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Chairman's report, AGM 21 July
The Chairman, Mr Stephen Day, noted that the past years
programme had included some well-attended lectures, an excellent tour of Yemen in
November, and a successful Christmas Appeal for the Al-Noor Centre for the Blind and
Disabled in Mukalla, which had raised £2,735.
Discussing the security situation in Yemen since the unfortunate events in December
1998 and early January he described his own efforts and those of others, not least Brian
Whitaker, to inject some balance and perspective into the media debate. Yemen was a robust
country; it had survived difficulties in the past; British-Yemeni relations would, in
time, return to normal. The opening of the new Container Terminal in Aden was a great
achievement and there was considerable goodwill towards Yemen within the international
community. However, until the trials of those on terrorist charges were over, the security
situation would continue to arouse concern. FCO advice to British subjects remained,
dont go, and the Society would have to follow this advice, although a
tour to safe areas in smaller parties, for a shorter time and travelling
mainly by air, might be acceptable.
The Chairman proposed that Dr Abdulla Abdul Wali Nasher, Minister of Health, and Mr Jim
Ellis should be invited to become Vice-Presidents of the Society. He referred to Dr
Nashers tireless efforts to improve medical facilities in Yemen, and to Jim
Elliss services to the Society since its inception, in particular his role in
organising and leading three successive annual tours to Yemen, before ill health obliged
him to resign from the Committee.
The Chairman thanked Michael Whittall and Julian Lush for their work respectively as
Vice-Chairman and Hon. Secretary, and wished Said Hadi Awadh every success in his
new assignment. Julian Lush, having handed over to Julian Paxton, wished to remain on the
Committee. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Orchard, a founder member, and Peter Hinclicliffe had
resigned from the Committee. Douglas Gordon was proposed as the new Vice-Chairman, and
John Mason for election to the Committee. These proposals having been approved, the
Chairman warmly thanked H.E. Dr Hussain al-Amri, Co-President, and his staff at the
Embassy for once again hosting the AGM and arranging a reception afterwards.
Note: Mr Stephen Day submitted his resignation to the Committee in September,
citing the pressure of his other commitments, and has been replaced as Chairman by Mr
Douglas Gordon. Julian Lush has agreed to act as Vice-Chairman.
Chairman's report, December 1998
The major events of the year have been the visit of President Ali
Abdullah Salih to Britain in November 1997, which HE Dr Hussain al-Amri has confirmed was
a great success, and the Yemen Festival; both events demonstrated the very marked
improvement in Yemeni-British relations. The Festival was limited by financial constraints
but introduced notable aspects of Yemeni culture to a wider British public. The Society
contributed financially to exhibitions at the British Museum and the Institute of
Archaeology and Dr Abdullah Abdul Wali Nasher, Minister of Health, made exceptional
efforts to raise funds for the Festival within Yemen. We had an opportunity to thank him
by organising a reception for him at the Travellers Club in the autumn, to which a
number of NGOs were invited. We are also grateful to the companies and to the many
individuals who supported the Festival.
The Society sponsored the travel toYemen of two archaeological
students to work at the al-Hamid site and thereby further their own studies; they will be
reporting to the Society on the results of their trip in a lecture next year.
The second essay competition once again drew a disappointing
response. The Committee has decided not to repeat the competition in its present form but
to discuss with the British Council and theYemeni-British Friendship Association in Yemen
some alternative likely to prove more successful.
Douglas Scrafton has completed his tour as Ambassador in
Sanaa and the Societys gratitude for his help and advice should be recorded;
he has been succeeded by Victor Henderson who has agreed to become the Societys
The Christmas Appeal for the Health and Culture Centre in
Sanaa raised over £1,000.
Two Committee members are resigning Venetia Porter and
Francine Stone. They were founder members of the Society and deserve our warmest thanks
for their sterling work. Meanwhile, on behalf of you all, I propose to send best wishes
for a speedy recovery to Jim Ellis, also a founder member. He has led the Societys
three annual tours to Yemen and these have made a considerable contribution to the
This year we have 205 ordinary and student members and eight
corporate members, compared to 179 and seven last year.
Under the constitution, Honorary Officers may only serve two terms
of three years. This means that Michael Whittall, Julian Lush and I, myself, must all be
gone by the AGM in 1999. Rather than all three of us going at the same time, I am
resigning this year. I am delighted that Stephen Day has accepted nomination as my
replacement, and that Julian Paxton has agreed to become Hon. Secretary when Julian Lush
retires next year. I am also grateful to John Shipman for agreeing to take over as Editor
of the Journal.
Finally, I would like to thank our Co-President, the Ambassador,
and his staff for all their support and, in particular, for inviting the Society once
again to hold its AGM in the Yemeni Embassy and for hosting a reception for us afterwards.
