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February 14 2014

As a Federal State, Yemen Marks the Third Anniversary of Its Revolution

February 11th marked the third anniversary of Yemen's revolution which toppled former President Ali Abdullah's Saleh's 33 year rule. Just a day before, on February 10, Yemen's president Abdu Rabu Mansour, based on the National Dialogue‘s recommendation for the political transition and after deliberating with a Region Defining Committee, approved turning the country into a six-region federation state.

Nadia Al-Sakkaf, an activist, member of the National Dialogue and editor-in-chief of The Yemen Times, tweeted:

The federal system was a solution to counter the failure of the centralized government and to give the south more autonomy while preserving Yemen's unity. Yemen's parties had been divided on whether to split the federation into two or six regions. A north-south divide which was suggested by Southerners was rejected due to fear that it could set the stage for the south to secede. The six agreed regions included four in the north, comprising Azal, Saba, Janad and Tihama, and two in the south, Aden and Hadhramaut.

Azal includes the capital Sanaa, which will be a federal city not subject to any regional authority, in addition to the provinces of Dhamar, Amran and Saada. Aden would comprise the capital of the former south, as well as Abyan, Lahej and Daleh. The southeastern Hadhramaut province would include Al-Mahra, Shabwa and the island of Socotra, while Saba comprises Bayda, Marib and Al-Jawf. Janad would include Taez and Ibb, and Tahama also takes in Hudaydah, Rima, Mahwit and Hajja.

Yemen_updates tweeted a link showing the new regions:

There were many reactions among Yemenis and Arabs both for and against this decision.
Yemeni youth activist, Jamal Badr jokingly tweeted a still shot from a scene of a famous Egyptian comic play:

Isn't Yemen fine?? Yes, every region is fine but separate

Farea Almuslimi disapproving the haste in the decision making tweeted:

It took my father and uncles a longer and more thoughtful time to divide the (small) land they inherited from my grandfather then it took to determine the form and number of the regions in Yemen

Egyptian visual artist and film maker, Mahmud Abdel Kader, commented:

Nobody is saying that the UAE is divided because it is federal … because the idea of federalism is to add not divide, what happened in Yemen is a division not an addition

Lebanese Karl Sharro sarcastically tweeted:

Yet there were many questions in people's minds, which Sam Waddah raised on Facebook:

Major question marks remain on dividing power, authority, duties between regions and central state, defining the new system, how local governments will be elected, etc. Tentatively federal system is a good one but it's too early to tell here and by leaving these issues undefined I think Hadi and the regions defining committee are putting the cart before the horse!

Adam Baron also wondered:

Nadia Al-Sakkaf shed some light on the new federal system in her article in The Yemen Times:

The relationship between the regions and the federal government will be written into the constitution. The details will be defined in a Federal Regions Law after the constitution has been approved via a national referendum, expected to take place three months after the creation of the Constitutional Drafting Committee. Each region will have the autonomy to devise its own regional laws to define the relationship among its various states.

Three years after the revolution, on February 11, Yemenis were back on the streets but for various reasons. There were those who went out to celebrate the anniversary of a revolution which awed the world with its power and peacefulness and there were those who went out to protest against the government's corruption and for not realizing the revolution's demands.

Majda Al-Hadad, an activist spearheading the campaign against the government's continuous electricity power cuts tweeted:

It is not necessary for me to list the reasons for me to go out tomorrow, there is nothing positive that would make me hesitate. No rights, no dignity, no law, no justice, and no presence of the government except corruption and injustice.

Journalist Khaled Al-Hammadi tweeted:

The people want to topple corruption“, “the people want the fall of the government“, “a new revolution all over again“, “oh government of corruption, leave the country” chanted protesters across the streets of Sanaa.

(Video posted on YouTube by Ridan Bahran

Akram Alodini also highlighted the political division in his tweet:

In the morning, marches for the republic of Sabeen and the sport stadium, and in the afternoon for the republic of Seteen, and the citizen is helpless

Lawyer Haykal Bafanaa wondered how would corrupt politicians counter corruption:

Researcher, blogger and activist Atiaf Al-Wazir tweeted:

This video by SupportYemen is a reminder of what the revolution was about and what it still needs to achieve:

And as Rooj Al-Wazir, tweeted, some of the revolutionary youth, three years later, were still behind bars:

Journalist Benjamin Wiacek tweeted with disappointment, a bitter sentiment shared by many of the revolutionary youth:

Journalist Iona Craig, who has been living in Yemen since 2011, and as the rest of Yemenis has been suffering from frequent and lengthy electricity cuts tweeted:

Many Yemenis did not feel a change in their daily living conditions – quite the contrary, many were disappointed and frustrated with its deterioration. In a question posed on Facebook by journalist Ahmed Ghurab, “In your opinion what change has occurred in the living conditions of the average citizen in the last three years since the outbreak of the revolution?!!”, the majority complained about the hike in prices, the continuous power outages, the insecurity and instability along with the increase of assassinations, the car explosions and kidnappings and the failure of the government to address or manage these issues.

Nevertheless, there were those who were celebrating the revolution's achievements so far and were still hoping for more. Photos of the marches all over Yemen commemorating the third anniversary of the start of the revolution were posted all over Twitter and Facebook.

Yemen-based journalist Adam Baron tweeted:

A photo from the Friday marches in Sanaa in 2011 demanding the fall of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh

A photo from the Friday marches in Sanaa in 2011 demanding the fall of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh

Activist, photographer and member of the National Dialogue, Nadia Abdullah,posted photos of the marches in Sanaa on facebook.

Marches in Sanaa's Seteen street celebrating the 3rd anniversary of Yemen's revolution (Photo by Nadia Abdullah)

Marches in Sanaa's Seteen street celebrating the 3rd anniversary of Yemen's revolution (Photo by Nadia Abdullah)

On a more positive note, Baraa Shiban, a youth activist and also member of the National Dialogue, tweeted:

He summarized in his Facebook post, what many would undoubtedly agree is the greatest achievement of Yemen's revolution:

Yemen has a new generation of men and women who believe in the principals of democracy and human rights. Yemen's youth now believe in equal citizenship, women's rights and minorities. Yemen's youth today believe in achieving their demands by following the peaceful method.

The revolution continues…

February 11 2014

Privacy vs. Free Speech? Questioning the Conflict

Cartoon by Doaa Eladl via Flickr, Web We Want ( CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cartoon by Doaa Eladl via Flickr, Web We Want ( CC BY-SA 2.0)

“Censorship doesn't matter, surveillance is the real problem.” This was the subject of a panel at the 4th Arab Bloggers Meeting held in Amman, in January 2014 – it was one of the most exciting panels I have ever been on. I argued against this proposition, countering that censorship does matter and will continue to matter because it violates our fundamental right to free speech. But I also noted that surveillance violates another fundamental human right – the right to privacy.

Throughout my years as a journalist, media researcher and activist, I have seen many colleagues envision a dichotomy between privacy and free speech. But this can often lead to a dead end. These values can and should often co-exist without the need for one to cancel out the other. But occasionally these rights can come into conflict with one another.

Privacy and free speech are merely two of many other universal human rights, which also include the right to education, right to security, right to peace, right to religious practice, etc.

A typical example is the sensationalist news stories where paparazzi abuse their right to speech by publishing nude photos of politicians in their own bedrooms. In this case, the right of privacy is violated by the exercise of free speech. Similarly, it could be argued that the right of free speech has been trumped by the protection of privacy (and security) as demonstrated by the hiding of key information about the NSA surveillance program – information considered a state secret for its alleged role in protecting national security.

