as some Arab countries have done with Gulf nationals. The Houthi militia does not represent Yemenis, nor does it rule over them in the first place.

The number of Yemenis in Saudi Arabia alone is estimated at 890,000 whose families depend on the remittances they get. Official figures put the number of Yemeni migrant workers in Saudi Arabia in fourth place, after Indians, Egyptians and Pakistanis. This means that hundreds of thousands of Yemenis depend on the money those migrant workers send home. On the social level, Gulf history testifies to the depth of the region’s relationship with Yemeni migrant workers, which has rarely witnessed any tensions. Despite their large size compared to other foreign workers in the GCC, Yemeni migrant workers have never acted in a way that created obstacles between them and the Gulf governments or people.

The Saudi government has done a good job assuring legal Yemeni residents that Operation Decisive Storm will not affect their status at all, as seen in a statement carried by the Ministry of Labor. Yemenis themselves know that the war that essentially aims to restore stability to their country will not affect their ties with the countries they work in. Added to this, ties between the peoples of Yemen and the Gulf are more significant than any attempts at questioning them or fabricating crises. The Houthis have been trying to pit the Gulf states against Yemeni migrant workers, as seen in remarks made by their spokesman Mohamed Abdul Salam soon before Operation Decisive Storm was launched. It is as if he wanted to drive a wedge between them and the Gulf governments.

Yemenis have been working in the Gulf for decades, without anyone asking them whether they were Zaydis (a Shi’ite branch of Islam) or Shafi’is (a Sunni Muslim sect). It suffices that they are our fellow brothers from the Arabian Peninsula and their ties with the Gulf will always be based on mutual respect and appreciation, and will not be affected by any political events or regional tensions even if some sides try to undermine these ties.