Dear President Saleh,
We write to request that your government take urgent and effective measures to ensure that the approximately 335 members of Yemen's Jewish community can remain in their homes in ‘Amran governorate in peace and safety. In particular, we urge you to reconsider your proposal to move the community, which resides in the towns of Raida and Kharif, to the capital, San'a, and to grant them plots of land and houses there. Such a move would vindicate those who recently carried out vicious attacks against members of the Jewish community there, including the killing of Moshe Yahya on December 11.
The past two years have witnessed incidents and expressions of hostility on the part of some Yemeni Muslims against members of the Jewish community. In January 2007, the government evacuated 57 Jews living in Al Salim, near Sa'da town in the north of the country, to the Tourist City in San'a, following threats and alleged incidents of stone throwing against Jews there by Huthi rebels fighting the government. The Huthis raised slogans of "Death to America; death to Israel; curse upon the Jews; victory to Islam."
Disputes between families and communities turned deadly on December 11, when a gunman shot and killed Moshe Yahya, the brother of the community's rabbi, Yahya Ya'ish, in Raida. Yemeni journalists reported that eyewitnesses heard the attacker say, "Take this message from Islam, Jew," before opening fire. Officials have said that the man in custody has confessed and is suffering from mental illness, for which he was dismissed from the air force four years ago and provided treatment abroad. A court on December 22 ordered a psychiatric examination. On December 13, however, a mob reportedly surrounded the houses of Jews in Raida, threatening to storm them and attack those inside. On December 15, unknown persons, two of whom are now reported to be in custody, threw an explosive device at the home of a Jewish resident in Raida, causing damage to a vehicle and windows.
At this time 65 Jews from Al Salim live in the Tourist City in San'a, and 270 Jews live in Raida and Kharif, in ‘Amran governorate, where they live under the protection of the local tribe. We urge you to instruct Jibran Abu Shawarib, the leader of the Hashid tribe in that area, and the governor of ‘Amran province, Kuhlan Abu Shawarib, Jibran's brother, to afford the Jewish communities in Raida and Kharif all necessary protection, and to work towards the safe return of the Jews now in Tourist City to their homes in Al Salim.
We also urge you to lead community reconciliation efforts and to emphasize in a public and unambiguous way that the religious identity of Yemeni Jews in no way ties them to the policies of the state of Israel.
Sarah Leah Whitson
Middle East and North Africa Division