But most frequently I find that surveillance ends up becoming a form of censorship. When CCTV cameras are used to monitor user online activities at Internet cafes, users may censor themselves just to ensure they don’t get in trouble. This breach of their privacy stands in direct violation of their right to speak freely.

To me, nothing was more devastating than having the right to express my views taken away from me. It happened when my website YemenPortal.net was censored by the Yemeni authorities in 2008. It was an awful feeling of deprivation of one of my basic rights. I knew that I was only one of millions in Yemen and the Arab world whose right to free speech have been violated through censorship.

For those living in Western societies where free speech is protected with constitutional guarantees that largely prevent laws abridging free speech, censorship is not that common and so surveillance may be a priority. But for us in the Arab world, I believe we are still struggling to have our voices heard. I cannot accept the idea that the fight has now moved to the area of surveillance and away from free speech. While this may be the case where censorship is limited or non-existent, it is certainly not applicable to many countries living under authoritarian rule.

Privacy and free speech are merely two of many other universal human rights, which also include the right to education, right to security, right to peace, right to religious freedom. If we look back in history, we find that most of the time, the right to free speech preceded the right to privacy. As social animals, humans have depended on their need to communicate and open up to each other to survive and prosper. While the urge to communicate and exchange thoughts has been with us for an awfully long time, the need to have privacy is relatively new. But indeed, it has become increasingly accepted with the growth in populations.

It is unnatural for someone to prefer being in total privacy over being able to speak freely. The notion that free speech is not important as long as privacy is protected is unjustifiable.  After all, in a prison cell somewhere in a deserted area, I have all the privacy I need, but I cannot reach the world to say what I want. We were born free with a desire to speak out freely to express our grievances, needs and desires.

The importance of privacy for both Arab activists and citizens alike ought to be recognized. However, protecting privacy using a purely technologically-driven approach through the use of anonymizing tools such as Tor is not enough. Technology will not solve a problem so entrenched and complex such as surveillance and a technologically deterministic stance in that respect is not helpful – after all, in Arab countries (and many other parts of the world) surveillance is as prevalent in real life as it is online.

Protecting free speech and privacy requires more than microprocessors – it requires humans willing to rise up and change government policies, practices, misguided cultural beliefs, and other more deeply-rooted problems. One should take a more comprehensive approach where free speech and privacy –along with the other fundamental rights – need to be addressed, without comprising one for the other. I know that only by recognizing the complexity of the problem can we rise to the occasion and solve it.

 

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

February 09 2014

Yemenis Demand an End to Corruption and Unfair Sales Deals

Yemenis are back on the streets demanding their country's wealth – and holding those who squander it accountable.

Under the slogan “The People Reclaim Their Wealth” Yemen's revolutionary youth joined Yemen's Revolution Electronic Coordination (YREC) to demand the cancellation of what they describe as “unfair” liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales agreements, bleeding the country's resources.

According to on-going agreements, the former regime cheaply sold Yemen's LNG to France's Total and Korean Kogas, costing Yemen more than US$ 4 billion dollars in losses annually. Protesters claimed that LNG is sold below market price to those companies, following corrupt deals. They say that while Yemen sells its gas for US$ 2, the current market price for the gas is US$ 10.

Protesters also demanded compensation for the damage caused by the previous agreement and compelled the government to restore Yemen’s share in the production of LNG. According to the deal, Yemen keeps 22% of its LNG. The rest goes to benefit foreign companies, most notably Total's share of 39%.

On Thursday (February 6, 2014), the marches and rallies were staged across the capital Sana’a and in the western city of Hodeidah.

Protesters in the capital Sanaa marching and holding signs condemning Yemen's LNG sales agreement.

Protesters in the capital Sanaa marching and holding signs condemning Yemen's LNG sales agreement.

(video uploaded by presstv)

The slogan on the sign held in Hodeida's march reads

The slogan on the sign held in Hodeida's march reads “the people want to recover their wealth…the people want to recover their gas…the people want to recover their assets”

In Hodeidah, the rally started from the city’s Change Square, roaming a number of streets to mobilize citizens and make them aware of the corruption behind the deal.

Protesters in Hodeida holding signs demanding president Hadi to review Yemen's LNG deal

Protesters in Hodeida holding signs demanding president Hadi to review Yemen's LNG deal


The campaign was adopted by the YREC two years ago under the slogan ” The People Reclaim Their Wealth ” to demand the restoration of Yemen's wealth and assets, to fight against corruption and to bring the corrupt signatories of such agreements to justice.

The campaign was widely accepted among Yemenis who are suffering from the severe economic conditions that the country is undergoing which has led the deterioration in their living conditions and decline into further poverty and unemployment levels.

Will the End of the National Dialogue Bring Peace to Yemen?

The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) finally came to a halt, after dragging four months longer than the scheduled six months. While many congratulated Yemen on this breakthrough, Yemenis are apprehensive there would be a real political change and an end to violence on the ground.

The NDC, which ended its meetings on January 21, commenced on March 18, 2013, and was designed to be an inclusive process addressing a multitude of challenges facing Yemen. The 565-member body, representing various political groups, completed 10 months of arguments, deliberations and negotiations, presenting a set of recommendations on various challenges, political conflicts and socio-economic grievances.

The dialogue is a component of the Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement which granted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh an immunity in exchange for the transfer of power to his deputy Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

International observers were thrilled for Yemen.

Turkey's Ambassador in Yemen, Fazli Corman who was present at the closing ceremony tweeted:

Nervana Mahmoud, an Egyptian Blogger and commentator, tweeted:

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted:

British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, congratulated Yemen in his tweet:

Yet Yemenis weren't as excited with end of the National Dialogue Conference.

Safa Mubgar, co-founder of London-based Independent Yemen Group, tweeted:

Blogger Alaa Isam, who is apprehensive of the ongoing violence, noted:

Adam Baron, a Yemen-based reporter, added:

Baron rightfully points in his article:

…the conference was intended to provide an inclusive forum to address the grievances of groups ranging from the Houthi rebels, who’d been the target of a series of brutal government wars, to southern separatists to disaffected youths, while undertaking wide-ranging constitutional and administrative reforms…Instead, it became an example of Yemen’s many conflicts. Initially slated to last six months, its work was the subject of repeated disagreements that led to the conference’s extension. Meanwhile, violence continued in much of the country, underlining the persistence of the political divisions.

Danya Greenfield, director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, also worries that all did not end well. She writes in the Atlantic Council:

Unfortunately, the completion of the Dialogue on its own won’t resolve these conflicts, nor will it improve economic conditions or mitigate malnutrition. These are the daily realities that plague most Yemenis, who worry about the lack of security and meeting their families’ basic needs. They have yet to see the benefits of the political transition or an improvement in the quality of their lives…Now the pressure is on for Yemen’s leaders to put the interests of the country ahead of narrow, parochial interests and make good on the demands of those who bravely put their lives on the line for change three years ago.

After 10 stormy months in Yemen, Yemenis are generally relived that the NDC has finally come to an end. How and when will its resolutions be implemented is the issue, as many Yemenis look to it hopefully not just to manage the political transition, but to fundamentally improve their lives.

January 27 2014

Congrats Tunisia on the New Constitution!

Bloggers from across the region paid tribute to Tunisia for adopting a new constitution, three years after the ousting of dictator Zeine el Abidin Ben Ali.

The country, the first to join the so-called Arab Spring, is on the right path, they say.

Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia congratulates Tunisians:

Algerian Megari Larbi follows suit:

From Egypt, Mohamed El Dahshan laments the situation in his own country:

The comparisons with Egypt continue.

