MESA - Middle East Studies Association

Letters on Yemen

May 14, 2015

Open letter to the countries participating in Operations ‘Decisive Storm’ and ‘Restoring Hope’ and the Ansar Allah regarding armed attacks on Yemeni universities

His Majesty Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia
The Leadership of Ansar Allah
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates
His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah,  Emir of Kuwait
His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar
His Excellency Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King of Jordan 
His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco
His Excellency, Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, President of Sudan
His Excellency Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal
His Excellency Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies,

I write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom regarding the disturbing reports of armed attacks on university campuses in Yemen.  Students have been shut out of Yemen’s classrooms due to both Saudi-led air attacks as well as Houthi artillery fire for several months, and several campuses have incurred damage. Among the victims of street fighting in Aden have been several academics and students of Aden University. One of them, Professor of Economics Zain al-Yazidi, reportedly died on December 17, 2014, of the effects of tear-gas sprayed at him during a peaceful demonstration.

Hudaydah University, a branch of Sana’a University in the southwest of Yemen, was the target of airstrikes that caused severe damage to the faculty of health sciences and the faculty of pharmacy. Universities in Sanaa, Dhamar, Ibb, and Taiz have suspended most activities to avoid casualties. Students have been forced to stay at home, or have been displaced. Overall, the damage to the universities and the suspension of classes have affected five million students across the country, the majority of them Yemenis, but also foreign nationals studying in the country.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere. 

Recent weeks have seen several calls for pauses or ceasefires, none of which have materialized.  We call on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to desist immediately from operations that may further damage or destroy educational facilities and to take all necessary steps to protect these places and the people who teach and study there.   Should the recent ceasefire proposals be accepted and hold, we then call upon all the parties to assume their responsibilities in helping to rebuild what has been destroyed.  Only once the fighting has come to an end and the damage repaired will Yemeni universities be able to resume their mandate of ensuring the free exchange of ideas, and work with the broader society to restore peace, stability, and the country’s once vibrant intellectual life. 

Yours sincerely,
Nathan Brown
Professor, George Washington University


President of the United States Barak Obama
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron
President of France François Hollande
President of Turkey Recep Tayyib Erdogan
Prime Minister of Belgium Charles Michel

June 25, 2010

Professor Dr. Abd al-Aziz Saleh Bin Habtoor
University of Aden
Aden Governorate 
P.O. Box 6312

Dear Rector Bin Habtoor,

I write on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to protest the two-year suspension of Mr. Wa’el al-Qubati, a fourth-year student in the Journalism and Mass Communications Faculty at the University of Aden. Mr. al-Qubati was suspended without due process or notification, apparently for writing newspaper articles critical of the university administration. Furthermore, Mr. al-Qubati was prevented from sitting for his final-year exams, despite securing a court ruling compelling the University administration to allow him to sit for the exams. We strongly urge you to reinstate Mr. al-Qubati immediately, and to enable him to take the final-year exams that will determine his educational future.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Mr. al-Qubati is an editor at the newspaper Aden News and the former secretary of al-Tahdeeth newspaper. Faced with the summary suspension, Mr. al-Qubati resorted to the courts. On 15 June 2010, the Sira Primary Court headed by Judge Sadeq Abd Rabbo Muhammad found for the plaintiff, ordering Aden University to admit Mr. al-Qubati to the exams, due to begin on 16 June 2010. When Mr. al-Qubati made his way to the University on 16 June, security guards prevented him from entering, on the orders of the University Rector.

Several Yemeni organizations and institutions have appealed to you, Dr. Bin Habtoor, to respect the court ruling and enable Mr. al-Qubati to take his exams. Minister of Higher Education Saleh Ali Basurra ordered in a memorandum that all suspended students be reinstated, in line with President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s amnesty for political prisoners on May 22, the 20th anniversary of Yemeni unification. On 22 June 2010, the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate organized a protest sit-in to express solidarity with Mr. al-Qubati, and issued a statement expressing its “opposition to the arbitrary decisions targeting journalists. The University Rector’s refusal of the court ruling ordering al-Qubati’s admission to the exams is a grave matter that cannot pass in silence.”

We join our Yemeni colleagues and strongly urge you to abide by the Sira Court ruling and admit Mr. al-Qubati to the final exams. We also call on you to reverse the punitive, arbitrary suspension order against Mr. al-Qubati and reinstate him so that he can complete his final year of university studies. We respectfully remind you that Article 54 of the Yemeni Constitution stipulates that all citizens have the right to education, guaranteed by the state. And Article 51 of the Constitution emphasizes that every citizen has the right to resort to the courts, to protect his rights and interests.

We look forward to your response.


Roger M.A. Allen
MESA President
Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania

University of Aden Vice President Ahmed Ali al-Hamdani
University of Aden Vice President Suleiman Faraj Bin Azoon
University of Aden Vice President Ahmed Musa al-Abadi
University of Aden Vice President Khalil Ibrahim Muhammad
Minister of Higher Education, Professor Dr. Saleh Ali Basurra

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