Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Back & forth about Yemen & Iran

It's been three months since my last hair cut, so I go to my favorite hairdresser. I always go there since I've been living in Gothenburg. She is an Irani lady, the sweetest hairdresser one can get. She asks me random questions about my home country, Yemen while she starts playing with my hair. We chat back & forth; back about Yemen & Iran. I tell her how much I love Persian language & that I would like to speak Persian one day. She laughs. I tell her, 'I can say; Khobi & Merci' and that I love listening to the legendary Persian singer, Dariush. I tell her how much I love his name. I can tell she is glad for she has been smiling. Then she interrupts her smile & flips her face to a serious one & says these following words: isn't there a war in your country, Yemen? We carry on the talk and I explain some stuff about the war to her. Few minutes later, she finishes doing my hair. I pay & start to leave. She thanks me & follows me to the door. She surprises me & opens her arms wide and hugs me & says: I wish best of luck to Yemen, may peace prevail soon. She hugs me tight & I hug her tighter back. I say thanks & before I leave I say: you'd better make sure your country stays out of my country! Her face freezes and silence prevails for two seconds. Feels like the longest two seconds in the world. Then I give her some relief & say: I'm joking, joking. Laughter rules on; then, I walk out. I get my phone out of my jeans pocket. I plan to write down about this beautiful and funny incident but I go to Twitter & I read Russia & Turkey might start World War III. I get worried then I think, fuck it! I think, if the war will start tomorrow, at least let me tell this story & then, really, fuck it!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Beyond Borders - Women, War & Peacemaking

Last August, I spoke at Beyond Borders in Scotland where I had to depict the pain of my beloved Yemen, & I tried my best in naming & shaming the UK gov' for its arm sales w/ the Saudis.. other speakers included the Iraqi parliamentarian, Shirouk Alabayachi; she had valuable inputs about ISIS. (Funny how the panel was supposed to focus only on women in conflict & we, the women speakers rolled up our sleeves & talked about that and the hard talks too, Politics. Women can talk politics too, you know..)

Who can hear Yemenis?

AS the bombings intensify in Yemen, dozens of messages from people know in person & who I don't know have been pouring into my fb & email inbox. It's almost the same message, "tell the world that the situation is unbearable in Yemen, Afrah! The killed ones had mercy from Allah, but we, the living ones are going through a slow death. Tell the world, Afrah! Nobody hears us, but you are heard, Afrah!"

Such messages made insomnia my new best friend. As I'm about to finish reading this second book about trauma, I hope I'll get back a little peace of mind & write more & more & 'tell the world' about the tragedy in my country & the agony & pain my people are going through. Until then, these sleepless nights are bombing my head & soul, & I fear I'm wasting time while I'm this paralysed & not writing enough - I should be telling the world.

You know what, it's really a fucking cruel world out there. Most of the "world" has been bought by the Saudi money; even our fucking president, Hadi was bought by the Saudis' money. Each missile & each rocket fired at Yemen is done with the blessings of that mother-fucker president. Then, how can we, poor activists & journalists & bloggers can face the Saudis' power/money/dominance/hegemony-machine? 

Forget about us the [intellectuals]! What ordinary people in Yemen & from Yemen, who are shattered around the world now, what they feel most painful is how painful it is to be neglected & abandoned, not only by the "world" but also by their own fucking president, Hadi. You know that Saudi promised to give the UN big money to address the humanitarian plight in Yemen with 1 condition that's: to be distributed in the Saudi-Hadi liberated areas only. And let the rest of the country starve to death. What kind of a moron president would allow that to happen to his own people, country?! Outrageous is an insufficient word!

Who can hear Yemenis? Who can hear their out-cries? Who can save Yemen? Who..

Monday, September 21, 2015

One year on, Yemen rebels still hold Sanaa despite air campaign

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Realignment of Yemen's Identity Politics

Yemen in Sam Kalda's illustration

*As a blogger on Human Rights issues in Yemen for the past six years, I am stunned by the growing polarisation in the country; to take an even-handed stance for human rights is either viewed as treasonous act, or as a sectarian bias. If you criticise both the Saudi-led Arab coalition air strikes and the Houthi-Saleh alliance forces, the supporters of both camps accuse you of supporting one side over the other. It’s us or them, both sides maintain; no middle ground.

Throughout my activism, it was easy for me to remain in that middle ground due to my mixed Ethiopian-Yemeni background which influenced my strong faith in fundamental human rights for all people, regardless of their color of skin, ethnicity, gender, religious belief, etc. Having myself lived some of the ugly consequences of the abuse of human rights, in my case, that is racism, I developed a great sensibility of Yemen’s identity politics. Today, I perceive how people's definition of their identities in Yemen - whether in line with tribal, sectarian or class-based affinities - is realigning itself along with the new political order.


Growing up in Yemen, a country with a strict hierarchical class system was not an easy thing, especially for someone like myself with mixed-ethnic identity. My story, like the story of many multi-ethnic Yemenis, goes back to the time when my two Yemeni grandfathers, frustrated by the economic and political situation, had a leap of faith and left Yemen to find a better life elsewhere.

Yemeni ports served as a conduit for migration. Due geographic proximity, the African horn was the destination for many migration waves coming from Yemen. Going east was also a popular destination for southeastern Yemenis. For my northern grandfathers Ethiopia was the choice of destination. They settled and married two Ethiopian ladies (my grandmothers) and had children (among them are my later-to-be my parents). It is estimated that there were 300,000 - 400,000 Yemenis in Ethiopia at that time. Following the revolution of 1962 in north of Yemen, the revolution of 1963 in its South and the dictatorship of Mengistu in their host country, many Yemeni migrants, including my grandparents, decided to go back to their home country in the 1970s. Some were forced to go back to Yemen by the emergence of communism in Ethiopia and its nationalisation policies that ripped them off the little wealth they worked hard to create, yet some were lured by the political change that had taken place at home. With a revolutionary perspective, Yemen’s former president, the late Ibrahim Al Hamdi was a key figure in calling on Yemenis abroad to return as he embarked on the road of nation building. Thus, my Yemeni-Ethiopian parents migrated back to Yemen.

by Sam Kalda