W D Heber Percy MBE
Chairman's report, December 1997
Your Committee decided that the magazine in its original format
had become too expensive and alterations were agreed at the AGM. The Committee would
welcome comments. We are very grateful to Georgina Simpson who has taken on the duty of
The series of lectures continued with three last winter and a
further four in the Spring. They are reported on elsewhere in the magazine. We are very
grateful to our lecturers who give so generously of their time and knowledge.
"Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land" by Tim Mackintosh
Smith has been published. Your society helped to finance a visit to Yemen by Martin Yeoman
who illustrated the book.
The Christmas Appeal for the Ras Morbat Medical Clinic raised over
£2,000. Some medical equipment was purchased and dispatched and the balance of funds
transferred to the Clinic in Aden. The Clinic Director has asked me to pass on his thanks
to all those who contributed and especially to the Parishes of St Michael and All Angels,
Turnham Green and Llanishen, Cardiff who generously donated their Lenten Collection.
The Societys essay competition for Yemeni students
continues. The 1997 competition has a closing date of 30 November. The result will be
published in the next edition of the magazine.
Jim Ellis led the second Society tour last Autumn and as this
magazine goes to print is in the middle of the third.
The Yemen Festival is covered elsewhere in the magazine. Your
Society provided sponsorship for the exhibition in the Institute of Archaeology and the
photographic exhibition in the British Museum. All the events seem to have been very well
attended. The opening concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall was sold out. I would like to
express my admiration for all the hard work, much of it voluntary, which went into the
At the Annual General Meeting James Nash and Sulaiman Ghanem
retired from the Committee and Dirham Abdu Saeed, Douglas Gordon and Peter Hinchcliffe
were elected. Since the election, Saeed Hadi Awadh has been co-opted onto the Committee. I
would like to thank James Nash who single handedly started up the Societys magazine
and edited the first four editions and Sulaiman Ghanem whose advice and help will be
Dr Abdulla Abdulwali Nasher who was Chairman of the Yemeni-British
Friendship Association in Sanaa was appointed Minister of Health after the Spring
elections. He was of tremendous help to the Society and did much to foster close links
between the two organisations. At his request the Committee is working to involve some of
the British based medical NGOs in the development of the Health Service in the Yemen.
W D Heber Percy MBE
Chairman's report, November 1996
The visit to Yemen by members of the Society late last year,
organised by Jim Ellis, was a great success. We were honoured to meet HE. the President,
the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and other members of
the Government. We also met leading members of the business and academic communities in
Sanaa, Taiz and Aden and came away convinced of the continuing friendship between
the two countries and a feeling that much needed to be done to encourage an increased
level of both governmental and business activity from Britain.
Universal Travel and Tourism looked after us most efficiently on
our tour around the country and we were royally entertained by Dr Abdulla Abdulwali Nasher
and members of our sister Society in Yemen, the Yemeni British Friendship Association, who
are very enthusiastic about working with us to improve ties between our countries.
A number of initiatives resulted from this visit. Your Society
helped to recruit five teachers for the Mohammed Ali Othman school in Taiz. A lady teacher
was recruited for a school in Sanaa. In May of this year a delegation of British
members of parliament visited Yemen at the invitation of the Speaker of the Yemeni
parliament. The visit was organised by the Council for the Advancement of Arab British
Understanding. World Circuit Arts are now planning a major festival of Yemeni culture in
Britain in September 1997. In June Dr Abdulqader al-Gunaid, who is head of the planning
committee for a new Taiz University, visited London and your Society arranged meetings for
him with both Imperial College, London and Buckingham University. Finally Dr Harry
Robertson, who was with us during the visit and ensured that we all survived a frenetic
three weeks in one piece, returned to Aden in October as Interim Director of the Anglican
Church of the Middle East Medical Centre.
The Annual General Meeting in July was well attended and we are
grateful to H.E. Dr Husain al-Amri for inviting us to hold it in the Embassy The committee
and officers of the Society were re-elected for a further year.
Students in Yemen were invited to take part in an essay
competition initiated by your Society. Entries closed in August. The winner is Ahmed Salah
Ahmed Mansour, a student living in Sana, who chose as his title "How a Yemeni
sees British people." The Society felt that the number of entrants to the competition
did not justify awarding prizes to runners up this year.
At the A.G.M. members agreed that the competition should be
repeated in 1997 and efforts made to publicise it more widely and to encourage more
competitors of both sexes to have a go.
Finally I must thank Julian Lush, our Honorary Secretary and Bob
Davies, our Honorary Treasurer, for all their hard work and H.E. Dr al-Amri and his
colleagues at the Yemeni Embassy for their help.
W D Heber Percy MBE
Chairman's report, November 1995
In the autumn of last year it became apparent that the Overseas
Development Administration were showing no signs of reactivating the aid programme which
had been suspended in the early part of the year. A considerable number of members took
the matter up with the ODA., the Foreign Office and with their own members of parliament.
