Photo: Fatma al-Baiti "Bikes4Yemen" in the U.K.
By Fatma al-Baiti, YES 2004-2005, Yemen, hosted by Ayusa in San Antonio, TX
Bike 4 Yemen was born out of the current crisis in Yemen. In addition to electricity shortages, there has been no fuel or diesel since the start of the conflict. Men have been able to move about by walking, riding bikes, or using motorbikes, but most of these modes of transport are considered inappropriate for females. Last month, a young Yemeni woman named Bushra al-Fusail decided to do something about it. She coordinated with friends to host a Bike 4 Yemen event – the first ever all-female bicycling event in the capital city of Sana’a!
To show solidarity and raise awareness, YES alumna Fatma al-Baiti, who is currently studying by scholarship in the United Kingdom, organized a similar event on Saturday, May 30th in London. The Facebook announcement stated that “The siege that was enforced upon Yemenis has led to shortages of basic human commodities. One of the main problems Yemenis are now facing is a fuel shortage, which is not only used to power cars, but also for electricity. In protest, Yemeni females took to the streets in Sana'a to show their stance on this issue by cycling their way through Yemeni roads. The campaign, as well as protesting war, comes as a ripple to social norms in Yemen, which have for so long restricted female movement and ability to contribute to society. And heck, it's even good for the environment, so it is a WIN-WIN-WIN!”
Twenty participants attended the event from countries including Germany, Syria, Kuwait, and the U. K.; the youngest participant was 11 years old! Najah al-Mujahed, another participant from Yemen who currently studies in the U.K., commented: “People come with innovative ideas to break social norms, and Bike 4 Yemen is one of these ideas that is innovative for Yemenis. It went viral not only for demanding change, but also for its immense need in the time being. Participating in this event shows solidarity with my fellow Yemeni women even if I live miles away.” Shaima al-Habtari added, “Bike 4 Yemen is a brilliant idea; it represents a side to Yemen that we tend to forget about in the midst of turmoil and destruction. Through it we see but a glimpse into the lives of courageous Yemeni citizens, and for that reason I chose to participate in the Bike 4 Yemen solidarity campaign.”