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Laid-off sergeant marginalized as 'Akhdam'.

Mohammed Sherian, a laid off sergeant in the infantry army, worries about the future of "Akhdam," Yemenis at the bottom of Yemen's social ladder because of their African physical features. Sherian receives the same discriminatory treatment the Akhdam receive.

He said this treatment became apparent after the rule of former President Salem Rabie' Ali Salmeen, and the poor treatment increased over time.

Moreover, he said he has been treated this way since leaving his house in the Sheikh Ishaq neighborhood of Moa'ala, Aden, where he grew up and was elected by residents in that neighborhood as a prominent public figure of the neighborhood.

The revolution for marginalized people hasn't started yet, he said, adding that their grievances were completely absent from the popular uprisings that began in February 2011 and, according to him, continue today.

He said marginalized people were absent from the revolution and even remained unrepresented in the National Dialogue Committee, formed by President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, though they are the core indicator of social change.

Sherian currently works a cleaner in the Yemeni Sons' League Party (RAY) in Khoor Maksar area. The Southern Yemeni army laid him off after it was defeated in the 1994 battle against the Northern Yemeni army.

Despite the discrimination he is subject to and the salary cuts he receives, Sherian remains a well-respected member of his community. Several years ago, he was elected by his neighborhood to represent them and to play the role of social worker.

Sherian said he escaped to Aden when he was 15 because of the ascendency of sheikhs in Algharbia village in Shara'ab district, where he's from. He arrived in Dar Sa'ad in Aden and was imprisoned for several weeks because he was charged with being a spy for North Yemen.

President Salmeen personally intervened to release him and allowed him to join a school so he could learn to read. He planned to join the military after.

His infantry unit was based at the Basohaib Military Camp. Two years after enlisting, he was sent as logistical support to the Dhafar front, where Salmeen and his companions positioned themselves to topple the Omani regime that allied with Britain and Iran.

Sherian was a sergeant major when he and his friend Al-Sobailhi carried out a military operation that resulted in the downing of an Iranian warplane used to back Saeed Bin Taimoor, the Sultan of Oman.

He still remembers arresting Iranian paratroopers who jumped out of a plane in Sha'boot and were stuck in Acacia trees.

He staggers when he walks, the result of a bomb injury he received in battle after joining with units of the southern army in the Arab Peace Keepers in Lebanon from 1970 to 1980. The bones in his left thigh sustained permanent injuries, making it impossible to fully recover.

He was among the guard forces that accompanied prominent Lebanese figures who received assassination threats. When the late Lebanese leader Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated, Sherian was meters away from him.

Back then, nobody classified him as marginalized because Salmeen issued a decree preventing the use of terms such as "marginalized" or "Akhdam" to classify people. The decree stipulated that whoever does so be imprisoned for six months.

When Salmeen was the leader, Sherian married a woman belonging to a Yemeni tribe. At that time, it was possible for Akhdam to marry white women who belong to different social classes. Everyone received education and got a job without any bias, according to Sherian.

He remembers how marginalized people were able to work in high positions. For example, Farhan Al-Her, one of his friends, worked as a cook. He worked in different positions until he was appointed head of the military prosecution. Moreover, his friend Saeed Misha'al is still working in the Military Academy in Abyan.

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Aug 30, 2012
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