Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Speaking of Yemen's Uprising 3rd Anniversary

Today is the day when I want to be home in Sana'a so bad. Today, Sweden is like a big jail and I'm so remote and feeling the alienation. Today, no place feels home at all other than being in Yemen. Today, we Yemenis in the diaspora are immersed into social media networks and mainstream news, reading and watching anything that's related to today's epic celebratory demonstrations across the country. Today the urge to be home is painfully at its peak. Our wishes to be there at this day are countless. It's the third anniversary of Yemen's uprising and people are celebrating across Yemen, rallying with various political demands.

From today's rallies in Sana'a. 

I'm proud of the people's continuous momentum but I'm also pained that I'm far away. It brings tears to me, knowing that I'm there in heart but here in body, and knowing that my homeland is transforming to a federalism. I'm puzzled if I'd ever recognize what I once left.

7.34 am #gothenburg #sweden #NoSun (via @afrahnasser)
I don't know why it's this sad day for me. Maybe because it's February, the darkest month of the year in Sweden and winter blues' effect is kicking in. Or, because my emotional support mechanism is almost none. I have been living without a family for the past three years in Sweden. It gets awfully lonely over here. I try to adapt but it's never easy. I struggle with “fitting in” at school, at my masters' degree classes. It's also not easy. 

Nevertheless, blogging is what makes life meaningful, really.

How I started blogging? It all started by watching Egyptian blogger, Wael Abbas on TV, in 2010, talking about blogging, then I was like, “what's that thing called blogging?” I made my search and all became kinda clear. Then, Tunisia's revolution erupted, in late 2010, and I watched Tunisian blogger, Lina Ben Mhenni talk about her blog on political issues. A lamp lighted up on my head.

My blogging experience is divided into two phases: inside and outside Yemen.

First phases: I started the blog in the beginning of 2010 while I was hired as a full-time reporter at Yemen Observer newspaper. I had no clear vision, nor time to consider blogging actively. Then, thanks to censoring my political reports, I realized how an influential tool a blog can be, since the first days of the uprising in 2011. I blogged actively on various aspects of the protests back then, regardless of the electricity blackouts and bad internet connection we had. The blog got me into million troubles, with pro-government individuals, misogynist individuals, some of my friends, my family members, and most importantly with my parents. At home, my blogging was the reason of numberless fights. I understood my family's deep concern but they didn't understand how stubborn I was.

My core vision with the blog was and still is to connect Yemen from a Yemeni native's perspective to the world, in English. When I started the blog we only had three English speaking news websites in Yemen. Today it's definitively more. I started the blog because I was looking for a website that would speak to me and my generation with a little bit dose of politics, human rights and women's rights in specific, in English. I didn't find one so I thought why not create one! Additionally, I was tired of “foreign experts” talking about Yemen's affairs from their own perspective which gave sometimes an absolute unrealistic representation of reality in Yemen.

Second phase: I came to Sweden to participate in a leadership course on social media in May 2011. I had no plan whatsoever to stay. I had a strong commitment back in Yemen, that was the uprising and to continue the procedures for my Chevening scholarship from the British Council. I was still blogging non-stop. In fact, I was so happy that I had so much electricity and fast internet connection. In mid May, prior to my scheduled return to Yemen, the violent clashes and armed fights between the opposition and ousted president, Saleh's forces erupted and I saw how my city was slipping into a war. To stay in Sweden seemed a rational solution. It was a true shock. I only had 7 clothe outfits with me. I never planned staying. I'm still in shock till today.

For the past three years, I have been blogging, with over than 800 posts, about atrocities, human rights violations and other topics related to Yemen. Every story kills a little piece of my soul and it makes me realize how helpless it can be and how humanity can be nonexistent. I once reached a stage where nightmares became normal to me. I once had a nightmare that my hand was cut into two pieces and I was looking to my hand bleeding.... while screaming and crying I woke up. I always joke that in another life I will be a blogger on fashion and beauty, when all human rights are respected!

Nonetheless, as I'm 29 years old and meeting many youngster from all over the world through my travelings and talks, some people tell me how, through my blog, they feel in solidarity with people in Yemen and their continuous struggle for justice and democracy. In addition, I'm in a close touch with a number of Yemeni activists who I can provide them with technical support and consultation on various issues; like social media skills or details related to civil society organizational management. And then, that sweet feeling makes life meaningful, that sense of humanity gets awaken around me.

From this whole experience I learned that one must fight for what he or she believes in, no matter what. Otherwise, life would be unbearable. Also, I learned that resistance is the best response against injustices and inhuman practices surrounding you.