Borzou Daragahi tweets:

And Israeli Elizabeth Tsurkov chimes in:

Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt adds:

January 18 2014

Yemeni Activist Receives Death Threat on Facebook

Yemeni activist Hani Al-Junid .. threatened on Facebook

Yemeni activist Hani Al-Junid .. threatened on Facebook

Prominent Yemeni political activist Hani Al-Junid, received a death threat in his Facebook message inbox. The activist, who doubles as a reporter for Al-Sharae independent local newspaper, says the threat, which he takes seriously, was made by an anonymous person.

The threat, on December 21, warned that Al-Junid's “termination is soon.” Al-Junid is well-known for his political activism against General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of the army's 1st Armoured Division's attack on Sana'a University and the Al-Arateet rally. Most importantly, he is known for his sarcastic, secular, socialist writings [ar].

The threatening message says [ar]:

“نهايتك قريبة. وحياة امك ماتفلت. والله مانخليك الا تجس مشلول في البيت. ماتقدر ترفع ايد ولاتحرك رجل. كلام انتهى. رصاصة في العمود الفقري وانتهى امرك”

Your end is soon. You will not escape it. We swear to God that we will make you sit at home paralyzed and you would be not able to move an arm or a leg. Period. One bullet in your spine and you would be over.”

A snapshot of the threatening message Hani received to his Facebook inbox.

A snapshot of the threatening message Al-Junid received in his Facebook inbox.

Once Al-Junid got the threat, he posted its screenshot on his Facebook wall. He wrote:

“هذا الشخص ليس صديقي في الفيس بوك ولا اعرفه، ودخل فجئة يكلمني أنه بردان ويشتي خمر. أنا قلت له أن عليه التواصل مع علي محسن الأحمر، أو عبدالوهاب طواف كونهم المهربين الوحيدين لهذا الأمر، تحدثنا قليلا وعندما توقفت عن الحديث معه افصح عن الرسالة التي كلف بها وهي تهديدي أن نهايتي باتت قريبه.”

This person is not my friend and I don't know him at all. He started messaging me that he was cold and wanted wine. I told him that he should contact Ali Mohsen and Abdelwahab Tawaf, as they are the only smugglers of wine. After a while, he stated that my end is soon.”

The activist has always stated that such tactics to silence him will never scare him. He explained:

“بصراحة تصلني تهديدات بين وقت وآخر لكني لا اعيرها أي اهتمام، بس هذه المرة شعرت أن الأمر جدي، وأحب أن اقول لهذا المسخ أن تهديده لم يخيفني وانا مستعد للتضحية”

Honestly, I receive threats every once in a while but I never care about them. However, this time I sense that it's serious. And I'd like to tell this bastard that his threat won't scare me and I'm ready to sacrifice myself.”

While Yemen after the 2011 uprising enjoys greater freedom of expression, this new found freedom had been tempered by the rise of such incidences of threats and violence against the media. This incident for Al-Junid is one in a spate of attacks and other threats media groups receive. Al-Junid has been physically assaulted by a group of unknown men after he left a demonstration at Sana'a University demanding an end to its occupation by the military in October 2012.

January 07 2014

Dreams of Yemen

Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia shares her dreams of Yemen in this post. She writes:

I dream of a Yemen where everyone has a roof on top of their head
I dream of a Yemen where everyone has a meal on their table
I dream of a Yemen where poverty is addressed and managed

December 27 2013

7 Good News Items You Probably Didn't Hear about Yemen

Amidst all the sad and violent news coming out of Yemen, the assassinations, bomb explosions, US drone strikes and kidnappings, we managed to dig out a few news items that you might have missed:

1. After two years behind bars and no charge against them, some of Yemen's revolution youth were released, although a few still remain in prison until this day.

Yemen's Revolution's Youth released in front of Sanaa's central prison

Yemen's Revolution's Youth released in front of Sanaa's central prison

2. Journalist Abdulillah Hayder Shaye who had been jailed for almost three years, for exposing US missile attack on the remote mountain village of Al-Ma'jallah, which killed 41 people, was released and received the Alkaramah Human Rights defenders Award but was not able to attend the ceremony in Geneva and receive the award in person because he is under house arrest and not allowed to leave the country.

Journalist Iona Craig and investigative journalist and author of “Drone Wars” Jeremy Scahill received the award on his behalf.

3. Launched successfully last year, TedxSanaa held another event this year under the theme “Actions Matter” which was just as successful and TedxAden was launched on Dec 11, 2013. A lot of effort and great organization was put into it, begining with the creative flash mob announcing it, to the inspiring panel of speakers and variety of subjects it included.

4. The Yemeni film “Karamah Has No Walls” documenting the bloody events of March 18th, 2011, in Yemen's revolution directed by Yemeni/Scottish film director Sara Ishaq was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination. Karamah in Arabic means Dignity.

Here is the film:

Sarah Ishaq also directed the documentary film “The Mulberry House,” which is being screened in international film festivals across the world.

5. Kidnapped Dutch couple, journalist Judith Spiegel and her partner Boudewijn Berendsen, were finally and safely released after six months in captivity. They were unharmed and said they received good treatment from their abductors. Judith said on her first Facebook post after her release:

Yes yes yes we are free! We are very fine. We will contact you all soon, but for now: thank you so so so much for all the support. You cannot believe how fantastic that has been and still is for our families and us. We love you and we still love Yemen

Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel and her partner Boudewijn Berendsen

Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel and her partner Boudewijn Berendsen

A graffiti by Yemeni artists Murad Subay in solidarity with Judith during her kidnap

A graffiti by Yemeni artists Murad Subay in solidarity with Judith during her kidnapping

6. After years of being subjected to continuous US drone strikes and especially after a drone strike hit Yemen killing 17 civilians in a wedding convoyYemen's parliament passed on Sunday, December 15, 2013, a law banning drone strikes. Yes it sounds like good news, but it was just symbolic since lawmakers have limited powers, especially when the country's own president endorsed the drones and there are no signs that they would stop anytime soon.

7. A road map was finally reached for the southern issue. Some autonomy was granted to the Southern regions in Yemen in the face of the secessionist movement which had been calling for an end to the unity between North and South Yemen, which took place in 1990. A committee formed by President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi will choose between forming two regions in the south and four in the north, or two large entities, a northern and southern one.

This last bit of news is too soon to determine whether it is good or bad, but we are keeping it with the positive spirit of the post and hoping to hear more good news from Yemen in the next year!

November 25 2013

The Internet as a Catalyst for Change in Yemen

Demonstrators gather in Sana'a in 2011. Photo by Sallam via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Demonstrators gather in Sana'a in 2011. Photo by Sallam via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Walid Al-Saqaf is the Chair of ISOC-Yemen.

The economy is suffering, illiteracy levels are among the highest in the world, and most high school and university graduates are struggling to find work. Even worse, the security situation is dire: assassinations, kidnappings, and other violent acts have become routine. This is the state of Yemen today. But one segment of society that is trying to reverse the country’s fortunes is Yemen’s youth. Young Yemenis today could prove the greatest asset in getting the country back on its feet. Technology has a big role to play here.

Young people who are trying to find new ways to find work, engage, do research and get a break from daily hardships have found that the Internet has given them some relief and hope.

The recent launch of Yemen’s chapter of the Internet Society gives me reason to be hopeful. More than 200 people attended the launch event that took place in a remote part of Sana’a City. This leaves me optimistic about the strong desire of Yemenis, particularly youth, to have a stronger, more resilient, more accessible Internet.

Why now?

