Yemenis write about the war
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.
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:
Fight for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
VIEWPOINTS FROM TANTA - Based on conversations with Menna Elkhateeb
No, I won’t 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
“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.
An account from Gaza City
Anwar and I met a couple of years ago in a Café in Cairo. I was taking some notes, he just asked me, what I was writing. First I was disturbed, thinking: “Oh, no, please leave me alone”. But he just grinned and asked me if I minded him smoking a cigarette, I said “Yes!”, and then he lit the cigarette and we talked for hours. He told me that he was from Gaza City and was finishing his Master studies in Cairo, I talked about my work. And from then on we roamed the cafés in Cairo and checked out the rooftop bars of the town, discussing politics, religion and above all love. About one year later, when I was back in Cairo for a story, he pondered about going back to Gaza City. And he did – he went back, even though he knew, life would be difficult. Facebook, of course, has been our bridge of communication since then.
During the last weeks, the weeks that have been filled with the bombing of Gaza, I have been worrying deeply. I am relieved whenever I see that he has posted something on his Facebook wall. That shows me that he is alive. Some days ago I asked him, how he is. Here is his account: