Yemenity2010's Blog

Aftermath of Assassination in Taiz

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 27/03/2012

There seems to have been a series of reactions in Taiz and around the world since what happened a little more than a week ago, when a teacher and assistant director of a International Training & Development Center was shot to death while driving to work. Including protests by people in the city, not least young people, demanding that the killers be brought to justice. Some public reactions can be found on YouTube and have also been reported by Wall Street Journal, other news outlets and blogs like The Wadi or Freedomnjusticeseeker. Last Tuesday hundreds of people are reported to have marched through the city, condemning the murder.

Some of them can be seen in this YouTube clip where ”Sons of Taiz” give their condolences to the family of Joel Shrum.

– He came all the way from America, with nothing but good intentions, to help and teach the people of Taiz. He was working for a non-profit organization, not for the US Embassy or the US Army. He was there when we needed help, says one former student at ITDC (formerly known as the Swedish Training Centre).

Here’s a summary from American Christian news outlet CBN Online. And according to the likewise American blog Forum of the Nation, an activist named Radwan al-Qadri ”several lawyers and protesters met with the Taiz police chief to demand an investigation.”

There is also a statement from representative Joseph R. Pitts in what appears to be the United States congress, emhasizing that Joel Shrum was not in Yemen to proselytize but to serve the people, and also that the centre is staffed by both Christians and Muslims.

– The people of Yemen are appalled by this violence, said congressman Pitts.

For me personally it’s still sad to think of this happening to someone I met a couple of times, although I didn’t get to know him that well. This was also a place where I spent one year working, meeting a lot of good people, having a lot of interesting discussions with students and colleagues, and learning a great deal about a culture I previously really knew precious little about.  Joel was part of the new managerial team gradually taking over the running of the institute during the last months I spent there in the fall of 2010. What will happen now with the education programs and other activities at ITDC seems uncertain at the moment.

In the wake of the tragic events, the governor of Taiz, Hamoud Khaled Al-Sufi, has expressed outrage, saying:

– Shrum loved Yemenis, and his murder is an insult in the face of humanity, according to the Yemen Times.

The local Security Committee has also introduced a new security plan, including the banning of carrying weapons in the central parts of the city and regulating the movements of motorbikes (which are very common in the city, and were also used by the assassins in this case). Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the killing, but no one has yet been arrested for it.


Tragedy in Taiz

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 18/03/2012

– Did you hear the news from Taiz today?

I hadn’t, when I received the first message on my cellphone, from a former colleague since my time in Yemen. I was in church at the time, unable to access the internet and search for more information, but after a couple of messages back and forth, I realized something really serious had occurred at or close to the centre where I worked in 2010.

Now, reality has started to sink in. An American teacher and deputy director at  the International Training & Development Center in Taiz was shot dead today while driving to work in his car. According to news reports from CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera English, the shooters could be linked to al-Qaida.

– It’s tragic, and most of all for the people. They are the ones suffering when extreme groups try to kill the people trying to help them, said the former director at the centre, Ulf Edström, speaking to Swedish media on Sunday morning.

He was the one in charge of the institute in Taiz when I started my cultural project there, until a new team of managers took over the responsibility.

Why did this happen? Of course a lot of people are asking that question now – including me. Foreigners in Yemen can be targets for terrorists and extreme factions; that’s nothing new. But the city of Taiz was comparably calm and stable for a long time, unlike the border area with Saudi Arabia or parts of former Southern Yemen where separatists as well as militants from al-Qaida have had a growing presence. Last year when discontent with the 30-year-rule of president Saleh escalated, the second largest city of Yemen also became a battle ground. What happened now in Taiz is a tragedy for the family of the teacher, for the centre and people that have attended courses there or in other ways been impacted by it. And that’s quite a lot of people.

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Tragedi i Taiz

Posted in Uncategorized by yemenity2010 on 18/03/2012

– Har du hört nyheterna från Taiz idag?

Ungefär så löd det första meddelandet i mobilen från en före detta kollega sedan tiden i Jemen. Jag var i kyrkan, i färd med att ta hand om en grupp i söndagsskolan, men insåg efter ett par meddelanden fram och tillbaka att något allvarligt hänt i anslutning till centret där jag arbetade under 2010.

Nu har verkligheten börjat sjunka in. En amerikansk lärare och vice föreståndare vid International Training & Development Center i Taiz sköts idag ihjäl av beväpnade män på motorcykel när han färdades i sin bil. Enligt SVT:s ”Rapport” misstänks gärningsmännen ha kopplingar till al-Qaida.

– Det är tragiskt, och det är mest tragiskt för folket. Det är de som lider och det är de som drabbas när extrema grupper försöker döda dem som försöker hjälpa, säger tidigare föreståndaren Ulf Edström till SVT.

Han ledde verksamheten på centret (då känt som Swedish Training Center) under en stor del av en tid när jag själv var där, innan ett nytt ledarteam tog över ansvaret.

Varför? Är det givetvis många som frågar sig nu. Att utlänningar utgör mål för extremister är inte nytt i Jemen, men staden Taiz var tidigare relativt lugn och stabil i förhållande till exempelvis nordligaste delen av landet vid gränsen mot Saudiarabien, eller delar av Sydjemen med både separatister och militanta medlemmar av al-Qaida. Situationen har dock förändrats drastiskt sedan protesterna mot president Saleh inleddes förra våren. Han avgick nyligen efter över 30 års styre, men ingen kan säga säkert i vilken riktning landet i stort kommer att utvecklas nu. Det som hänt idag är en tragedi både för anhöriga, för centret och berörda människor i staden. Och det är ganska många.

Fler rapporter finns på Dagens Nyheter, BBC , CNN och Al Jazeera English.

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