“Then you realize that you didn’t have any hallucinations”

Written by Helene Aecherli on Friday, 03 July 2015. Posted in Jemen

Yemenis write about the war

Yemenis want to be heard. They need to be heard. Thus I have asked Yemeni friends of mine, men and women, to tell their stories, to give a personal account of their experiences of war and to send me pictures that illustrate their texts. I will post them here on this website, one by one.

Here is an as impressive as gripping account of the war in Yemen, written by Aiman Al Hakeem (39). He works as a banker in Sana'a. 


Suddenly without any warnings there were explosions everywhere. It was almost 2.30 am on the 26th of March 2015. I didn’t know what's going on. I opened my mobile phone to find out and saw a message from my group of friends stating that the Saudi Air Force had destroyed Sana’a’s international airport. 

Being Under Attack

Written by Helene Aecherli on Sunday, 28 June 2015. Posted in Jemen

Yemenis write about the war

In Yemen rages an erratic multilateral war that has so far killed over two thousand people. 22 million, 80 percent of the population, are lacking food, water and basic health care; a humanitarian disaster which is worsened by a naval blockade imposed by the Saudis to cut off arms supplies to rebel forces. The Geneva peace talks that were held last week brought no result. 
However the war in Yemen hardly rarely gets into the headlines of international media. It is off the radar of international attention.
But Yemenis want to be heard. They need to be heard. Thus I have asked Yemeni friends of mine, men and women, to tell their stories, to give a personal account of their experiences of war and to take pictures that illustrate their texts. I will post them here on this website, one by one.
I hope their writings will have an impact.
 
Yemeni men and women waiting to get water. Photo: Abdo Ramadan
 
 The first account is by Abdo Ramadan, a business man from Sana'a:
 
It is not easy to describe how life has turned upside down since March 26th 2015. Words are not enough to reveal the sufferings we endure as a family that lives in the Yemeni capital Sana’a under the attacks of missiles and bombs as a daily exercise. During each attack we expect death by a missile that smashes our lovely roof taking its way to take our souls. 
 

"Everything is collapsing"

Written by Helene Aecherli on Saturday, 13 June 2015. Posted in Jemen

War in Yemen

 

Picture by Abdo Ramadan


When I woke up to the news last Friday that five houses in the Old City of Sana'a had been allegedly hit by a Saudi led coalition airstrike and turned into ashes and rubble, it felt, as if I had been hit myself. The Saudis were quick to deny the claims and blamed the Houthi rebels for the collapse of the buildings. But whether it were the Saudis, the Houthis or both: The strike killed at least six people and destroyed houses that had been some of the jewels of Islamic-urban landscape, breathing 2500 years of Yemeni history. And I repeat: I felt as if I had been hurt myself.

"The silence of the world kills us more than the missiles"

Written by Helene Aecherli on Tuesday, 05 May 2015. Posted in Jemen

Stop Bombing Yemen!

Yesterday night one of my best friends in Sanaa sent me an email that lists the disastrous consequences of the Saudi bombing of Yemen. He asked me to send his list to as many media outlets as possible. He wrote to me: "You should know one thing: We are not afraid of being killed by the attacks. We are afraid of hunger and losing dignity. And in the end the silence of the world kills us more than the missiles of the coward powers."

Here is his list:

"I shall forever believe in our freedom which you have spent your whole life defending"

on Thursday, 16 April 2015.

Fight for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

 
A letter from Samar Badawi to her imprisoned husband, the Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison solely because of exercising his rights to freedom of expressionSamar is also the sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi and one of the foremost human rights activists in the kingdom.
 
"Words are not enough for me to express how proud I am of my husband. How deeply proud I am of the man who believed in me and my cause when I was imprisoned. 

