Making Art in the Time of War

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Abdurahman Hussain At Location

Many years have passed without me writing anything. All my writings have been exclusive to film ideas and scenarios maybe because I know my limited ability in expressing myself with words and that they are not the language I master. Since I was a child, visuals and videos have formed the language I speak best. This language has always enabled me to communicate with people around me. The camera has given me a voice and platform to send my messages to the world in an attempt to make change or inspire people towards it. Today, I hold the pen again to write down my thoughts as the continuous electricity blackouts have deprived me from making films.

I have found in story telling through film-making a reason to continue no matter how bad things can get knowing that art is what we need to make peace and spread love in people’s hearts. Ever since #SupportYemen cooperative was established in 2011, I have been in a mission to help Yemen through my work. Despite the rapid deterioration of the situation in Yemen, I have always been able to create space for pieces of work that hold messages of hope. While it has always been more risky to hold a camera than to hold a weapon, it was still possible to continue filming. However, today it was worse than ever as we are stuck in a brutal war that left people drowning in hate and Yemen is being torn apart more and more.


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Filming today has become almost impossible and Yemen needs art to open the door for healing and peace making. This might not be accurate and I might be too naive for still believing in art and its messages. Yes, Yemenis need urgent aid and immediate stop of war and fighting. Yet, how can this happened when my fellow Yemenis have become blinded and cannot see the dark future ahead of us. I have finally finished a small piece of work where I try to show the features of this future that we may have already begun to sink in its darkness.

Under very difficult circumstances, I have managed with the help of close friends and #SupportYemen’s team to produce “The Color of Injustice”. This short video still revolve around the human in Yemen and what this human has to go through on daily basis between death, destruction and misery. With very limited resources and a race with time, this video finally sees light.

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With news spreading that all means of communication suspending soon due to lack of fuel in Yemen, this video may be our last message before we lose connection with the world. This video may touch people and it may not, but all I have is to try.

Although, the video’s name that is also inspired by Luti Jaafar Aman’s poem (the famous late Yemeni poet) shows the presence of colors, the video has only the colors black and white and their derivatives. The late poet’s voice has given this video a soul. It inspired me for this experience and deeply touched my soul.

In spite of the absence of transportation and continues bombardment every day, young Yemeni women and men continued to come and help finish filming.

4 Years On: Cultivating Hope & Capturing Life

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In a land where civil wars and a US led drone war can keep my people caged in their homes for months on end, films can make a world of a difference.

With Yemen, words like war, conflict, failure, crisis constantly follow. Hopelessness and anger are present in these articles. The rage of society, the anger of government, or lack there-of,  the anger of those wrongly murdered with airstrikes. Families scream about militia rule. Don’t get me wrong, there is all of that. But that is not only what you see if you take to the streets like we did.

Perhaps the most lasting effect of the Yemeni uprising was the willingness to stay connected. Everyday, more of us meet for the first time, whether online or on the streets. We build relationships and talk about what kind of a society we want to build.  We film, dream, photograph, organize, discuss and listen. We exchange ideas for film scripts based on what we think the future of our society would look like. Will it stay the same? or will it change? We create stories that are deeply grounded in values, that bring perspective and communicate a vision. The reason we make films is not because we are just angry with mainstream media coverage or with the way Yemen is turning out, but because we want to use it as a platform to share concerns, hopes, and aspirations, which we see everyday in every angry or smiling face we see on the streets of Yemen.

In my 27 years, this is the most I have ever felt part of a community. Four years on from the anniversary of the Yemeni Uprising, we continue to make art, that speaks life.

SupportYemen’s Women Citizenship and Political Participation Discussion

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738367_10200229696734270_1458713676_oSupportYemen held an event on January 3rd entitled “Women’s Citizenship and their Political Participation in the Constitution”. A prelude to the discussion included the texts on citizenship in the Yemeni constitutions of 1978-1994 and the suggested amendments. The 47 participants were divided into 7 focus groups to discuss the articles in the appendix and the suggestions relating to these articles, adding comments regarding the suggestions in addition to discussing the possible obstacles that can be faced if these suggestions were carried forward. The event ended with a general group discussion following the focus group discussions.

The major constitutional amendments regarding women’s representation which were summarized in the appendix were as follows:

• Amendment of article (4) from the constitution “the people own the power and are its source, and they exercise it directly through the referendum and general elections and indirectly through the executive, legislative and judiciary bodies and through the local elected councils.” to include women’s representation in these bodies to be no less than 30%.

• Adopting the proportional list system or the mixed system to guarantee women’s participation considering that they are among the marginalized categories that would be protected by the proportional list instead of the single individual electoral system, which is adopted in article (63) in the current constitution.

• Adding the feminine description to the conditions of the president of the republic as condition (F) of article (107) in the current constitution so that it is modified from “is not married to a foreigner and does not marry a foreigner during his term” to “Is not married (feminine/masculine) from a foreigner (feminine/ masculine).

According to the previous constitutional suggestions, a minimum of 30% women’s participation percentage should be considered in the new electoral law which presumably would be drafted after drafting the new constitution which will determine the shape of Yemen’s future state and accordingly the nature of the new electoral law and how to define the motivational circuits for women in the parliamentarian and local elections.

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The opinions of the participants in the focus groups were as follows:

1. Women’s Citizenship in the Constitution:

• Some of the participants agreed that the identity of the state emerged through the changes that occurred on the articles of citizenship in the constitution which for example had clearly socialist features in article (36) in the 1978 constitution and later a theocratic feature in articles (31 and (41) from the 1994 constitution.
• The majority agreed that article (27) from the 1991 constitution is the most compromising and moderate and there were suggestions to make article (27) a preface to article (36) from the 1978 constitution so that they merge in the new constitution. On the other hand some viewed article (27) as sufficient to address citizenship and that article (36) of the 1978 constitution includes important details that should be included as a law and not in the constitution.
• Someone suggested the replacing the word “provides” by the word “contributes” regarding the states commitment towards women and families in article (36) of the 1978 constitution since the state is no longer the socialist type.
• It was noted how the groups were focused in how to balance between article (27) from the 1991 constitution and article (36) from the 1978 constitution, yet all groups agreed on the importance of these two articles and preferring them over the two existing articles in the 1994 constitution.

2. Women’s political participation in the constitution:

• Most of the groups agreed on the importance of including a quota for the percentage of women’s representation, yet there was disagreement determining that percentage. Some suggested the clear quota of a minimum of 30%, in the 3 main branches, which is in article (4) of the current constitution. While others suggested leaving it open so as no to limit women to this percentage who might in the long term be prohibited from attaining a higher percentage in the future.
• A long discussion revolved around the importance of implementing the quota system in a way to guarantee the selection upon merit and not just the numerical representation.

• Most of the groups agreed on the importance of determining the kind of proportional list and the necessity of determining the different type of systems for the proportional list.

• Some considered adding the feminine pronoun in article (107) in relation to the condition of presidency might not be in favor of women considering that this amendment might provoke the extreme political Islamic forces to demand a clear text which prohibits women from assuming a presidency role, while others that adding it to the language of the constitution might encourage society to accept the political participation of women in all aspects.

3. The obstacles of drafting a new constitution that guarantees women’s citizenship and their right in political participation:

• The absence of an effective women’s movement with a public base that supports and demands these amendments.
• The absence of solid political forces in the face of tribal and extreme political Islamic forces.
• The parties’ holding departments for women marginalizes the role of women in parties and excludes women from decision making within or outside their parties.

The event ended with SupportYemen team committing to sending the outcome of the discussion to all the participants, keeping the door open for discussion in it’s Facebook page and supplying it with material related to the subject. It is worth noting that the participants who joined the discussion electronically are approximately 150.

Download Documents:

ملخص جلسة النقاش الخاصة بمواطنة النساء
بلاغ صحافي-إصدار ملخص جلسات النقاش الخاصة بمواطنة النساء

المادة التوضيحية لمناقشة مواطنة النساء ومشاركتهن السياسية في الدستور اليمني

Why US Drone Attacks Should Stop in Yemen and Elsewhere!

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Both the International law and US constitution prohibit killing outside of armed conflict without due process, “except as a resort to avert a concerete, specific, imminent threat of death or serious physical injury”, yet the United States continues the use of drone strikes in “targeted killings” of “suspected” terrorist overseas that “might” be plotting against it without due process of law. This has caused the unaccounted deaths of hundreds in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan and widespread anger.