ISOC-Yemen launch, November 2013. Photo used with permission.

ISOC-Yemen launch, November 2013. Photo used with permission.

With so many problems facing Yemen, one of the questions posed by some audience members at the event was ‘Why now?’ hinting at the many other difficulties that Yemen faces -– severe water shortages and power outages have become a daily norm, and many don’t dare leaving home after midnight for fear of armed gangs. In the face of such direct threats to health and safety, some have asked: Why should one invest time, energy and money in the Internet?

The Internet could bring change, foster ideas and ultimately, play an integral role in lifting people from poverty. A small minority of Yemenis have pioneered this space, developing their own businesses on social media or using the Internet to find work. Success stories of Internet-based development and entrepreneurship could inspire more action. Events such as TEDxSanaa, TEDxAden and Sanaa Startup Weekend have highlighted these achievements.

These examples were fascinating because the Internet was able to help change lives at a personal level despite a poor and relatively expensive connection. One can only imagine how a more open, easily accessible Internet could impact Yemeni society.

ISOC-Yemen is a step towards making Yemen a country more connected to the world.  With a population of 25 million, the majority of whom are under 40, Yemen could become one of the fastest growing countries when it comes to Internet penetration and use. It shows tremendous promise that can help shape the future of the country both at an individual and national level.

Affordability, awareness and transparency

There is much work to be done. At 15%, Yemen's lowest Internet penetration rate is currently the lowest in the Arab World. The country also lacks 3G connectivity – although this is due in part to the government’s monopoly over telecommunications services, infrastructure has also been decimated by acts of violence – in 2012 alone, fiber cables were cut 180 times in attacks against the state and intertribal conflict.

We must start taking bold and strategic steps to seize the moment and use the Internet to its fullest potential. As ISOC-Yemen, we plan to do this with three primary initiatives.

We plan to engage with Internet service providers and public policy makers in an effort to end the government telecom monopoly once and for all. The current system, in which the country has one ISP operated by the government, has proven unsustainable. Yemen is the only country in the region that does not have 3G connectivity and lacks many services that are taken for granted in the region. It is time to open the market with clearly-defined conditions that will protect consumers and establish an environment of healthy competition. Without competition, government-run services could lag behind, failing to satisfy the needs of the public and the market.

We also will focus on awareness. Yemenis need to wake up to the global information revolution. It is unacceptable for students and teachers not to have email accounts and not understand what the Internet is and how it is used. And we must take advantage of the resources that the Internet can offer, not only for economic development, but also for education.

We also plan to promote transparency and e-government initiatives. Recent history has proven that a lack of transparency has led to corruption that has resulted in greater levels of poverty in Yemen. In many countries new and effective e-government services have brought the elimination middle-men and fixers. Having the government publish valuable and relevant information for public scrutiny will allow the public to hold officials accountable for their actions and to ensure that tax-payer money is spent appropriately.

ISOC-Yemen will undertake many other initiatives—these are merely a starting point. As a civil society organization, ISOC-Yemen can help shape the future of the Internet not only in Yemen, but also in the region. As ISOC is soon establishing a Middle East bureau, Yemen could be a prominent beneficiary and partner of the bureau, due to its pressing need for support, its great market potential, and its strategic location for cable connectivity to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

The bright side

Despite the troubles Yemen faces, I can see a bright side that should not be overlooked. It could be summarized in the youth of Yemen, this untapped resource that can fundamentally change the country’s status from being the least developed in the Middle East, to the most competent, skilled and fastest-growing country in the region. It can do so because it possesses something that other oil-rich neighboring countries do not: a robust youth population that is determined to rise up and defeat the odds with a spirit of hard work and dedication.

I felt from my last visit to Yemen eagerness in the eyes of many young Yemenis who wish to surprise the world, turn the fortunes of the past around, and prove that we could once again become a good world citizen. The Internet could help make that a reality.

ISOC is a non-profit non-governmental organization based in the US with the aim of supporting an open and robust Internet. It serves as the umbrella of Internet Architecture Board, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Engineering Steering Group, and the Internet Research Task Force. Learn more here.

 

Yemen: Love in The Time of Turmoil

Yemen's twittersphere, which is usually filled with disturbing news of assassinations, drone strike attacks or political turmoil, has been overtaken lately with a modern day version of Romeo and Juliet's love story. Yet the story is more complex and has a national twist. Juliet is Huda Abdullah Al Niran, a 22-year-old Saudi, who fell in love with her Romeo, 25-year-old Yemeni migrant worker, Arafat Mohammed Taher Al-Qadhi.

Huda met Arafat for the first time when she went to purchase a mobile from the shop in her village where he worked. They fell in love and after several attempts to officially ask for her hand in marriage were refused by her family, Huda decided to escape a forced arranged marriage. She eloped to Yemen last month to get married to her Yemeni sweetheart Arafat. Hpwever, she was arrested at the border and put in jail. Today, she faces charges for entering the country illegally and so does Arafat, who is charged with assisting her do so, although he crossed the border nine hours after her.

In an audio interview posted on YouTube by Saudi Okaz Alyoumon November 3rd, 2013, Huda recounts how she met Arafat, fell in love with him and decided to elope after her family had refused his request to take her hand in marriage – just because he is Yemeni.

Belkis Wille, researcher at Human Rights Watch, tweeted:

Today the UNHCR agreed to grant asylum to Huda, who risks facing victimization by her family should she be deported back to Saudi Arabia and returned home. A Yemeni court postponed issuing a ruling in her case on Sunday (Nov. 24) until December 1.
There are many sympathizers and supporters following the couple's ordeal in Yemen, including cartoonist Carlos Lattuf who showed his support:

Meanwhile, on the ground, hundreds of people gathered outside the courtroom chanting: “Love before borders and citizenship.”

Yemeni supporters of the couple gathered in front of the court room to show their solidarity

Yemeni supporters of the couple gather in front of the court room to show their solidarity

The crowds demonstrated demanding the judge to dismiss the case and wed the couple. A Facebook page, entitled “We are all Huda and Arafat”, has been created to lobby their case. It has more than 12,000 likes so far. It has also been reported that a Sheikh from Yemen has offered them a home and another one some furniture.

Will we witness a happy ending to the Yemeni-Romeo and Saudi-Juliet love story? Or will it be another sad and tragic ending?

November 13 2013

Yemenis Looking for Action: TEDxSanaa 2013

It seems that the TedxSanaa is the only positive action taking place lately in Yemen. No wonder many Yemenis were eagerly awaiting the beginning of a new series of inspiring talks in TedxSanaa 2013 to kick off, to take their attention away from all the politics and turmoil that is gripping Yemen. While January's theme was “Inspiring Hope” the new theme is “Actions Matter.”

A promotional video was posted on TEDxSanaa's YouTube channel two months ago to invite people to participate and join the TedxSanaa community:

The event starts today, November 13, and will be hosted by two shining young Yemenis – Sarah Al Zawraqi and Osamah Abdullah. There is a slightly bigger female participation in the November panel. Among the 17 inspiring speakers, six are women as opposed to the January one where they were only four among the 19 speakers. Besides businessmen and entrepreneurs, the variety of speakers selected include an English language instructor and trainer, a media program developer, a program host, a street photographer, a film director, a public policy consultant, a dentist, a journalist/blogger and a cake designer. The names of the speakers and their photographs are posted on Twitter, with a short bio for each on Facebook.

 Sara Al-Zawqari and Osama Abdullah are the hosts of TEDxSanaa 2013: Action

Sara Al-Zawqari and Osama Abdullah are the hosts of TEDxSanaa 2013: Action

The event will be aired via live-stream on this link.

Yemen's Oud Criminal

A new musical video has been circulating widely on Yemen's social media which has so far generated more than 30,000 views in a week.

The musical piece is a creative mix between western music in the notes of “Smooth Criminal” played by a Middle eastern string instrument, the Oud. It is performed and posted on YouTube by Ahmed Alshaiba, one of Yemen's many talented musicians, who also posted this on his Facebook wall:

As a Huge fan of Michael Jackson, Here you go, my “Oud version” cover for Smooth Criminal .. hope you like it !
أنا كمحب لمايكل جاكسون أحببت أن اعزف نسختي الخاصه لأحد اغانيه بالعود ,, اتمنى ان تعجبكم
http://youtu.be/_FwJqYcCcMU

The video was a pleasant surprise to music lovers and Michael Jackson Fans. These were some of the reactions on Twitter:

October 30 2013

Yemen: An Owl Outside My Window

Yemeni blogger Abdulkader Alguneid finds an owl outside his window:

He tweets the rare occurrence:

October 16 2013

On Blog Action Day, Thousands of Blogs on Human Rights

Today, thousands of bloggers join forces for Human Rights. It is Blog Action Day – a massive event that reaches a collective audience of millions and unites bloggers around the world.

Global Voices is a partner of Blog Action Day again this year, and we have been looking forward to another round of dedication to an important and ever-relevant topic. Some Global Voices contributors have also taken part in the event, and below you'll find excerpts from their personal blogs.

To participate in Blog Action Day, you can register your own blog on Blog Action Day's website. On Twitter, the hashtags to keep an eye on is #BAD13, #HumanRights, #Oct16.

Braille block floor in Japan helps guide the visually impaired. By Miki Yoshihito on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Braille block floor in Japan helps guide the visually impaired. By Miki Yoshihito on Flickr (CC BY)

This post will be updated throughout the day as new blogs are published.

 

 

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

September 17 2013

Child Marriage in Yemen – A Real Problem

Child marriage is a widespread practice in Yemen, especially in the rural areas. The story of the death of an eight-year-old child bride puts this serious issue under the spotlight.

In a 2011 Human Rights Watch report, “How Come You Allow Little Girls to Get Married?” quoting a nationally representative survey conducted by the Yemeni government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2006, 52% of all young girls are married before age 18. About 14% of girls in Yemen are married before age 15. A 2005 study by Sana’a University noted that, in some rural areas, girls as young as eight are married. The main underlying cause for child marriage in Yemen is poverty. Fathers tend to pull their young girls from school and often marry them to elder men for a generous dowry in order to provide for rest of the family.

Nujood Ali, aged 10, made headlines in 2008 as the world's youngest divorcee, after escaping marriage to a man who bought her as a child bride at the age of nine. Today Nujood is 15, living with her elder brother as her father used proceeds from her book deal, intended to secure her education, to marry twice and arranged a marriage for her younger sister. Read more about her ordeal here.

At 10 years old, Arwa had already been married and divorced. Her case sparked a nationwide debate about child marriage in 2009.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_ompypIwBM (Video uploaded by Journeyman Pictures)

Last week, another Yemeni child bride, an 8 year old, made headlines as she reportedly tragically died after bleeding to death on her wedding night to a 40 year old “Saudi’ man.

There was an wide international outrage as this story broke out in the media:

Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth tweeted:

Human Rights Watch urged Yemen's transitional government to set the marriage age to 18 in drafting the new constitutions order to save the childhood and lives of many girls.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ip2UZ3RLkbE&feature=youtu.be (Video uploaded to YouTube by Human Rights Watch)

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, statement
demanded Yemen to ban child marriage:

“I am appalled by reports of the death of an 8 year old Yemeni girl from serious injuries, including internal bleeding, sustained on her wedding night. I urge the Yemeni authorities to investigate this case without delay and to prosecute all those responsible for this crime.

New York columnist Nicholas Kristof also shared the story via Twitter:

Celebrity Mia Farrow tweeted a message to Yemen's government:

CNN correspondent and anchor Jim Clancy tweeted in dismay:

Yemen's prominent cleric Al Habib al-Jafri noted:

We should all work hard to stop the trafficking farce of young girls under the guise of marriage http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=626378434068807&set=a.222106194496035.59084.196704400369548&type=1 … pic.twitter.com/1zZ2y8p1b5

In a follow up note on Facebook, he urged the government of Yemen and all governments in Arab and Islamic countries that do not have laws to prevent crimes violating children's innocence, by turning them into goods for sale in the market under a slave-coated marriage, to hasten to criminalize this heinous act and work hard to fight it through the legislative, judicial and executive authorities. And he also urged fellow clerks, scholars and preachers to abolish the practice, reminding them of their obligation to raise awareness about this issue.

The credibility of the tragic and controversial story of the death of the 8 year old has been debatable. Reporter Saeed Al Batati investigated the case in Gulf News and in this video. Regardless, whether this particular story is true or not, or if it is a cover up by the government, is besides the point. Child marriage is a major problem in Yemen which causes the death of many girls, during marriage and delivery – young victims whose stories do not make it to the headlines. This was not the first story and certainly will not be the last. The fact is that Yemen's government needs to stop child marriage.

Blogger Afrah Nasser tweeted:

Yemen's Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashhour also tweeted about the controversial case:

The Human Rights minister also sent a letter to the head of Parliament to approve the minimum age of marriage in Yemen and to enforce the law. Vocal advocacy to set the age limit for marriage has been a struggle in Yemen, long before the minister's appointment, but has been repeatedly opposed over the years by conservatives. In 1999 Yemen’s parliament, citing religious grounds, abolished article 15 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, which set the minimum age for marriage for boys and girls at 15. In 2009, Yemen's parliament passed legislation raising the minimum age of marriage to 17, but conservative parliamentarians rejected it too and the bill was never signed. Passing the law is an arduous and long process yet it is only the first step to win the battle. Its implementation will be the real challenge for Yemen.

Dr. Jamela Saleh Alraiby, Deputy Minister of Public Health and Population wrote a piece, last year, entitled The Suffering of Girls Must Stop
She points out:

Fighting to ban child marriage in Yemen is so difficult as it has religious, cultural and tribal roots, but this challenge gives us more strength to save our girls and to stop the violence they are exposed to, to assure that they have the means and tools to make their own decisions, and to ensure their participation in sustainable development.

She concluded:

My dream for girls is that they be empowered to be able to make their own decisions. …My dream is that every Yemeni girl has the chance to education and can live a safe life, not threatened by a forced marriage when she is only a child.

Yemen's government and the civil society need to collectively work on this issue. Passing a law setting the marriage age and implementing it by punishing those who break it, empowering girls by allowing them to complete their school education and work, along with an aggressive awareness media campaign can save many lives in Yemen.

September 07 2013

Yemen Mourns Ibrahim Mothana – One of it's Finest Youth

Ibrahim Mothana's profile photo on Twitter and Linkedin

Ibrahim Mothana's profile photo on Twitter and Linkedin

Yemen mourns the death of one of it's brightest and finest young men. Ibrahim Mothana (@imothanaYemen), a prominent activist and writer, Co-founder of Watan Party and Arab Thought Foundation 2011 ambassador, died on September 5th, 2013 at the age of 24. He lived a short life but was an inspiration to many who had the pleasure of knowing him.