“I buy my wedding dress when I got everything done in my future apartment”

Written by Helene Aecherli on Sunday, 15 March 2015. Posted in Egypt

VIEWPOINTS FROM TANTA - Based on conversations with Menna Elkhateeb

“I buy my wedding dress when I got everything done in my future apartment”

No, I wont talk about politics and the situation in Egypt. I refuse to watch the Egyptian news and whenever my parents turn on the television I ask them to spare me from this chatter and to switch to some documentary about wildlife in Africa instead. Why? Because the media has become the parrot of the new government and we are its puppets. This is not what I dreamt of after we had pushed Mubarak from his throne.
Thus for now I have decided to concentrate on myself to be able to go on with my life, even if this means that I live in my own bubble. All I strive for is to be a good and happy person, to focus on my career as a graphic designer and above all: to get ahead with my wedding preparations. 
To prepare for her wedding is a big thing for every woman. The wedding preparations here in Egypt however are slightly different from those in Western countries. They have their own special turns and twists.

And this is what I want to tell you about.

“Speaking up does make a difference!”

Written by Helene Aecherli on Sunday, 01 March 2015. Posted in General

Human Rights

You can raise your voice, take a mic or grab a pen: Speaking up against injustice, tyranny or authoritarianism of any kind can change mind sets, regulations or suffocating regimes. Raising the voice challenges and inspires. But yes, it needs courage to do that. Sometimes it even needs the courage to put one’s life at risk. In this sense the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy was a also summit of some of the most outspoken women and men who stand for their basic human rights in the face of tyranny and human rights violations and who stand for those, who can't stand for themselves. One of the highlight was the presentation of the Women's Rights Award to the Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad an the Courage Award to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.

 

"Women are always the compromised card in political struggle"

on Thursday, 26 February 2015. Posted in Jemen

The Taliban of Yemen - Coup d'état in Yemen

Nadia Al-Sakkaf, former Minister of Information in Yemen, writes about the situation of women in the new ruling Houthi council.  And the situation is alarming: "The Houthis brush the political achievement of Yemeni women aside as if it was a mistake", she says.  In times of conflict and war women's rights are among the first to be cut. They are the "low hanging fruit". But it's high time to acknowledge that without the active participation of women in society and politics, there will never be peace and stability.

 

Nadia Al-Sakkaf

A new violent religious movement known as Houthis which has taken over Yemen’s capital and many of its northern governorates across five months, announced a constitutional declaration on February 6, 2015. The early signs of the Houthi rule are alarming when it comes to human rights but especially for women.

"We have to push stronger than ever!"

Written by Helene Aecherli on Saturday, 31 January 2015.

Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

Samar Badawi,  here with her her eight months old daughter Joud, is fighting for justice for her husband Waleed Abu al-Khair. 

Her husband, human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, her brother, blogger Raif Badawi, to 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison. And she has been in prison herself - just for defending her right to survive. But she goes on fighting -  for justice and for women’s rights, and for a better future for her children and the generations to come. She does so by fearlessly challenging the conservative authorities: Samar Badawi (32) is one of Saudi Arabia’s most outspoken and courageous human rights activists. Not to let herself be seen as a victim of circumstances but to go on against all odds makes her a role model for women and men all over the world.

Brautschau im Jemen

Written by Helene Aecherli on Wednesday, 19 November 2014. Posted in Jemen

Ahmed al-Aziz hat zwölfmal geheiratet, ist neunmal geschieden, hat zwanzig Kinder und derzeit drei Ehefrauen. Ginge es nach ihm, so wäre ich seine vierte Frau geworden.

 

 Illustration: Tina Berning

Als wir vor der Villa anhalten, die mein neues Zuhause werden könnte, lässt der Regen allmählich nach. Der nasse Asphalt um uns herum schimmert im fahlen Licht der Dämmerung, die Luft riecht nach Teer und frischer Erde. Es ist 19 Uhr, die Zeit des Maghrib, des Abendgebets, über der jemenitischen Hauptstadt Sanaa liegt eine lethargische Stille.