The first known US drone strike approved by Obama in Yemen was in Ma’jalah, Abyan, on 17 December 2009, killing 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children, and 14 militants ــ alleged  Al Qaeda members ــ only one of which was confirmed to be connected to Al Qaeda. A Yemeni investigative journalist remainsin prison until today for “un-covering” this story.

policy shift, approved in April 2012, allowed the C.I.A. and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command to strike militants in Yemen who may be plotting attacks against the United States, without necessarily knowing their identities. Thus, both the the CIA and Pentagon have been carrying drone strikes in Yemen and have separate kill lists of unconfirmed “suspects”. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism 116 drone strikes have been carried out in in Yemen since May 2011, of those attacks only 39 were confirmed by officials to be carried out by the United States. Hence, hundreds of deaths by drone strikes are unaddressed, unacknowledged and unaccounted for and many of those killed were not confirmed to be actual militants.

This year alone there have been more than 200 deaths from the strikes in Yemen. Last week a misdirected U.S drone strike killed 13 civilians, including 3 women (one of them reportedly a 10 year old girl) causing widespread anger among Yemenis as have many other strikes before.  Yemenis have protested against the strikes and so have activists on twitter who launched a #NoDrones campaign in May 2012 to express their anger towards the strikes and to demand the U.S administration to halt them. They have renewed their campaign against U.S drone strikes using the same hashtag #NoDrones.

Yemenis hold both the U.S administration and Yemeni government accountable for the loss of the civilian lives, a.k.a “collateral damage” and the killings of “suspected” militants without any proof or fair trials. Both are partners in these unlawful attacks, the former for justifying and executing the strikes and the latter for allowing them to do so.

This is what Obama said defending drone strikes:

This is what 27 leading experts in foreign policy, diplomats, security specialists, scholars, and U.S policy experts, calling for a broader approach on U.S policy towards Yemen, recommended in their letter to President Obama:

  • Change the primary face of the U.S government in Yemen to alter the perception that U.S interest and attention are solely dominated by counterterrorism and security issues.
  • Reevaluate the strategy of drone strikes with the recognition that it is generating significant anti-American sentiment.
  • Work with Friends of Yemen to provide humanitarian aid for the more than 10 million Yemenis going hungry daily.
  • Increase economic and governance aid to support democratic institution-building, so that it represents a greater proportion of overall assistance compared with military assistance
  • Support the restructuring of Yemeni security towards a unified command hierarchy under Yemeni civilian leadership.

Robert Grenier, recently retired Director of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center, wrote, “One wonders how many Yemenis may be moved in the future to violent extremism in reaction to carelessly targeted missile strikes, and how many Yemeni militants with strictly local agendas will become dedicated enemies of the West in response to U.S military actions against them.”

And this is what Yemenis had to say: – “Dear Obama, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda,” a Yemeni lawyer warned on Twitter.
–  “I will join even Satan if I have to in order to get revenge for my wounded 7 year old son,” said one angered father from Jaar who preferred to remainanonymous.
– “Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen,” said Ibrahim Mothana, a democracy activist.
– Salim al-Barakani, a businessman who’s two brothers — one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman — were killed in a U.S. strike in March said “these attacks are making people say, ‘We believe now that al-Qaeda is on the right side.’ ”
– Mohammed al-Ahmadi, legal coordinator for Karama, a local human rights group said “every time the American attacks increase, they increase the rage of the Yemeni people, especially in al-Qaeda-controlled areas.”
– “There is more hostility against America because the attacks have not stopped al-Qaeda, but rather they have expanded, and the tribes feel this is a violation of the country’s sovereignty,” said Anssaf Ali Mayo, Aden head of Yemen’s al-Islah Islamist party.
– “This is seen from the fact that US strikes are seen as an invasion, an occupation and a breach of sovereignty,” said a citizen journalist.
– Local activist Nasr Abdullah told CNN, ‘I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined the lines of al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake. This part of Yemen takes revenge very seriously.’
– Listen to what Yemenis said in this HuffPostLive video. More had been said by Yemenis and others in this storify, and this too.  And this is what Pakistanis had to say about the U.S drone strikes:

A USAID official boasted about the U.S being the largest provider of humanitarian aid, in the last Yemen donor conference held in Riyadh. Yet, what Yemen needs most besides aid is for the drone strikes to end. There is nothing human in the use of drone strikes to “fight terrorism” in Yemen. U.S drone strikes continue to destabilize the country further, instill fear in the civilans who can be possible targets, breeds resentment towards the U.S, and increases militants in Yemen and thus terror. In fact al- Qaeda has been growing in numbers since the U.S strikes intensified in Yemen, they were estimated to be 300 members in 2009 and despite the ongoing drone strikes and constant reported killings of al- Qaeda militants and “suspected’ militants, they are now reported to be more than 700, i.e  more than double the initial figure. This clearly indicates, as many experts have stressed, that the U.S counter terrorism policy in Yemen needs to be seriously examined and consequently re-evaluated.

