Edict in Yemen Forces Jewish Orphans to Embrace Moslem Faith

An edict has been issued in Yemen making it obligatory for all Jewish children to embrace the Moslem faith on the death of their fathers. The enforcement of this edict has added to the misery of the Yemenite Jews, the object of great oppression at the hands of the Moslem majority.

Conditions resulting from this conversion policy are described today in the “Doar Ha’yom,” Jerusalem Hebrew daily, in a letter it published from a Yemenite Jew who recently arrived in Palestine. The details which he recounts are almost unbelievable in their cruelty.

The Immam issued the decree on December 15, 1928. The police enforcing this measure undertook a vigorous search for all Jewish boys and girls whose fathers had died. The orphans are brought before a specially appointed government officer whose task it is to first try to persuade the youngsters to embrace the Moslem faith voluntarily. When the attempts at initiating them into the teachings of the Koran fail-and they are mainly unsuccessful-the children are severely beaten. When the beating does not help, they are imprisoned in cellars where they are fettered and threatened that unless they consent to be converted they will be killed.

Despite the drastic measures only twenty-seven Jewish orphans have been converted since the issuance of the order.

A particularly distressing case was the conversion of two Jewish children, a brother and a sister, on January 23, after six weeks of terrible torture. The Jewish community endeavored to rescue the children by offering a considerable ransom. The offer was not accepted because of the stringency of the enforcement policy. Hundreds of Yemenite Jews assembled around the building at the hour when the conversion ceremony took place. Terrified though they were at what their eyes beheld, the oppressed and intimidated Yemenite Jews did not dare raise their voices in protest, the writer reports.

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