Sunday, May 24, 2015

Children at War

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Yemen: Emergency Initiatives Appeal

A girl rests next to her mother (not pictured) inside an underground water tunnel with other displaced Yemeni families, after they were forced to flee their home due to ongoing airstrikes in Sanaa on May 2, 2015.

Several emergency initiatives* to assist those affected by the war in Yemen were created, and they deserve your attention if you would like to help in some form or another. You might donate, and remember no donation is ever considered too small, or you might help by spreading the word. All assistance is much appreciated. 

The initiatives are the following:-

1) The Yemen Peace Project is working with their partner organization in Aden, House of Light Foundation, to provide essential supplies for women displaced by war in Aden, southern Yemen. Make a donation today to help in taking care of those in need. Fine more details here.
If you have any questions about this initiative, please contact YPP at

2) An emergency initiative to assist those afflicted by the war in all Yemen’s provinces — started by Female Academicians Forum, Sana’a University. Find more details here.
If you have any questions about this initiative, please contact the forum at

3) Islamic Relief has provided food to more than 385,000 people in Yemen, thanks to many people's donations. Check here how you can donate!

4) Save Aden initiative is calling for donations to assist and ease the suffering of people in Aden. Find out more here.

5) A list made by the Yemen Peace Project about agencies that are working on the ground in Yemen, and are accepting donations specifically for their Yemen operations. Find out more here.

*This page will be frequently updated with any more coming emergency initiatives, so keep on visiting again if you'd like to help more.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Is This The Beginning of The End For Saleh?

Surreal. Totally bizarre. Astonishing. Beyond comprehension.

These might be few adjectives that can do this scene justice: ousted, ex-president, Ali Abduallah Saleh swiftly reaches back to one of his houses first thing in the morning after the house was shelled at the dawn by a Saudi airstrike. Miraculously, he was not targeted as he was not at home, but one was killed and dozens who live in the area were injured (including women and children) following the shelling.

Saleh does not only make sure to check the damage, but he also drags his own TV channel staff, places someone to interview him right there, in front of the destruction, snatches the mic and addresses the viewers, firing words against everyone against "the Yemeni nation" (which includes him) and against Yemen.

Each detail compromising this scene is so surreal that not even any movie senario would have depicted it in this way. Many found resemblness between Saleh's position with Gaddafi's during the beginning of the Libyan revolution. This leads to a serious question: is this the beginning of the end for Saleh? don't forget that he survived an assassination attempt in June, 2011. He seems to be unkillable. No body knows what will happen next, but one thing is certain: expect the unimaginable!

Monday, May 4, 2015

World Press Freedom Day: Yemenis’ Words & Lives Under Fire

Picture by Malin Crona

Reporters without boarders' office in Sweden has awarded the imprisoned Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi the World Press Freedom award yesterday in Stockholm. I took part in a panel discussion part of the award ceremony along with a number of Swedish journalists. I'm posting here a text I prepared for the session that could shed light on parts of the press freedom condition in Yemen that's affected by the war's cruelty. 

World Press Freedom Day: Yemenis’ Words & Lives Under Fire

May 3, 2015 – There is so much going on in Yemen as I speak, and talking about the right to free press might be considered totally irrelevant. Yemen is at war and Yemenis are struggling to have the right to peace and life. The war has been waged almost six weeks ago after a coalition of 10 Arab countries headed by Saudi Arabia started operating a campaign of airstrikes against military targets in Yemen and simultaneously there is a fierce internal armed fights between several domestic factions. As the war is taking place, a great deal of citizens’ rights are violated and no doubt the right to free information and freedom of expression are violated as well. Actually, it’s hard to know where to start in analyzing the current condition of press freedom in the country in the light of the ongoing war. Nonetheless, here is my attempt.

2014, in particular has been a chaotic and harsh year for free press in Yemen and it continues to be so as the ongoing multi-facets conflicts are taking place in the country. Yemeni journalists are facing mounting dangers in practicing their job and facing grave threats to their own lives in the light of the ongoing violence and the authoritarian style of leadership shown by the new ruling power now at the hands of the Houthi’ militia group, who came to power, or still fighting to have full power, since their coup against president Hadi and his government carried in september last year. Generally speaking, before the coup, press in Yemen could be described as partisan press: journalism outlets usually worked along with political party lines. Today, the press is heavily used as a tool for propaganda and instigation of animosity and hatred). Having said that, Clearly, the war’s implications would also have a grave impact on how the press’ future would look like.

