On the wings of a bird: The anti-colonial struggle in Aden from the perspective of the Arab women’s movement, 1955-1967


1 December 2023


Volume 1 – Number 12

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Geert Van Goethem



Although the former British crown colony of Aden, as part of Yemen, is today involved in one of the most hopeless armed conflicts, during decolonisation and the Cold War it was one of the most coveted and disputed areas between East and West. Aden was both geopolitically and economically a central link in the British empire. Yet, in less than a decade, a national liberation struggle succeeded in driving out the British. This liberation struggle was also, to a significant extent, a class conflict in which a strong local trade union movement confronted the colonial authorities. That story is well known. Less well known, and even ignored, is the importance of the local women’s movement in this struggle. In this contribution, I want to examine the role of the Aden women’s movement within the context of Aden’s social and national liberation struggles and, in particular, look at how they developed their activism, what their repertoire was and what resources they managed to mobilize. The gender perspective broadens our view of this anti-colonial movement and brings into the spotlight actors who have received little attention until now.


Yemen, Decolonisation Racism/colonialism, Trade unions/internationalism, Islamic Feminism/women’s activism