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Children in an Akhdam neighbourhood of Ta'izz
Khadem man in Ta'izz

Al-Akhdam or Akhdam (singular Khadem, meaning "servant" in Arabic; also called Al-Muhamasheen, "the marginalized ones") are a social group in Yemen distinct from the majority by their more African features. As a low caste group, they are discriminated against and mostly confined to menial jobs. According to official estimates, they numbered around 500.000 in 2004, while other estimates put their number as high as more than 1 million in 2007 (out of a total Yemeni population of 22 million).

Their origins are unclear. In Yemen, they are popularly believed to be the descendants of Ethiopian soldiers of the Aksumite Empire that occupied modern-day Yemen more than 1500 years ago and who remained there as slaves or servants of the local population after the occupation ended. While slavery in Yemen was abolished after the 1962 revolution and hereditary social classes slowly dissolved, the Akhdam continue to be stigmatized and affected by discrimination. Most Akhdam live in slums at the outskirts of the major cities, 100.000 of them live in San‘a’, others are in Aden, Ta'izz, Lahij, Abyan, Al Hudaydah and Al Mukalla. Their living conditions are generally worse than those of the majority.

Many NGO's and charitable organizations from other countries such as CARE International are working towards their emancipation, while the Yemeni government denies that there is any discrimination against the Khadem.[1]


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