Ibrahim, who was born on October 23, 1988, dreamed of a better Yemen and had dedicated his life to achieve that goal. He wrote an Op-Ed about the impact and morality of drone strikes in Yemen, and in the New York Times he wrote about his aspirations as an Arab and Yemeni youth activist in CNN and in Al-Jazeera. He was also an eloquent speaker and one of the best youth activists to represent Yemen abroad. Watch him speak about Yemen's revolution in “Global leadership and the new digital landscape” seminar in Sweden in July 7, 2011 (video uploaded to YouTube by GlobalUtmaning):

Ibrahim Mothana was a bright, friendly, inspiring, smart, talented, witty, young man and his untimely death is certainly a great loss to Yemen and to his family and friends.

News of his sudden death spread through social media late Thursday evening as friends in Yemen and around the world wrote heartfelt posts to commemorate his achievements and mourn his tragic loss:

His friend and fellow activist Farea Al Muslimi tweeted the sad news:

Another friend, Hamza Alshargabi wrote:

Hamza also posted a YouTube video commemorating Ibrahim:

Abdullah Hamidaddin shared a video of Ibrahim:

Activist Summer Nasser vowed to continue in his footsteps:

Yemeni Blogger Afrah Nasser wrote a powerful blog post in his memory. She wrote:

Mothana truly believed that he had the responsibility to make a change for his community and he has stated that in his piece published on the Global Changemakers website, “I realise now that I am not in this position to represent my own views but also the millions of young people under the age of 25 living in the Arab world. I am responsible for making the voices of young people heard and helping create solutions for the problems they face within the Arab region. I agree with the words of Albert Pike: ‘What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal’.”

I also wrote this blog post as a remembrance to make others know who this inspiring young man was.

Activist Faizah A. Alssulimani made a YouTube video capturing Ibrahim's most memorable photos.

Ibrahim Mothana's participation poster in TedxSanaa in December 2011

Ibrahim Mothana's participation poster in TedxSanaa in December 2011, photo courtesy of TedxSanaa

American Author Gregory Johnsen wrote:

Irish Journalist Iona Craig, who lives in Yemen and knew Ibrahim, tweeted:

US Journalist and author of the book “Dirty Wars” Jeremy Scahill added:

Bahrain's Human Rights Activist Maryam Al-Khawajaa tweeted:

Egyptian journalist and blogger Mohammed Aldahshan wrote:

Egyptian Ahmed Esmat created a Facebook event in which he urged friends to write their memories of Ibrahim:

Please share with us your memories,words or pictures with our late friend, شاركونا فيما تملكون من صور او كلمات او ذكريات عن صديقنا الراحل.

Australian Linh Do shared her impression of Ibarhim, she tweeted:

She added:

Ibrahim Mothana's funeral, held Friday September 6, 2013 in Sanaa. Photo via twitter by Fahmi Albaheth

Ibrahim Mothana's funeral, held Friday September 6, 2013 in Sanaa. Photo via twitter by Fahmi Albaheth

American Journalist Adam Baron, currently based in Yemen, was also shocked and saddened by Ibrahim's loss, he posted these powerful words on his Facebook wall:

But even if the outpouring of grief in Yemen and other places across the globe provides a fitting demonstration of what Ibrahim achieved in his 24 years on this earth, its not just about who he was and what he did, but what he was unable to do. I doubt there's anyone who ever met Ibrahim who didn't assume he was destined for even bigger things. God knows how much more this guy could have accomplished, how much more he could have done to make Yemen a better place. We'll all certainly miss Ibrahim's humor and insight.

This is a storify of the outpouring messages from Yemen and around the world mourning Ibrahim Mothana's loss.

August 13 2013

Eid Terror in Yemen With Three US Drone Strikes

Yemen received the first day of Eid (the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan) on August 8 2013, the same way it had received it on Christmas day, with US drone strikes, yet this time it was not with two strikes but three.
The US closed 19 of it's embassies across countries in the Middle East and North Africa over a “terror threat”, which was intercepted by the CIA, between Al- Qaeda’s head Ayman Al-Zawahri and Nasir Al-Wuhayshi, the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) head in Yemen. The US also issued a warning to it's citizens to leave the country and flew its embassy staff to Germany. The UK, France and Germany followed suit, closing their embassies in Yemen and issuing terror warnings to their nationals to leave the country.

A few days before Eid, on August 5, Sanaa residents were awoken to the buzzing sound of what they suspected to be a US drone which was later identified as a surveillance plane hovering over the skies of the capital, terrifying its residents.

Photo of the US surveillance plane mistaken for a US Drone circling over the capital Sana'a. (by Yemeni photographer: Hafez Aljbahi

Photo of the US surveillance plane mistaken for a US Drone circling over the capital Sana'a. (by Yemeni photographer: Hafez Aljbahi

Lawyer Haykel Bafana3 tweeted:

Activist and Sanaa resident Osamah Alfakih also tweeted:

A video of the US plane which was circling the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, for days was uploaded to YouTube via YouthStandYEMEN:

A few days later, on August 8th, the first day of Eid three drone strikes were reported, two in Hadhramout and one in Mareb, killing 12, often referred to by media headlines as “suspected militants” without knowing their identities.

Other Yemenis such as Ahmed Khaled complained of the terror caused by the US drones:

Yemeni/American Journalist Hakim Almasmari, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Post, tweeted:

Independent journalist Rania Khalik tweeted:

She questioned the “terror threat” adding a link to her blog:

Yemeni/American activist Rooj Alwazir tweeted in dismay:

Palestinian/American Journalist Ahmed Shihab-Eldin also tweeted:

He added:

Yemeni journalist Khaled Al-Hammadi tweeted:

Yemeni/British Blogger Omar Mashjari tweeted:

Haykal Bafan3 like many Yemenis, questioned the identities of those killed:

Yemeni Blogger @Afrahnasser posted [graphic] video and stills images of recent US drone strikes in Yemen in her blog post

Yemeni activist and journalist Farea Al-Muslimi summed up the fear experienced by Yemenis in his tweet:

Almuslimi also tweeted a word of advice to journalists:

Haykel Bafana3 also urged reporters to do some investigative journalism before relaying any information:

The debate regarding U.S. drone strikes in Yemen has been wether they are effective or if they were creating more enemies was a topic discussed in this SupportYemen video:

A missing voice is in the discussion about drones has been that of families of drone victims which Haykal Bafan3 tweeted a link to a BBC report addressing this issue:

Researcher Atiaf Alwazir also advised:

Video-journalist Benjamin Wiacek tweeted:

CNN correspondent Mohammed Jamjoum tweeted:

On Sunday August 11th, 18 of the 19 US embassies re-opened except the one in Yemen.
Since July 27th, till today August 13 the day of writing this post, Yemen has been hit by 10 US drone strikes in different parts of the country (Abyan, Mareb, Hadgramout, Lahj, Shabwa) killing 40 unidentified alleged “militants”.

Yemenis condemn Al-Qaeda's activities and want Yemen to be safe but are enraged by the surge of US drone strikes in Yemen, as they are with President Hadi for approving them and by the government's silence towards the extra-judicial killing of Yemenis based on a US “Kill List“. Most of the so-called “suspected militants” killed are not identified nor are the numbers of civilians killed acknowledged. Both governments are not accountable for their deaths nor for compensating their families for their loss. In summary what was hyped as an Al-Qaeda “terror threat” on the US turned to be a “terror reality” in Yemen by the US, experienced by many Yemenis over Eid.