"We learned to laugh, jump and walk full of confidence and without fear"

Written by Khadija Yawari on Wednesday, 05 November 2014. Posted in Afghanistan

The month I was reborn in Nepal

 

What a great bunch we were: 38 women (you can see me to the far left with this huge black backpack), from all over South Asia, from Nepal, Iran, Turkey, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, from Bhutan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Most of us were gender- and human rights' trainers, teachers and activists, such as me. And we all joined  course at the Tewa Center in Kathmandu, Nepal to receive training in gender studies, human rights, food security and peace building. The purpose of this course was to raise awareness regarding violence against women, to build our capacity as citizens as well as to meet other people and learn from them. We exchanged experiences and information about the cultures and laws of our countries. 
This month in Nepal would change my life.

"Now we have a road to go together"

Written by Helene Aecherli on Monday, 03 November 2014. Posted in Jemen

An hommage to the Yemeni politician Dr. Mohammed Abdul-Malik Al-Mutawakil

He had told me to turn left in the hallway, to walk up the stairs to the first floor and to meet him in his sitting room. He apologized for this - as he felt - rather unsuitable way to welcome a guest, but after he had been hit by a motorbike and been severely injured, he found it difficult to get up and down the stairs. This attack on him had happended about a month before I met him at his house in the Yemeni capital Sana'a in April 2012. He had stepped out into the street after a meeting, it was dark, but the guy on the motorbike aimed deliberately at him and run him down. The guy on the motorbike was never identified. In that night, however, Dr. Mohammed Abdul-Malik Al-Mutawakil, then 73, managed to escape death.

When I came up to the masraf, the sitting room, the sun was just breaking through the colored glass window turning the rows of books on the shelf beneath into a shimmering light. 

 

I remember that I was surprised how quiet it was. There were no generators humming. Electricity must have been on again. Dr. Mohammed Al-Mutawakil sat crouched on the cushions on the floor.  

"....and my son almost got kidnapped"

Written by Helene Aecherli on Sunday, 21 September 2014. Posted in Jemen

A voice out of Yemen

Yemen is on the brink of a civil war: In the Northeast of the capital Sanaa clashes have been going on between Shia Houthi rebels, government troops and the members of the islamist lslah party; the clashes threaten to spread over the entire country. Almost all international flights to the capital have been cancelled, schools have been closed.
For days I have been in contact with Abudlfattah Alghurbani, the founder of "Yemen reading points", an initiative that aims at enhancing the level of education in the impoverished Arab country. But unfortunately his initiative wasn't our main issue. I just wanted to know how he was. Abdulfattah lives with his wife and four children in Ibb, a city around 200 kilometers South of Sanaa. He tells me how they try to go on with their lives and how they struggle against their fear.
Here is an extract of our conversation:

Dear Abdul, how are you? Are you safe? I worry about you.
Hi, Helene, I am not good at all. Three of my cousins have been killed, the last one three days ago during demonstrations in the capital Sanaa. And my son almost got kidnapped.

Smile of Destiny

Written by Lubna Al Balushi on Sunday, 31 August 2014. Posted in Oman

Poetry from Oman

 

When you smile from your heart,

Your destiny smiles for you

Like my destiny smiles only for me!

Why my destiny can’t smile for both of us?!

*****

Elham Manea: "Time to face the ISIS inside of us"

Written by PD Dr. Elham Manea on Monday, 18 August 2014. Posted in General

“We are ISIS”.

A startling statement? Yet this was the title of an article written by former Kuwaiti Minister of Information, Saad bin Tafla al Ajami, published by the Qatari newspaper al Sharq in 7 August 2014. He was not celebrating the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), nor the atrocities it is committing against civilians and minorities in Iraq and Syria.

He was reminding us that ISIS, while condemned by the majority of Muslims, is a product of an Islamic religious discourse that dominated our public sphere in the last decades – a mainstream discourse!

ISIS “did not come from another planet’, he said. ‘It is not a product of the infidel West or a bygone orient”, he insisted.