Life in Yemen is not easy for a woman. Especially if you are a woman who has decided to become a Christian. Yemen is a tribal country, where leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of that tribe, punishable by death.
Nadeen (*), a born-and-raised Yemeni woman in her late 20s, became a Christian before the civil war broke out in 2015. She had to keep her new faith hidden as her family would probably disown her if they knew. Yemen ranks 9th on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
It meant for Nadeen that she had to live her faith in isolation, as she could not meet with other Christians.
Not only can Christians not openly gather in Yemen, for her as a single woman it was especially hard to get away from the house.
“My family strictly controlled everything I did,” she says.
However, via Facebook she connected with other Christians living in her area. After finishing her studies, she found a job with a bank and was able to move more freely, allowing her to meet up with them.
That’s also how she met the man, also of the same faith, who is now her husband. Their wedding day did not have any references to their Christian faith: “As only Islamic wedding rituals are allowed in Yemen, I had an Islamic wedding that was arranged by the family,” Nadeen explains.
As she has decided to not tell her family of her faith yet, it is easier for her and her husband to stay in Yemen. Those who expose their faith often have to flee and to sever family ties.
Almost 26 million people live in the Arab world’s poorest nation, which has been ravaged by war for more than two years.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition decided to take military action against Houthi rebels from the north, who had taken over the capital, Sanaa.
Two years later, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed and over three million Yemenis displaced. Earlier this year, it was reported that a hunger crisis is threatening the lives of approximately 3.3 million people.
The power vacuum created by the civil war has allowed radical Islamist groups, such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to gain significant influence. Christians have been killed and abducted, including 16 people killed in an attack on a Christian-run care home for the elderly, while in certain parts of the country US drone strikes have become an almost daily feature. It is reported that the patrols have intensified since late January, when US President Donald Trump took office, causing unrest and fear among the population.
*Not her real name.