July 04 2013

New Report Documents the Human Cost of U.S. Drone Strikes in Yemen | Politics News | Rolling Stone

New Report Documents the Human Cost of U.S. Drone Strikes in Yemen | Politics News | Rolling Stone
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/new-report-documents-the-human-cost-of-u-s-drone-strikes-in-yemen-2013

There are more than 80 names at the end of a human rights report published online this week. Each one is said to belong to a civilian killed or maimed as a result of U.S. missile strikes in Yemen since 2009. They were mothers, fathers, children and grandparents – and they stand in contrast to claims that the United States does not launch missiles into Yemen unless there is a “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured,” as President Obama told the nation in May.

The names are preceded by 25 pages of detailed descriptions of U.S. airstrikes in Yemen and their consequences, offering a rare level of information on specific attacks and their physical, psychological and financial impacts on individual Yemeni civilians.

“For me, its power is in the totality,” says Gregory D. Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen and author of the book The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia. “We tend to hear about these strikes in drips and drabs over the course of months and years, but the report is the most comprehensive one I've seen on U.S. strikes in Yemen.”

The report has been turned over to Ben Emmerson, the United Nations' special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, who is in the midst of an investigation into the civilian impacts of U.S. targeted killings and drone strikes abroad. The interviews contained within – collected by Alkarama, a Swiss-based human rights organization, and HOOD, an organization of lawyers and activists in Yemen – paint a violent picture of life on the receiving end of U.S. counterterrorism policy in the Arabian Peninsula.

La guerre des drones au Yémen : Un premier rapport présenté à l'ONU
http://fr.alkarama.org/index.php?option=com_content

#victimes_civiles #drones #Yemen #mensonges

June 25 2013

What Do You Know About Yemen?

Yemen is a country in the southern part of Arabian Peninsula with a rich culture, heritage and history, as well as extremely friendly and hospitable people, often misrepresented by Western media which has only magnified the country's negative aspects.
I started my first blog post about Yemen in April 2011 asking this question:

What do you know about Yemen besides being a land in turmoil which has been covering some news headlines for the past months, since February 2011? What else do you know besides what you heard about it, being the poorest country in the Arab world, a haven for terrorists, the Arab Peninsula Al-Qaeda's base, the ancestral home of Osama Bin Laden, it's people are heavily armed, kidnap tourists and chew Qat?

A panoramic view capturing Yemen's unique architecture by photographer: Mohammed Alnahdi

A panoramic view capturing Yemen's unique architecture by photographer: Mohammed Alnahdi

Many might not be aware that Yemen is the one of the oldest civilizations in the world and it's history dates back to the first millennium B.C. It was commonly known as Arabia Felix, meaning Fortunate Arabia or Happy Arabia. In fact, four of the world heritage sites are in Yemen. First, is the old capital itself, Sanaa. It is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. The old city boasts over 103 mosques, 14 hammams (baths) and over 6,000 multi-storey mud houses with unique architecture, featuring spectacular decorated façades adorned with stained glass windows.

(Video of old Sanaa uploaded by UNESCO)

Second, is Shibam, also known as the “Manhattan of the desert” and is home to the oldest skyscrapers in the world, 500 mud-brick houses which are eleven floors high.

Shibam, the Manhattan of the desert, by photographer:  Michail Vorobyev.

Shibam, the Manhattan of the desert, by photographer: Michail Vorobyev.

Third is the Island of Socotra, the largest member of an archipelago site, important for it's biodiversity and distinct flora and fauna. According to UNESCO, “37% of Socotra’s 825 plant species, 90% of its reptile species, and 95% of its land snail species do not occur anywhere else in the world.”
Socotra Island:

(video uploaded by ToYemen)

Fourth is the city of Zabid, which was the capital of Yemen from the 13th to the 15th century and is an outstanding archaeological and historical site.

Sadly, as blogger Atiaf Alwazir (@womanfromyemen) writes in her post “The Flawed Media Narrative on Yemen“:

Yemen, the land inhabited by 24 million people from different backgrounds, regions, sects, dialects and landscapes has been reduced to Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), wars, poverty, Qat, tribalism, or the ancestral home of Osama Bin Laden….Al-Qaeda has overshadowed most reporting on Yemen

Usually what makes it to the main stream headlines are the most provocative stories about Yemen, as Atiaf Alwazir points out:

Today’s journalism on Yemen is no longer about getting the facts right, or inspiring people to think independently, it is about who can write the most sensationalized story on the country – no matter how many times it has already been told – because that is what sells.

A group of Yemeni activists have taken it upon themselves to present Yemen to the world though the eyes of Yemenis. They want the world to see Yemen beyond the news reports and violent headlines and to enjoy the rich art, unique architecture and experience the breath taking landscape and scenery that Yemen is well known for.

This short 20-minute video film made for the British Council's Zoom Short Film Competition 2010 shows the truth and the simple life about Yemenis and tries to correct misunderstandings about them conveyed through the distorted media coverage.

(video uploaded by ZoomCompetition)

To educate people on Yemen's history and heritage, Yemeni Poet Sana Uqba, who lives in London, UK, (@Sanasiino) wrote and recited a powerful poem about Yemen:

(Video uploaded on Youtube by Yemeniah Feda'aih)

One of my most popular blog posts entitled “Yemen… unraveled facts about my beautiful homeland” highlights many hidden facts about Yemen, such as being the source of one of the finest and most expensive honey in the world – the “Doani honey”, and one of the first countries to introduce coffee to Europe by exporting its own coffee brand out of the port of Mocha.

Fahd Aqlan, a 35-year-old Yemeni man residing in Cairo, Egypt, started a Facebook page called So you think you've seen Yemen? to counter misconceptions and show the world another aspect of Yemen beyond what is portrayed in news headlines.

Summer Nasser, a Yemeni activist and blogger based in New York, started another Facebook page entitled The People of Yemen, which as she describes is a “photo project which brings the life of Yemen, one picture at a time to it's audience across the world.”

To know more about Yemen's culture, there are different blogs and Youtube channels that one can surf to learn more about the uniqueness of Yemen.

Food:
Yemeni food is often accompanied by homemade bread and cooked in stoneware. This photo portrays a typical breakfast or dinner made of bread, fava beans, liver and accompanied by tea with milk and cardamon.

A typical Yemeni breakfast or dinner

A typical Yemeni breakfast or dinner

Bint El Sahn, is a very popular and traditional Yemeni dish. Literally translated to English, it means “daughter of the plate.” It is made of many layers of dough, baked and served with a drizzle of honey on top. And it is consumed during the meal as a main dish, not a desert.

The famous Bint El Sahn. Photograph by Hend Abdullah

The famous Bint El Sahn, Photograph by Hend Abdullah

Yemeni Kitchen is a great blog to introduce you to the various types of the country's cuisine. The blog, as described by the authors, “focuses on Yemeni Food with a historical twist.” Not only does it provide a step-by-step recipe of the dishes it introduces, but it also describes the history behind them as well.

Music and Dance:
A traditional northern Yemeni dance is called Bara'a and is performed with swift movements carrying a Janbiya, the Yemeni dagger, while dancing to the tunes of the Yemeni drum and muzmar, a type of Yemeni flute. Watch how youngsters perform this art in this video:

(video up loaded to YouTube by GTB313)
Yemen's Southern Hardamout dance and music can be viewed in this YouTube video uploaded by Yemen Reform:

To listen to various Yemeni songs and rhythms, check out the following links: Ayoub Tarish is a famous Yemeni singer and composer; Yemen Reform provide YouTube videos of different Yemeni singers performing such as Alharethi, Alanessi, Alkebsi and also various Yemeni Nasheed Asswat Yemenia (Yemeni voices) in addition to that has songs for Abu Bakr Salem Balfaqih, Ali Thahban and Mohammed Morsehd Naji among others; My Diwan has the largest collection of Yemeni songs and Ahmed Fathi is a prominent Yemeni musician, singer, composer and Oud player.

