Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Yemen wants peace! (postcard from Scotland)

I had the honour of being part of launching the 'Women in Conflict Initiative' run by Beyond Borders in Scotland (21-24, Aug) which allowed me to hold meetings with a number of Scottish politicians, European parliament members, EU & UN diplomats. More importantly, I hung out with some courageous women MPs & peace activists from Iraq & Syria over the past 4 days. Trying to find ways of cooperation, we, the activists couldn't stress enough how important it is to provide all the humanitarian assistance possible for our people. We, activists from Syria & Yemen especially were repeating over & over: we must stop the starvation of our people.

Violence comes in different forms. Starvation is one form, and the bombs dropped over the heads of our people is another form of violence. Thus, I'm grateful for those who helped me have this chance to speak in Scotland. Since I was there, I named and shamed the EU's role in allowing shipping weapons used in Yemen by Saudi-led coalition (proofs are here).. I urged the crowd to engage in the least solidarity act that's in pushing their politicians to stop the weapons shipment, & stop the violence. That might be a tiny step towards making peace. Until then, the bleakest the situation in Yemen gets, the more Yemen wants peace–and it wants it Now!

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon expressed the importance of solidarity Scotland ought to show to women in different conflicts in MENA region.  

One of the great things in the festival was meeting one-to-one with UN diplomats where we, the women activists voiced our concerned directly - the importance of providing humanitarian assistance to our people was in our top priority. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Photography/ Abdulrahman Jaber.

When I started this blog in early 2010, I honestly thought that nobody will read it. Why? at that time, I thought because I had nothing “meaningful” to say but, still, the idea to create a blog was very attractive to me. I blame Wael Abbas and Lina Ben Mehanie for this. My plan was just to use the blog to archive my reports for the Yemen Observer newspaper where I worked as a full-time reporter. After 8 years experience working in media, today I know very well why I was insecure about creating a blog–because, as a female and a Yemeni female, I know today that I subconsciously thought I don’t have neither the ability nor the capacity to enter the world of big media corporation, and challenge the big anglophone media houses’ portrayal of Yemen. Believe it or not, thanks to Yemen’s 2011 uprising, my thinking became revolutionized transforming the insecurity to a determination.

Six years on and the blog has been receiving a wide readership - something that I don’t only feel grateful for but also feel extremely attentive to. It is wonderful to be read, especially when I aim to raise awareness on human rights issues, (I usually joke; once I’m done with all Human Rights violations, I plan to be a blogger on fashion) but the more the blog is read (Look at the right in the screen! more than half a million views. Fucking insane!), the more I feel cautious with what to write about - readers deserve accurate (whatever that supposed to mean), reliable, unbiased, informative and meaningful stories. Since the events in Yemen are nothing but relentlessly serious, I’ve always had the urge to blog non-stop, which led me several times to be overwhelmed and/or drained-out.

I’ve been quiet lately & not blogging much. I recently gone through one of the most enlightening experiences I had ever had in my life. For the past 5 months, I have been writing my thesis as I’m finishing my two-years master degree program at Gothenburg University. My research question was how Yemen’s 2011 Uprising was framed in the coverage of BBC vs. Al Jazeera English. It’s usually said, “the medium is the message”. Through a critical discourse analysis approach, I compared and focused on the articles published by these two media networks during the first 100 days of the protests in Yemen. It’s been tough focusing on the thesis, while the war is waging in Yemen and the idea of losing family members was and has been painful. Reading a good book on the psyche of traumatised people and how to heal, was a worthwhile interruption from my studies–which cost me missing the first deadline &, hence, missing the real deal of the graduation ceremony. Anyhow, I can’t complain.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Yemen at War: Worthy vs. Unworthy Victims

A guard on Monday, June 15, walks past a home destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in San’a, Yemen. Pic/KHALED ABDULLAH/REUTERS

*Four months on and the war in Yemen still raging fiercely. Across the country, there have been over 19,000 casualties - people killed and injured - as a result of the increased violence, and the number of displaced has grown to over 1.2 million. These numbers continue to rise alarmingly as I write. Yemen, this devastated place, torn by the violence has victims unfairly perceived and treated as unworthy by all warring sides. No place in the world should allow victims to be unworthy.

Looked in more details, different sides in the conflicts have different worthy and unworthy victims.

This is not to underestimate the aggression coming from other sides whatsoever, but rather for the sake of chronicling the violent episodes in Yemen’s ongoing conflict, the Houthis’ aggression comes first. Citizens in the southern part of Yemen in particular have been treated as unworthy victims by the Houthi movement’s militias and its ally, the ousted former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces since they started bombarding president, Abdurabu Mansour Hadi’s house and Aden airport on the 19th of March in Aden (before what we all know today as the start of the Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen). After Hadi fled the country, Houthi/Saleh’s forces started targeting people in the south systematically on the pretext that they are takiris and al Qaeda in the south of Yemen, then they shifted their propaganda to state they were fighting ISIS (Da’ash). All these slogans have ripped off southerners’ worthiness in the eyes of the Houthi/Saleh’s forces. At the same time, Houthis mastered stressing on local and international media alike how the Saudi-led coalition is murdering its own citizens in northern Yemen while overlooking their atrocities in the south. For Houthis, the victims of the Saudi-led airstrikes are the only worthy respect and attention victims. On the other side, southern resistance fighters perceive and treat Houthi victims as nothing but unworthy, why? because the antagonism has reached irreversible point. It’s astonishing how these stances are remote from any moral principle.

