On the Future of Hadhramaut

 Professor Abdalla Bujra

On the Future of Hadhramaut

This issue has always been discussed in Hadhramaut itself and especially amongst the large Hadhrami Diaspora. However, since the present war started, the issue has become critical for all Hadhramis – particularly amongst the youth and the middle class in Hadhramaut and those working within the region and even more so amongst the Diaspora in the non-Arab regions.
The reason for this interest and indeed concern about the future, are obvious and we need not discuss them in details here.  But it is important to point out that this issue has been important long since the beginning of migration –the Diaspora wanted development in Hadhramaut to minimize migration and Hadhramaut’s dependence on the Diaspora.
It is also important to point out that Hadhramaut itself has experienced many changes during the last 150 years. First during the rule of the Sultans –Kathiri and Quaity – indeed the Quaity Sultanate was closely linked to the Hadhrami Diaspora in India. Then came the British and during this period several important changes in Hadhrami society took place. Then came Independence and with it the the Socialist State of South Yemen – which included Hadhramaut. And in 1990 came the Unity Government based in Sanaa and the dominance of the the Northern Yemenis including in Hadhramaut. And now the War between the Sanaa Government and Saudi Arabia with its allies – the Khaleej states. Since the 1960s Independence to the present - - roughly 55 years – Yemen as a whole have been going through many dramatic political, economic and social changes in which the Saudis have been involve indirectly and directly. Hadhramaut was thus seriously affected by these changes – mostly negative effect.
The Saudis since the 1950s – have been an important area of employment for Hadhramis including the East African Diaspora. Since the 1980s, the Khaleej has also become an important area where Hadhramis work and live – particularly the younger generation. The Hadhramis working in Saudi and Khaleej roughly constitute the middle class on which the country’s economy depends. But since the majority of this class is treated as migrant workers with no permanent residence, they are extremely insecure because they could be thrown out anytime depending on the whims of the ruling class of the Saudis and Khaleej states. Hence the issue of their future and that of Hadhramaut is in their minds all the time. The number of Hadhramis in the non-Arab region – the Diaspora – is as large if not larger than those in the Arab region. This traditional Diaspora has always been the economic supporters of Hadhramaut. It has been overtaken now by those in the Arab region. But the traditional Diaspora has always been concerned about Hadhramaut’s future because Hadhramaut is where they will go to when it becomes difficult to continue living in the non-Arab countries. And they always want Hadhramaut to be better than when they left it.
The Diaspora in both the Arab and non-Arab regions are now very concerned about the future of Hadhramaut. There are several scenarios which are constantly being discussed by different groups.
1.     A totally independent Hadhramaut
2.     Hadhramaut under a United Yemen – as happened since the 1990 unity.Alternatively as a federal unit of the Yemen.
3.     Hadhramaut as part of a non-Socialist Southern State- complete unity or federated.
4.     Hadhramaut and Saudi Arabia (SA) – fully integrated with SA, federal relation, or simply loosely linked to S.A.
5.     Hadhramaut linked to the Khaleej State –  eg part of the UAE or loosely linked to it.

Each of these possible scenarios is often discussed with different groups supporting different scenarios.
There are three fundamental issues which are of great concern when people discuss the future of Hadhramaut.
a.     Getting employment and conducting business in the different scenarios
b.     Oppression and freedom if Hadhramaut relates to any of the above scenarios;
c.       Political independence as opposed to be part of other countries.
d.     Maintaining Hadhrami identity vis a vis integration with other countries.

Clearly, different groups support different scenarios. But the largest number of people relate positively to the following issues:-
    1. Employment availability – in SA and Khaleej
     2. Bad working conditions and identity problem in S.A. and Khaleej
     3. Keeping the resources of Hadhramaut to the Hadhramis,
      4. Maintaining strong ties between those in Hadhramaut and in the          
    5. Maintaining Political independence of Hadhramaut
     6.The Diaspora to play an important role in the future of Hadhramaut.

This is the first part of a longer article to be continued.   

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