Monday, August 24, 2009
class and race as factors in squatting
A fascinating article in Yemen Times introduces the concepts of class and race into the debate over squatting.
Several decades-old squatter communities in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, are dominated by people who are part of "a minority group in Yemen known as “al-akhdam,” which literally means, “the servants.”
"Despite the fact that akhdam communities are Muslim with a Yemeni heritage older than Islam, they are often isolated, discriminated against and live in slums that are short of water, sewage, healthy food, available education and security," the article notes, adding, "An ancient, fading class system unites the akhdam as a group. Their collective identity appears to originate from Ethiopians who conquered and settled in 6th Century Yemen. They have, however, been in Yemen as long as any other group, and self-identify as Yemenis."
So, North Africans whose presence in the country dates from before the spread of Islam now live in squatter neighborhoods called mahwa and are denied access to municipal improvements and title to their homes.
Despite being denied services and living at the precarious end of the economic spectrum, the residents appear to have improved their community and, as the picture shows, build their homes with brick, stone, and concrete.