Alwan Saeed Al Shaibani

When the team of the “Mutual Impacts of Yemeni Migration” study asked me to write about my journey in migration, as one of the migrants who were forced by living conditions (poverty & deprivation) to immigrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) more than seventy years ago; To be stated in the introductory section of the most Notable Figures of Yemeni Migration in the modern era, I could not find a better way to tell my story than the early journey in my life, which has changed my perspective on life.
My early journey with migration was full of gains and pains. In my early teens (between 1949 AD and 1950 AD), I immigrated to Abyssinia. I was not yet over fourteen years old. At that time, I had felt the pain of being so far away from my family and peers. However, I was not humiliated like other migrants fleeing poverty and hunger in our country to other countries. Since Ethiopians used to treat all Yemenis with respect, and most of these migrants became, over the years, part of the Ethiopian society through intermarriage and integration, and they are affected by and with them economically, socially, and culturally.
In my early migration, which extended for almost five years, I worked in a restaurant owned by one of my villagers, who took me with him on that journey of struggle in Dirree Dhawaa City, Ethiopian. I have many stories and tales about this experience that I summarized in my diary entitled “Life as I Lived It.”
After nearly seventy years of my migration to Abyssinia, specifically in 2017, I received an invitation from a Business leader in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to visit him. When I arrived at Riyadh airport, I stood like one of those arriving in a queue. Although the queue was not too long like those in similar airports in our area, the passport officer was very slow in completing the check-in procedures for passengers.
I requested one of the security guards to bring me a chair, due to my old age, until my turn came, but he did not pay any attention to my request. After a lot of suffering standing in line, it was my turn to reach the passports counter. Straight off, right, the passport officer promptly asked me the reason for my dissatisfaction with their procedures. I told him that I am in my eighties, and I have a visa to enter the Kingdom and an invitation from one of its business leaders. I was expecting after that a better and faster treatment, but he directed me to sit in an old chair with Asian workers whose visas had not been processed for various reasons.
I did what he said reluctantly, but after a few minutes, I went back to him and I asked him to give my passport back to me and made him aware of my refusal to enter the kingdom.
He looked down his nose at me and said: “Which country do you want to leave to? Then, he added: “No country will accept you because your passport does not qualify you to obtain a visa for any country.. and you have to be grateful for obtaining a visa to the Kingdom.”
Because of the uproar and the loudness of the voices, one of the officers came out of his office and came near to me. At that moment, I was so angry and upset. The officer asked me if I had a ticket as well as an entry visa to the country I intend to travel to.
The way he and his colleague dealt with me because of my Yemeni passport annoyed me, so all I had to do was take out my Spanish passport, which was honored to me by the King of Spain, and I waved it in front of them. Then, I said: “With this passport, I can enter any European country, and many Arab countries and others as well.”
They were astonished. The way they treated me had changed, and the entry visa was approved on my Yemeni passport.
What happened in this journey made me think carefully about the suffering of Yemenis in migration, in recent times, especially in some neighboring countries in our region, and motivated me to recall the role of Yemenis in implementing infrastructure works, and in financing and establishing various projects in neighboring countries, especially in the second half of the twentieth century.
The contributions of Yemenis all around the world are countless, and they are almost the most influential on the economies and cultures of some countries to which they emigrated and became involved in their building and within their social fabric, whether in Southeast Asia, East Africa, Arab Gulf, or other countries.
Unfortunately, some countries, primarily the neighboring countries and some Sister Arab States, have neglected the civilized role of the Yemenis in their economic and social renaissance. For this reason, Al Khair Foundation for Social Development has decided to prepare an extensive study stating the role of Yemeni emigrants and migrants in the immigration countries. This idea was formed in the last months of the year 2019. Firstly, I have presented the idea of the study to many scholars, interested people, and specialists in issues of history, sociology, literature, and media. Then, when I felt their positive interaction with the study and their enthusiasm for its implementation, we started with the first step, which is to form a coordination and supervision team to implement the study, which was in November 2019.
The idea that started as a small dream, here it is, after a year and a half of tireless effort, has become a pioneering work that has never been approached with such comprehensiveness, by either official or unofficial authorities in Yemen. Moreover, Yemeni research centers and universities have not accomplished such a study throughout their research history. Here is, “Al Khair Foundation for Social Development” with the collaboration of the “Universal Group” is carrying out this fascinating work, out of their duty towards society.
Although this study has not one hundred percent stated all aspects of migration issues and its details, it remains a pioneering study that can be built upon in the future. Whether in the field studies, theoretical studies, or in stating the migrants’ figures and their influences, which we are shedding a light on within this part.  

(*) The Founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Al Khair Foundation.

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