Yemeni women’s rights activist finds asylum and opportunity
Some pro bono cases take years to resolve; such was the case of “E.A.,” a woman who took a stand on behalf of all women during the Arab uprising and Yemeni Revolution in 2011.
In the current political climate, asylum seekers from Muslim nations are placed under an intense microscope. When E.A. and her family arrived in the U.S. after a harrowing journey from Yemen, she sought assistance through the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Manatt’s long-standing pro bono partner. Manatt’s Christian Baker first met E.A. and her family in 2013; he has represented her interests ever since.
Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab region, is in the midst of a full-scale humanitarian crisis. E.A. and her brother joined political demonstrations, and she also advocated for the rights of women, which is seen by some as contrary to the country’s laws and customs. Government forces targeted E.A. and her brother, and he was shot, severing his spinal cord. As her brother’s story drew attention and sympathy, E.A. was kidnapped, tortured and left for dead. Overcoming incredible odds, she successfully fled the country with her family.
E.A.’s biggest challenge was verifying her story. Baker assembled evidence and filed an affirmative asylum petition in December 2013. However, E.A. and her family were not interviewed until January 2016, largely because conditions in Yemen were so bad that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could not complete the mandatory, confidential investigation of E.A.’s identity and background.
While E.A’s application was under review, Baker helped her and her family apply for support services, including employment authorization. In 2016, he helped them prepare for their official interviews. Soon after, they received a recommended approval, and in the summer of 2018, Manatt was notified that E.A. and her family were granted full asylum.
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