Scholars at Risk (SAR) has issued the below letter to Saudi Arabian officials expressing concern over reports that Yemeni scholars and other professionals in Saudi Arabia’s southern provinces are being dismissed from their positions and face deportation from the country.
As SAR’s letter states, mass dismissals of Yemeni scholars would be “nothing short of devastating,” especially considering the professional consequences, the impact on regional and international scientific progress, and the danger these scholars and their families would face in war-torn Yemen.
SAR’s letter calls on Saudi Arabian officials to reverse any orders to terminate contracts of Yemeni scholars and to ensure that Yemeni and all other international scholars are able to carry out their work without fear of dismissal based on their nationality or immigration status.
Via email to His Excellency, Abdullah bin Yahya Al-Muallami, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations
His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
August 24, 2021
RE: Urgent appeal to reverse mass dismissals of Yemeni scholars in Saudi Arabia
I write on behalf of Scholars at Risk to express concern over reports that higher education institutions in the southern provinces are summarily dismissing hundreds of Yemeni scholars, as well as physicians and other professionals, apparently at the behest of state authorities. Considering the dire risks that their dismissal would impose on these scholars and their families, and the important contributions these scholars have made to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and global society, I respectfully ask you to urge the relevant authorities to reverse orders to terminate their contracts.
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network of more than 500 universities and colleges in 42 countries dedicated to protecting the human rights of scholars around the world, and to raising awareness, understanding of, and respect for the principles of academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of expression, opinion, thought, association, and travel. In cases like this, involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, SAR investigates, hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.
SAR understands that, starting in July 2021, universities in the provinces of Al-Baha, Asir, Najran, and Jazan began terminating or declining to renew the contracts of Yemeni citizens employed as academics, medical professionals, and other staff at public higher education institutions. Najran University alone terminated the contracts of 106 Yemeni scholars. These developments raise serious concerns that Yemeni scholars and researchers at universities across the Kingdom could face dismissal. Many of these scholars were recently approved for contract renewals. Many had also worked in the country for decades. Available reports indicate that scholars were not provided a basis for the decision, though Reuters reported that one document related to the termination orders cited “requirements of national interest.” SAR understands that affected Yemeni personnel have been allowed only two to four months in the country before they risk being forced to leave. On August 23, SAR received information suggesting a suspension or reversal of the contract terminations. SAR is unaware of any official statements from the Kingdom that would confirm such plans and invites the relevant state authorities to clarify any actions being taken to reverse or suspend contract termination or deportation orders.
The impact of mass firings of Yemeni scholars from the Saudi Arabian higher education sector would be nothing short of devastating. For these scholars, identifying and securing employment in their field, in Yemen or a third country, would prove exceedingly difficult, especially given that the dismissals began just weeks ahead of the new academic year. A return to academic work in Yemen may also be impossible, especially considering the ongoing war and the threats many scholars would likely face from Houthis and other armed groups.
Beyond the potentially career-ending consequences imposed on many of these scholars, mass dismissals of Yemeni scholars risk depriving people around the world, not only in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, of the benefits of their research, teaching, and ideas. The dismissals would also put immense strain on family members living with these scholars, especially children enrolled in local schools. Considering how these scholars and other professionals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have served as a financial lifeline for family members living in Yemen, a sharp, sweeping cutoff of remittances may quickly exacerbate one of the world’s greatest humanitarian disasters.
SAR respectfully urges you to instruct the relevant state authorities to reverse orders to terminate the contracts of Yemeni scholars and other professionals, and to ensure that all international scholars in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can carry out their work and contribute to scientific, cultural, and economic progress, without fear of dismissal based on their nationality or immigration status. SAR further welcomes any information clarifying reports of state authorities in the Kingdom ordering the suspension or reversal of contract terminations or deportations and would encourage state authorities to formally announce and expand such efforts.
Barring this, SAR respectfully urges you to direct the Ministry of the Interior to extend the stay of affected Yemeni scholars and their families in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so that they may properly plan and prepare for a safe and secure journey out of the country.
I thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.
His Royal Highness, Abdulaziz bin Saud Al Saud
Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
His Excellency, Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sheikh
Minister of Education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
His Excellency, Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al Awwad
President, Human Rights Commission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
His Royal Highness, Prince Hossam bin Saud bin Abdulaziz
Governor of Al-Baha Province, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
His Royal Highness, Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz
Governor of Asir Province, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
His Royal Highness, Prince Mohammed bin Nasser Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Governor of Jazan Province, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
His Royal Highness, Prince Gallawi bin Abdulaziz bin Mosaed
Governor of Najran Province, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia