Monday, December 11, 2017

Chasing Yemen-Stories

Hello from Cairo!

As I mentioned in my commentary on the Listening Post show, if Yemen story used to be a complicated one, today, it’s absolutely way, way more complicated than ever before. No question that the aftermath of Saleh’s death has a lot to do with that complexity.

While living in Sweden over the past 6 years and a half, the dream of going back to Yemen never ceased to haunt me. I went to Sweden for a two-weeks-long study trip mid-2011, believing that I’d be back to Sana’a, my hometown right away. I didn’t even know where was Sweden located on the map. My only connection to Sweden when I was a kid in Yemen was when my mother used to say whenever she would find good woodish stuff and say, “this is great furniture, it must have come from Sweden.” Now, I know, she must have meant IKEA stuff.


Sweden was a coincidence for me. During my first week in Stockholm in 2011, violence erupted in Sana’a. Airports were shut down. Already, I have been receiving death threats against me and my family for my anti-regime writings with the start of the Uprising. I wanted to go back but my family, out of love and protection, asked me to stop writing if I’d ever go back. And I thought; “to stop writing would be like to stop breathing.” Hence, Sweden was my shelter.

In the following four years, I’d live as a political refugee in Sweden. All this time I was only thinking of the day I’d have the Swedish passport and be able to go back to Yemen or at least visit. But as the country has been in an endless violent rollercoaster, I had to wait, wait and wait. Despite the distance, I managed to continue reporting with a gradually increasing focus on international actors’ role in political events in Yemen. Then, in March 2015, the Saudi-led airstrikes military operation began and I was about to have two major events in my personal life: I was writing my MA dissertation to graduate during summer and I was applying for the Swedish passport.

Seeing Yemen from afar being bombard was so painful that I was so slow in writing my dissertation and I only managed to graduate by August that year. Ironically, my application for the Swedish passport went very quickly. In June 2015, I became a Swedish citizen and I realized I could travel anywhere I want but not Yemen - because of the war and the fact that having a foreign passport will make it impossible to enter the country. I was extremely depressed for awhile.

As I started experiencing living in Sweden by a choice, I no longer saw Sweden from eyes tainted by displacemnt, trauma and pain. I was in the healing process. Nothing I regret living in Sweden - except the horrible dates I had with some Swedish guys and living my first one year without taking vitamine d. Overall, Sweden has been so good to me … but now it’s time to fly away - maybe - for awhile or for good.

When the Committee to Protect Journalists called me end of May this year, announcing that I was awarded the International Press Freedom Award, I made the decision to move from Sweden to somewhere in the Middle East. Why? CPJ has put me in a beautiful trouble. CPJ told me that this year of all the countries in the MENA region, they picked Yemen to bring more attention to it. And I take that so seriously. And I want to bring world’s attention on events in Yemen as much as I could.

Having said that:

I am today in Cairo for sometime, weeks, months, years - can’t confirm. It depends on many things which I’ll save explaining in other blog posts.

For now, I am in Cairo to be closer to Yemen and be part of the growing, forced-to-be-so, Yemeni diaspora community in Egypt - many of them are Yemeni activists, journalists and politicians. Despite the new political reality in Egypt, Cairo has been for many decades a crucial hub for events influencing Yemen.

My plan is to report from here as much as possible whether through Sana’a Review or/and the different media outlets I work with as a freelancer. My aim is to understand, analyze and write as Yemen’s new modern history is unfolding dramatically before our eyes.

As atrocities are committed across Yemen by all warring sides, instead of weeping, I will use my peaceful resistance tool and fight through writing.