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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

Sarah Ben Nefissa
Maggy Grabundzija
Jean Lambert

Chapter 2: Civil Society and Social Changes

Civil Society, Citizenship and Modernity (abstract)

Raufa Hassan

Entrées d'index

Texte intégral

1As the majority of Arab societies, Yemen society is centered on traditional family, tribal and religious relations with a strong patriarchal domination. Because of British and Ottoman colonization, there existed a possibility of creating a modern state in Yemen. However, the historical circumstances in both parts of the country laid obstacles to a radical transformation.

2Though new concepts have been imported from outside, such as the state, citizenship, and human rights, they have not annulled the traditional notions and still less the traditional structures. Thus, one can witness duality, even contradiction: like in all Arab countries, the Yemenis talk a lot about human rights but they do not practice them. An individual is ‘modern’ from the point of view of his profession or his lifestyle as a consumer, but he remains ‘traditional’ in his tribal and religious affiliations and even in his political attachment. In the face of social changes, he continues to be rather conservative, being prejudiced against everything that is unknown or unusual, particularly in case of the status of the women of his household.

3Thus, the perpetuation of the larger family and the tribe always provides the state with basic authoritarian structures. Patriarchalism itself has evolved into ‘neo-patriarchalism’.

4Both in the North and in the South, the modernist elite have created a national state which strived to conform to one of the predominant European models. In fact, however, they have reproduced traditional structures. Even elections and the right to vote have not led to a true democracy. This is especially the case with the women who are totally dependent on the dominating masculine structures of power. From this point of view, all the modern concepts present in the Yemeni constitution, such as democracy and citizenship, remain empty.

5From its part, the state confronted with tribal and confessional clans, cannot address directly the individuals to secure their national allegiance nor can it reconsider the social and political relations which remain authoritarian in the first place.

6However, in the cities, a modern society seems to emerge under the combined influence of rural migration, capitalist economic development and education. In this context, the nuclear family tends to replace the larger family. A greater availability of education for girls is also a very important change. Thus, foundation has been established to enable a truly national state to appear in the future, despite foreseeable resistance of the traditional structures. The birth of a modern civil society as a third sector between the public and the private, allows us to look forward to such development.

© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2008

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