“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.

"Feeling the loss of control of my life is more agonizing than panic"

Written by Helene Aecherli on Tuesday, 05 August 2014. Posted in Gaza

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:

Why in English?

Written by Khadega Al-Sunaidar on Saturday, 29 March 2014. Posted in Jemen

I want to have the right to ask "why"!

I have a lot of debates, arguments or fights, sometimes, in my mind as everybody does. But the strange thing is that when I focus on the language I use I find it's English. Hmmm, I am an Arabic-native speaker, so why do I speak with myself in English?

That really drew my attention and so I put big question marks. Then I started to dig deep in myself looking for an answer. I received these theories from me: 

Viewpoints from Tanta

Written by Menna Elkhateeb on Sunday, 09 March 2014. Posted in Egypt

Why do they think, people believe all that?

I'm sorry for not being that optimistic girl anymore I once used to be. Nothing in Egypt can make me optimistic any longer - and not only me: A lot of my friends are sad as well: My Facebook wall is full of posts about leaving Egypt and searching for means and opportunities to travel abroad.

What happened? Why do I, who was so proud of her country, feel that way?



"I wanted to break the chains"

Written by Khadega Al-Sunaidar on Monday, 24 February 2014. Posted in Jemen

I am from a Sana‘ani  family. In my family, it hasn‘t been important for a female to finish her high school. Once she is 16 or 17 years old she has reached the age of marriage. To get married is her destiny and that is what she has to be prepared for. During my studies I was doing household works. That was my mother‘s priority. She thought, that my certificate wouldn‘t be useful  as sooner or later I would end up in my husband‘s house anyway. The female in my family has been considered a burden that the parents strive to get rid of by getting her married.

„Es ist Zeit, vorwärts zu gehen“

Written by Helene Aecherli on Tuesday, 07 January 2014. Posted in Jemen

Der Kampf der alten Machteliten ums politische Überleben versenkt den Jemen in Chaos und Anarchie. Schiessereien, Entführungen und Stromunterbrüche gehören zum Alltag, auf den Strassen des Landes herrscht Angst. Doch birgt Anarchie auch die Chance für neue Freiheiten. Vor allem für Frauen.