A number of questions were asked in both Houses. I am delighted to report that, in March
this year, the Minister of State, Baroness Chalker, announced that the bilateral aid
programme to the Yemen would resume at the start of the 1995/6 financial year. It is not
yet clear whether the level of support will return to the pre-suspension level, but it is
very satisfactory that the principle of British development aid to the Yemen has been
re-established and I have no doubt that the efforts of members of the Society made an
important contribution to this successful outcome.
In March of this year, H.E. Dr. Husain Abdulla al Amri took up his
post as ambassador of the Republic of Yemen in London. He kindly agreed to become our
honorary Co-President and we had a chance to welcome him with a reception at the Arab
British Centre which was very well attended. His help and advice has already proved of
great assistance to the Society and he attended and spoke to members at our annual general
meeting in May. He has also found time to attend other events.
In July, with the help of Visiting Arts, the Society sponsored
Hamud bin Junayd, a classical Yemeni ud player and vocalist, to come to Britain take
part in the Llangollen International Festival of Music. In the competition for soloists
and small groups, in which sixteen countries competed, he came third. He subsequently gave
concerts in Cardiff, London and Birmingham, all of which drew enthusiastic audiences. He
also appeared on various radio and television programmes.
The programme of lectures continued successfully and are reported
on elsewhere in the magazine. The autumn programme has already been circulated.
Undoubtedly the major event of this autumn is the Wales-Yemen
Festival which is to take place in Sanaa in October. Pat Aithie has given up an
enormous amount of time to organise this festival, which has received enthusiastic backing
from the Yemeni Ministry of Culture, the British Embassy and the British Council. It will
consist of an exhibition of Welsh crafts in Dar al Kutub in Sanaa, a group of Welsh
musicians and vocalists who will perform not only in Sanaa, but will tour the
country performing with a group of Yemeni musicians and a festival of Welsh food in the
Taj Sheba Hotel in Sanaa. Prior to its despatch to Sanaa, the exhibition was
put on show at the Oriel Gallery in Cardiff, which was opened by H.E. the Ambassador on
31st July. Universal Travel and Tourism, the Taj Sheba Hotel in Sanaa, Celtic
Surveys and Clyde Petroleum, amongst others, have helped to sponsor this event. The time
and work involved in organising an event of this size is considerable and Pat Aithie and
the members of her committee are to be congratulated on a magnificent effort.
At the time of going to press, the Societys tour of the
Yemen seems to be on course thanks to the hard work of Jim Ellis. At the last count 19
members have booked in. I have been forbidden to mention the average age of the
Julian Lush, the honorary secretary, has been unwell during the
summer. He has carried the burden of all the administration of the Society since its
inception and his absence, I am afraid, has caused a few minor hiccups for which I
apologise. We fervently wish him a full and rapid recovery. Our honorary treasurer, Cliff
Leslie, has resigned owing to his departure to warmer climes. Bob Davies has gallantly
agreed to take over the post.
Finally at the annual general meeting in 1996, all the officers of
the Society come up for re-election. A number of us feel that, after three years, fresh
blood is needed. In due course nomination papers will be circulated, but in the meantime,
would all members give thought to whom would best guide the Society into the next
W D Heber Percy
Chairman's report, November 1994
It has been a tragic year for the Yemen. The breakdown of
political dialogue, followed by the outbreak of fighting, had a catastrophic effect on the
economy of the country and caused much damage to its infrastructure, particularly in Aden.
With the cessation of fighting in the middle of the summer, the situation is slowly
getting back to normal. Water and power have been restored to Aden and most of the oil
companies, which had withdrawn during the fighting, are now back. However, much bitterness
remains and the Government has a difficult task to erase the memories of the summer and to
reinvigorate the economy. In Britain the troubles have caused difficulties within some of
the Yemeni communities which, I hope, your Society may be of some help in solving.
The Society has had a mixed year. Its six lecture programme went
very well and all the lectures were well attended. I am grateful to our lecturers who give
up so much of their time. I hope that this six lecture per annum programme will continue.
The Society is now a registered charity and I am most grateful to
Michael Carey and Cliff Leslie, our Honorary Treasurer, for guiding the committee through
the complicated ritual of registration. You will in due course be invited to renew your
subscription by deed of covenant which will enable the Society to reclaim tax on each
The major event of 1994 should have been the Musical Tour of the
group of Yemeni singers, dancers and musicians chosen by the Yemeni Ministry of Culture.
Sadly this was a casualty of the troubles, but not before a considerable amount of energy
had been expended in organising it. I must therefore record my thanks to the committee
members, the Museum of Mankind, the Arab Club and the officers of the Yemeni communities
in London, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield for all their hard work. The tour
was to have been sponsored by Visiting Arts, Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust, the Embassy of
the Republic of Yemen, B.P. Exploration, Clyde Petroleum, Nimir Services Ltd and Thabet
International to whom we are most grateful. I hope that it may be possible to organise a
similar tour at a later date.
The Society also arranged, at short notice, a reception for H.E.
the Yemeni Minister for Energy and Petroleum Affairs, Salih Abubakr bin Husainun at the
Travellers Club. It is sad to record that the Minister was killed shortly afterwards
in the troubles.
It is sad also to report that Dr Shaya Mohsin has left his post as
the Yemeni ambassador in London. As our Honorary co-President, Dr Shaya gave a great deal
of help and encouragement to your Society in its early days and we will miss his wise
advice. We look forward to welcoming the new ambassador.
The Yemeni community in Cardiff held a very successful Yemeni week
in May, towards the cost of which your Society made a small contribution. Details of it
are included elsewhere in the Journal.
Dr Lawless, who has just retired from Durham University, is
publishing a book entitled "From Taiz to Tyneside". Your Society, along with
others, is helping to fund the cost of publication of this important historical record of
Yemeni migration to Britain.
I hope that 1995 will be a more successful year both for the
Republic of Yemen and for your Society. I use the term your Society pointedly. The turnout
at the A.G.M. was disappointing and the lack of complaints and suggestions could encourage
a sense of complacency in your committee which I am sure you would not wish! Please let us
have suggestions on future activities, comments on the format and content of this magazine
and any ideas you may have on how the Society can better fulfil its role.
W D Heber Percy
Secretary's report, November
The idea of a society to foster relations between the peoples of
Yemen and Great Britain began in mid 1992. Given the long historical links between the two
countries and the recent unification of the two parts of Yemen into the Republic of Yemen,
the time seemed right for such a society to be formed. Its objectives were to promote
friendship and understanding and to advance public awareness and knowledge in Britain of
Yemen, of its history, geography, economy and culture. In the autumn of 1992, Bill Heber
Percy, with much encouragement and support from H.E. Dr. Shaya Zindani, the Yemeni
ambassador in London, undertook the initial spadework and formed a small interim committee
of five people to bring the Society into being.
In November 1992, some 300 people were invited to join the
embryonic society. As a result of a most encouraging response, an inaugural meeting was
held on 11th February 1993 at the British Academy, which was attended by some 120 people.
They heard that the Society had already 120 individual and fifteen corporate members. The
members present also endorsed the continuation of the interim committee to manage the
affairs of the Society until a constitution could be prepared and adopted and a proper
committee and officers could be appointed. The objectives meanwhile were to arrange a
broad and interesting series of lectures, having particular regard to the wishes and
interests of the Yemeni members.
Following the business, Professor Fred Halliday addressed the
meeting on "Reflections on contemporary Yemen". With his scholarly knowledge of
the historical background and a considerable insight into the current conditions, he gave
a rounded appreciation of the situation within the now unified Republic of Yemen as the
country approached its first multi-party elections and an account of the new states
relations with its neighbours. Without denying the immense difficulties of the path
forward, his outlook was generally optimistic.
The next meeting was on 16th March at SOAS, when Dr. Samar Damluji
gave a well illustrated talk on the architecture of south Yemen and the Hadhramawt in
particular. Her knowledge of the subject was most impressive and she conveyed the essence
of the unique building styles of these areas in a masterly manner to an appreciative
On 11th May, Dr Tudor Parfitt addressed the Society at the Middle
East Association on the Jewish community in Habban. Tracing its history and the position
of Jews in the predominently Muslim society of the town, typical of many Jewish
communities in Yemen over the centuries, he described their legal and social status in
detail. The story ended with the departure of the entire Jewish community to the new state
of Israel in 1949/50, for a variety of reasons based on fears perceived and hopeful
expectations, the latter having hardly been realised.
Links have been forged with other Arabian societies, in particular
the Society for Arabian Studies. On 17th March many of our members attended a lecture,
organised by that society, by Hugh Leach, who reminisced on his years of service in Arabia
including two spells in Yemen. Our Society also became a joint sponsor with the Society
for Arabian Studies and the Leigh Douglas Memorial Fund of a visit by Professor Yusif
Abdalla, Vice-President of the General Organisation for Antiquities, Manuscripts and
Museums in Yemen, in July, when the professor lectured to members of both societies on the
state of archaeology in the country.
On the formal side, a draft constitution was prepared and approved
by the Charity Commission. This enabled the first General Meeting of members, held on 21st
September, to adopt the constitution and elect the honorary officers and the executive
committee. Now that our Society is fully established as a charity, it is well placed to
proceed with the various projects in hand and the committee will remain receptive to ideas
from the general membership as to how to achieve its objectives.
A. J. M. Lush