In summary : “U.S drones have not only resulted in death and destruction, but have also been counter productive to the counter-terrorism efforts, because with each casualty, militants groups gain more members.”

Related links: Interactive Map: America’s War in Yemen Drone Death in Yemen of an American Teenager  : (Birth Certificate)  Families of Americans Killed by Drones to File Suite :  (The ComplaintIn Yemen. U.S. Airstrikes breed anger and sympathy for al-Qaeda   How Drones Help Al Qaeda US War on Yemen: Invisible CasualtiesUS War on Yemen: The View From the Ground 29 Death in 8 Days as U.S Puts Drones On Over Drive The Failed US Policy in Yemen Dodging the drones: How militants responded to the covert US campaign It is uncertain whether America’s drones have their intended effect A new analysis finds five ways drones strikes in Yemen are hurting American interests Video: How Drone Strike Help Al QaedaDrone strikes threatens 50 years of International Law, says UN rapporteur Obama’s ‘kill list’: Short term CT efforts undermine U.S Long-term goals  Obama’s Drone Surge in Yemen Ignored at Home

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Thank You Taiz

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When it comes to Taiz, what am I supposed to do? What can I write? Shall I write true stories of those torn apart and emotionally distraught mothers who lost their sons, husbands or even their daughters? Or shall I write about the suffering of this great City that was bullied by one of the wanted criminal in Yemen? Or shall I write of how beautiful this country was or about the struggles of this City? Whatever I write it is never enough to show the horrific scenes this city is faced with and never enough to show how this city made a difference in Yemen.
We Yemenis say Thank you Taiz, Thank you for starting something that should have been started many years ago. Thank you for standing against corruption, Thank you for your struggles to give Yemen Freedom, Thank you for the heroes you have lost for the sake of a better a better Yemen. Thank you simply for being who you are and remaining strong and brave. Of course Thank you is still not enough but it’s the least we can say to this city and the people of this City.

Taiz is Yemen’s third largest city and the Heart city of Yemen’s peaceful Revolution 2011. The peaceful Revolution started from Taiz where the response to it wasn’t very nice since the start of the Revolution. Since it was the first city that came out demanding for freedom and basic rights, the corrupt regime of the Ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh did not answer back peaceful, like it should be. But since the start of the Revolution that City has been harshly bullied by this regime. This is the city that stood strong while being attacked nearly on a daily bases, this is the most suffered city from this Regime during this peaceful Revolution. This is the city that was massacred on May 26, 2011. That day the freedom Square of Taiz was attacked, the tents in the sit-in area was set on fire, which burnt the whole tents, Many people died, some people on wheel chairs couldn’t run for their life, they were burnt alive and there was many injures. That day, to many Yemenis especially from the city of Taiz who witnessed the scene can never forget that day.

From this city, the first woman was killed by this regime, Azizah Othman from Taiz, the first Yemeni women to be killed by the current regime and many more women followed her.

Taiz the city that had the most lost from the beginning of the Revolution, Lost their men, their women and their children. Right up to now this city is still being bullied, on November 23 the GCC deal was signed by Saleh… Right up to now I and many Yemenis don’t know what Saleh agreed on. All I know is that the GCC deal is supposed to be standing with the people of Yemen, but that is not how it is. We haven’t seen any good changes since the GCC deal was signed apart from more violence. What does that tell us? The truth is that this Deal is only there for the favour of Saleh. After the GCC deal was signed, a day after, Taiz was shelled by Saleh’s forces. Wasn’t violence supposed to end now that the GCC deal was signed? This deal did not do anything for Taiz that has been suffering from this Regime for now crossing 10 months and neither did it do anything for the rest of the country. Right up until now as I am writing this Taiz is still being attacked the most.

Taiz did not only become the heart city of the peaceful revolution but also the bleeding heart of Yemen. My pain for Taiz is too deep to the point where I can’t cry anymore, I can’t cry for those women that are being killed one after another, or for the children of that are being killed before they have reached their teenage years. I want to cry to bring me back to reality but what’s the point, what are my tears going to do? I want to scream ‘Help Taiz’ but who is there to hear the cries of Taiz or to see the blood of Taiz?

We won’t forget you Taiz, like it’s usually said where every story begins; it’s where every story ends. Saleh and his regime won’t end you or our Revolution; you are the city that is keeping our Revolution alive.

 Written by: Najla Mo