"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.


Viewpoints from Tanta

Written by Helene Aecherli on Sunday, 22 December 2013. Posted in Egypt

Based on conversations with Menna Elkhateeb

When the guys started to shave in Egypt

Somewhen last summer, shortly after President Morsi was gone, I noticed that men with beards started to shave. People were so vehemently against the Muslimbrotherhood and beards as what many believe to be symbols of an increasingly fundamentalist Islam, that men with more hair in the face than a nicely cut five-day-beard feared to be caught and arrested. 


Written by Helene Aecherli on Tuesday, 10 December 2013. Posted in Jemen

Clashes, bombs, kidnappings, al-Qaeada: This is the usual news from Yemen. But other things happen in Yemen as well. There are guys, for example, who collect books to establish mobile libraries. Be it Arabic novels, Shakespeare or scientific literature: Reading enhances the level of education. I spoke to Abdulfattah Alghurbani about his initiative "Yemen Reading Points".



Letters from Arabia Felix

Written by Hana Al-Showafi on Sunday, 13 October 2013. Posted in Jemen

Letter One

When I happen to be on a mini bus, I keep looking at people walking in the streets of Sanaa and listening to the conversations between the driver and his passengers. I see poor innocent people, who try to make ends meet and still try to smile. And lately I observed an incident that tells a lot.

Last Night's Concert

Written by Abdo K. Ramadan on Sunday, 08 September 2013. Posted in Jemen

Hommage to my village Alnuzah


 Moon light,

On the roof where I spent last night

Spreading its rays in the air at my sight

Smashing the darkness gently reaching the inns and bushes, coming from height