The Akhdam

Yemeni society is one of extreme stratification and wide gaps between rich and poor. The dividers that break the society up are all at once economic, regional, tribal, and religious, among many others. However, there is no social group more isolated, ostracized, and discriminated against than the Akhdam. From the root kh-da-ma, meaning to serve, the Akhdam are the lowest class of Yemeni society, and despite being Arab Muslims, their African heritage designates them as a class apart from the rest of Yemen. They are subjected to the worst form of abuses, and crimes against them receive little attention in the courts.

The Akhdam have no way of escaping into the crowd or assimilating into ‘normal’ Yemeni society, as they wear their class on their sleeves. Their accents, dress, and occupations all reinforce that designation. They are employed to keep the country clean, and they walk the streets at all hours, collecting garbage and bottles. They do not beg, nor lower themselves to crime.

The following video was shot by Ammar Basha for the human rights group SAF, and is one of the most well-done videos I have seen on the subject, and I highly recommend watching it.


~ by Josh on December 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “The Akhdam”

  1. Dear Josh,

    I’ve got to say, great blog. Whenever I have a spare moment I read about your adventures.

    Thanks for posting this, I had no idea such discrimination against the Akhdam existed in Yemen. I am truly shocked! It is sad that we never hear of such injustices. Do you know if the government is doing anything to combat the situation?

    Keep up the good work,

    Alan Lahoni – Warwickshire, England

  2. Thanks for putting this video up, I live in a small town in Manchester with a small Yemeni community and have never honestly head about this.. I will definately be mentioning it so I can understand the whole issue more..

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