Landscape:
This video shows the art, culture and breathtaking landscape and beautiful scenery in Yemen.

(Video uploaded on Youtube by TourYemen)

Photography
Old Sanaa:

A beautiful shot of the old city of Sanaa through the lens of Ameen Alghabri

A beautiful shot of the old city of Sanaa through the lens of Ameen Alghabri

Aden

A selection of Photos of the portal city of Aden by Ameen Alghabri

A selection of photos of the portal city of Aden by Ameen Alghabri

More breath taking photos of Yemen can be seen through the Facebook pages of photographers Ameen Al-Ghabri and Abu Malik

A breath taking view of the city of Ibb seen from a cliff. Photograph by Abu Malik

A breath taking view of the city of Ibb seen from a cliff.
Photograph by Abu Malik

Painters:

Oil painting by Fouad Al Foutaih, from the private collection of the author of this post, Noon Arabia

Oil painting by Fouad Al Foutaih, from the private collection of the author of this post, Noon Arabia

Some of the most famous Yemeni painters are Lamia Al-Kibsi,
Fouad Al-Foutaih and Mazher Nizar, and more of his work can be viewed here and here

Foreigners testimony about Yemenis:
Yemen-based journalist Adam Baron said in his Drones-Ad-Hoc Hearing Testimony:

Yemenis, as a rule, are nearly unfathomably friendly and welcoming.

Word Press Award winner, Spanish Photojournalist Samuel Aranda said:

@Samuel_Aranda_: For who thinks that in Yemen are only extremist. Visit Yemen!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNMsm1Fl_X8&feature=related

(A panoramic tour of Yemen, video uploaded by tomeriko)

Local Media:
One can also follow more local cultural and social stories through Yemen's own media, such as The Yemen Times and La Voix du Yemen.

Next time you read a headline about Yemen, remember it is certainly more than Al-Qaeda and Qat. This was just a small flavor of Yemen's rich culture, heritage and nature for those who care and want to know more about it.

June 06 2013

Yemen's Revolution Jails it's Youth

After languishing in jail for almost two years without being charged, 22 young Yemeni men went on hunger strike on May 24, 2013 to build pressure for their government to release them. Youth activists in capital city Sanaa soon joined them in solidarity. On June 6, 17 of those imprisoned were released.

The detained youth were captured in December 2011, during the uprising against ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. But their whereabouts were unknown for eight months. In August 2012, they surfaced in the Political Security Organization prison in the capital Sanaa and were later transferred to Sanaa Central Prison.

Yemeni tweeps launched a hashtag in English #FreedetainedRevyouth and in Arabic #الحرية_لمعتقلي_الثورة
. The Arabic hashtag translates to Freedom to the Detainees of the Revolution.

Atiaf Alwazir tweeted:

‏@WomanfromYemen: In #Yemen, while opposition parties got to power b/c of the revolution, some revolutionary #youth remain in prison #FreeDetainedRevYouth

Marwan Almuraisy wrote:

@almuraisy: Who can believe that 22 of the amazing young people who gave us sole of freedom still detained in prisons since 2yrs?! #FreeDetainedRevYouth

I noted:

@NoonArabia: In #Yemen, while those who killed & looted the country are free & enjoy immunity, the revolutionary youth are in prison #FreeDetainedRevYouth

Waleed Al- ammari added [ar]:

@waleedpro
الان عدد من شباب الثورة ينضمون الى الاعتصام في السجن المركزي حتى يتم الإفراج عن جميع شباب الثورة
#اليمن

A number of youth are joining a sit-in in front of Sanaa's central prison demanding the release of all the youth from the revolution

Yemen's Human Rights minister, Hooreya Mashhoor, joined 20 other leading youth activists who went on hunger strike and a sit-in on Saturday, June 1, at the central prison compound in Sanaa in solidarity with the detained young men.

Yemen's Human Rights Minister Hooreya Mashhoor joining the youth activists who went on hunger strike and a sit-in to demand the release dozens of activists held at the central prison compound in Sanaa.

Yemen's Human Rights Minister Hooreya Mashhoor joining the youth activists who went on hunger strike and a sit-in to demand the release dozens of activists held at the central prison compound in Sanaa.

In a video recorded phone conversation with the minister of Interior (posted by Mohammed Al-Yemeni on Youtube) Ms. Hooreya Mashhoor confirmed her commitment to free the detained youth. She told the minister “I am not a decor minister, I am a minister of the revolution who came from the squares.”

President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi demanded 48 hours for consultations with the cabinet and his advisers to resolve the matter.

Waleed Al-ammary tweeted in dismay:

@waleedpro:
معتقلون لاكثر من17500ساعة الرئيس هادي يطلب تمديد اعتقالهم 48 ساعة أخرى خارج اطار القانون
#FreeDetainedRevYouth
#الحرية_لمعتقلي_الثورة

Detained for more than 17,500 hours of President Hadi asked to extend their detention another 48 hours outside the framework of the law #FreeDetainedRevYouth

A cabinet decision in June 26, 2012, had ordered the release of all political prisoners detained in 2011, as well as anyone abducted that year who turned up in prisons and was never charged. In March, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, also issued a decree ordering the release of those detained during the revolution. The Attorney General, Ali Ahmed Nasser al-Awash, a remnant from the Saleh era and a loyalist, kept ignoring those orders. Finally, on June 5, 2013, President Hadi ordered the attorney general to immediately release 19 of the 22 detainees, who were on hunger strike. Yet the Attorney General cleared the release of only 17 of the detainees and kept the remaining 2 for “allegedly” suspicion of involvement in an attack on former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the June 2011, in Nahdeen Mosque.

Activists accused the Attorney General of illegally keeping the remaining two detainees as a political bargaining chip to use them against the case of “Friday of Karamah” massacre in which former president Saleh and his men were accused of killing 52 protesters. They called for his dismissal using the hashtag #أقيلوا_النائب_العام and organized a march on June 5th to his office to close it down.

(video uploaded by محبة اليمن)

Activist and photojournalist Al Sharani Faroq tweeted:

@faroqperss:
إقالة الأعوش من اجل سيادةالقرارات الرئاسية. #أقيلوا_النائب_العام #الحرية_لمعتقلي_الثورة” #FreeDetainedRevYouth #Yemen

Dismiss Alawash for the rule of presidential decrees, dismiss the Attorney General.

This morning, June 6th, Photo Journalist Yusra Ahmed tweeted:

@YusraAlA
17 detainees released this morning.. congrats.. rest r still in central prison #FreeDetainedRevYouth

Yemen's Revolution's Youth and supporting activists pose in front of Sanaa's central prison after their release

Yemen's Revolution's Youth and supporting activists pose in front of Sanaa's central prison after their release

More photos can be seen on photographer Nadia Abdullah's Facebook Album here.

Al-Ammary tweeted:

@waleedpro: إصرار النائب العام على عدم الإفراج عن ابراهيم الحمادي وشعيب البعجري يثبت ان الهدف ليس قضية النهدين وانما الثورة
#الحرية_لمعتقلي_الثوره

Attorney General's insistence on not releasing Ibrahim Al Hammadi and Shoaib Bajeri prove that the objective is not the case of the Nahdayn mosque, but the revolution

Many Yemenis are frustrated for the absence of law in Yemen, more so due to the apparent power struggle between President Hadi and Former president Saleh loyalists who do not comply to or execute presidential orders. Five revolutionary youth are still detained in Sanaa and 17 in Hajjah's prison and activist vow not to stop until they are all released.

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