Yemeni Women Live in Isolation in the U.K.

Photographing Yemeni women living a life behind closed doors in the north of England, Lesley Sutton discovered a culture almost cut off from the rest of the world.

It is said that the first mosque in Britain was built in Cardiff, Wales, set up by Yemeni sailors who arrived in the U.K. on coal-burning ships from the former British colony of Aden in the 19th century. Today it’s estimated there are between 70,000 and 80,000 Yemenis living in Britain, both recent arrivals and second and third generations. Many of them live in Eccles, a part of Greater Manchester in the north of England.

Lesley Sutton, a visual artist, spent months listening to the life stories and gaining the trust of the Yemeni community so that she could document the everyday lives of the women in their homes. What she discovered was a beautiful and intimate culture almost completely cut off from the world outside.

Women & Girls Hub: What was your impression of the Yemeni community in Britain?

Lesley Sutton: They are a completely separate culture within a culture. Although the Yemeni men have made significant contributions to the town of Eccles, among the women there is almost no integration. In Eccles (the area in Greater Manchester where the project took place), many of the Yemeni have settled into a number of streets in one neighborhood near the mosque. Something like two-thirds of the houses on some streets are lived in by Yemenis, so they have quite a ghetto going on. The local primary school is now something like 80 percent Yemeni.