More importantly, despite its fragile status, the state, the Yemeni republic of the people has been the greatest unworthy victim by Houthis attempted coup d'etat against president, Hadi in September, last year. Houthis have been cracking down on its dissidence, which includes Hadi himself, ever since their expansion from Sa’adah to Sana’a in July last year. Specifically, since September, 2014, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of civic activists, journalists, human rights defenders across Yemen who got harassed, abducted and tortured - some to death - by the Houthi militias in their own bloody purge.
Yemeni fighters of the southern separatist movement and firefighters attempt to extinguish a flame at an oil refinery in the port city of Aden on June 27, 2015, following shelling by Houthi rebels. Fire erupted at Aden's oil refinery when rebels shelled the nearby port to prevent a Qatari ship carrying aid for Yemen's devastated second city from docking. Pic/Saleh Al-Obeidi / AFP / Getty

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Investigative Yemeni Journalist: 'Siege imposed on Yemen is Houthi-made rather than a Saudi-made one'

Investigative Yemeni journalist, Mohammed Al Absi reports that siege imposed on Yemen is Houthi-made rather than a Saudi-made one. Al Absi –who's regarded as one of the top investigative Yemeni journalists and whose critical work has led him to prosecution two years ago after his sharp investigative work– has published on his Facebook/blog a document that proves that the Houthis are manipulating the issue of the siege imposed on Yemen, which is lifted already, for their interests. The following is a translated version into English of his post. 

It seems that the siege imposed on the people in Yemen is done domestically rather than externally; it's a Houthi-made siege rather than a Saudi-made siege.

Here is the objective findings I build my statement on:

-Yemenis are without water since 80 days on the pretext that there is lack of fuel for starting the water pumps.

-Yemenis are without electricity since 80 days on the pretext that the gas station is out of order and there is lack of diesel.

-Garbage is pilling up in all the streets across all Yemeni cities on the pretext that there is no fuel that the cleaning cars need.

So, there is no electricity, no water, no gas, no hygiene. All these crisis are justified by Houthis by them saying it is "the Saudi siege", but the truth is there is no any naval blockade. The Yemeni government (that's if there is any?) can import whatever it wants such as fuel, and anyone who works at the Hodeidah port knows that ships unload its loads daily at the port.

Since 10th of May, following the humanitarian truce that lasted for 5 days, the UN forced the Arab countries' coalition to cease the naval blockade that was imposed on Yemen by them. That was publicly announced, then, and the international media has reported so.

The most simple evidence on this is the number of cars you see on the streets. Before the 5th of May the streets were deserted unlike how it is after the truce.

The strongest evidence on this to anyone who's suspicious, especially those who are sympathisers, this document, shown above, displays a list of naval operations done at Hodeidah port. It shows names and numbers of the commercial ships' loads that reached Hodeidah, in one day alone, the 16th of June.

According to the document, around 8 commercial and humanitarian ships have reached Hodeidah port, and they are waiting to unload. Plus, the authorities at the port expect another 7 international ships to arrive within the coming days, two ships are believed to have 38 thousand tons of wheat. Also, another two ships would carry other goods.

The document shows also that the following ships will arrive soon:

1. CHANG TANG TAN ship, carrying 37,000 tons of petrol.

2. CASSENRA ship, carrying 39182 tons of fuel.

3. SEA PHANTOM ship, carrying 11874 tons of diesel.

There have been ships that have already reached Hodeidah port, on the 16th of June, two commercial ships carrying food. Additionally, there were 3 ships that had different amounts of fuel.

Where does this large amount of fuel go to?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Notes: Human Rights Council's 29th Session - Yemen Side Event

As the war in Yemen continues and there seems no end at sight, bringing peace to Yemen is increasingly becoming a mission impossible. Three months on the start of the Saudi-led airstrikes campaign in Yemen that intended to dislodge the Houthis and bring back legitimacy to president Hadi, the warring parties have been both reluctant to admit that they are not winning the war, and reluctant to rethink proceeding the war given the tragic humanitarian situation people in Yemen are enduring. The failing of the Geneva's peace talk, or whatever it was described with, proved that peace in Yemen is far from happening anytime soon.

Nonetheless, grassroots groups and civic agents' advocacy and pressure work is crucial in influencing relevant organisations to act in a more informed way which could assist the advancement of peace-making process. That's why I'm glad to be taking part in a side-event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva during its 29th Session. I'm thankful for the Gulf Centre for Human Rights for extending me the invitation. 

As I'm sitting at the UN's office in Geneva, at the council's main hall now, and writing this post, and surrounded by more than 46 nations' representatives speaking about various stressing aspects of human rights in different countries, I remembered the speech given by Yemen's human rights minister, Ezzaldin al Asbahi a couple of days ago. 

He delivered his talk here and all these nations listened to his partial speech. The minister talk focused only on the atrocities committed by the Houthis/Saleh's forces especially at the south part of Yemen. He neglected, or rather overlooked the atrocities committed by the Saudi-led airstrikes and even how some nations closed doors on the face of Yemenis who want to escape the violence and survive. How can we ask the world to act more for Yemen, while it's this ill-informed about the reality for millions of Yemenis affected by all sides of the fight in Yemen.

Later on, I'll be speaking at the side event, with the hope to influence relevant international actors to act more and hopefully be more well-informed. I'll keep you posted with how it goes... may all this advocacy work help in advancing the peace we all are desperate to have.