In the wider view over the current condition for media in Yemen: it is important to note that Following Yemen’s Uprising in 2011, there was a relatively boom in the field of media in the country: Despite widespread illiteracy, by last year, Yemen had around 90 newspapers published weekly or more often and the state's monopoly on broadcasting had been broken; there were several privately-owned Yemeni TV channels (some of them based outside the country) plus a number of radio stations. As elsewhere, there had also been a rapid increase in citizen journalism, including often well-made videos posted on YouTube(1). And investigative journalists –represented as watchdogs of democracy– they were doing courageous reporting where they were becoming as whistleblowers of corruption cases linked to powerful governmental institutions and exposing powerful governmental and non-governmental figures.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Yemen at War: Nostalgia for the Past and the Future

This is not from today's newspaper. This is from 1994. How much history repeats itself? source: the Financial Times, 

Last week, I read one tweet that was a mere copy-past by a Yemeni columnist who was copying another Yemeni columnist's tweet. The first was in Arabic, the latter was in English. I felt sorry; what a plagiarism, right there, where we all can read it: intellectual bankruptcy. But the truth of matter is, there is nothing left to say about Yemen's real dystopia. Everything has been said and in vain. 

Perhaps, this attitude won't help at all, you need to snap out it, Afrah. No time for despair. – I tell myself. Yes, maybe it's time even to say that there is nothing left to be said. And that we're just repeating the same message over an over while the misery seems unstoppable. But maybe it's helpful to just reflect & explain some random thoughts.

The country has been collapsing since the start of 2011 and today's reality probably the real big change that will transform the future drastically. The cost for the change is so heavy that each household would pay. Including those outside of Yemen. Yemen today is in a position where it's trading off a drastic change with a fake lasting peace. Before the war, was Yemen in a better position? was Yemen enjoying a formidable stability? Yemen's peaceful reality was weary and more of a cold war. Across Yemen, there were people facing death on a gradual scale by so many direct and indirect causes, which was swept under the rug. Saleh was & still is responsible of massive atrocities, just like how Abdelmalik al Houthi did & still does since he led the coup in September 2014. 

We're harvesting what we planted over the past 3 decades rule of Saleh. Don't look at the Houthis, Saudis, Iranis, etc as separate distinctive entities. Try to see the bigger picture: these players seized a chance in a country that was never enjoying its own national independence/sovereignty. Yemen's governance was always under the guardianship (wisaya) of some other external political power. Yemen current misery is the result of a long-standing chronicle dysfunctional system. Wars are merely milestones in the process of these systems.

As I'm having nostalgia for the past and the future, for that matter: (can't wait till this nightmare is over), I went through some of the old media reports, pictures of Yemen's civil war in 1994 (see below). I was 9 years old and in Sana'a when we went through those two months of fightings. Despite the terror and the risk to be killed, my main memory is the love and care we had from my mother.

A couple of reports published in 1994 about Yemen's Civil War then. Source: The Economist. 

During the 1994 Civil War, president Hadi was the Minister of Defense as he was siding
 with Saleh and the northern government.   
At the large couch you find Saleh meeting with religious clerics, Abdulwahab Al Dailami and Abdelmajeed Al Zandani. In those sessions in 1994, Al Dailami, minister of Justice back then invoked Fatwa to legitimize  war against secessionists. That fatwa is considered as the one of the causes of the killing of thousands of people in the south. Read more on that here in a piece I co-wrote previously.

This is a documentary on the 1994 Yemen's Civil War. It mainly depicts the atrocities made against the south of Yemen by the north government led by ruling president then, Ali Abduallah Saleh. History repeats itself but in a new form. Aden today is facing the heaviest bombardment: Saleh/Houthis' aggression and the the Saudi-led air strikes.

I must stress that this war is way different than the one in 94. Yemen today at war with external super political/sectarin powers, with a fascist, racist bigot Houthi group that aims to restore the old Yemeni Imamate system as a futuristic political system, with Saleh's & his will to cling to power as long as possible, with Yemen's deepest demons (a toxic mixture of tribalism, poverty, barbarism and emerging tendency of oligarchy rule), with president Hadi's cowardice and most of all; all that opens the door for Yemen's new undefined political configuration. That configuration has to be done by us, Yemenis.