Yemenity2010's Blog

Brutal Attack on Parisian Satirical Paper

Posted in Uncategorized by yemenity2010 on 07/01/2015

Just today when I was about to put the finishing touches to a little light-weight piece about Paris, where we (me and my wife) spent a few hours last summer en route to Mexico, tragic news broke from the French capital. Apparently, armed men entered the facilities of a well-known French satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. Twelve people have so far been reported dead, according to Huffington Post. More on this story is available from Al Jazeera English, BBC, CNN and probably a number of other sources. The publisher of Charlie Hebdo, Stéphane Charbonnier was one of the victims, according to multiple sources. Also, one policeman was supposedly shot dead by the assassins who reportedly were masked, dressed in black and witnesses near the scene stated that they were shouting ”We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad”. The paper has published provoking images of Muhammad before and was firebombed three years ago.

French President François Hollande called the massacre barbaric and ‘an attack on free speech’, and the French Muslim Council shared a similar statement, ”This extremely grave barbaric action is also an attack on democracy and the freedom of the press” (see Al Jazeera English for more). BBC also runs an accompanying story about the satirical paper and its tradition of pushing boundaries.

Tragic news also arrived from Yemen, the troubled country where I first started writing this blog. At least 38 people were killed by a car bomb close to the Police Academy in the capital Sana’a. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for this attack, but the target seems to have been members of the Houthi tribe, which lately has come to control large parts of the capital and also has a long running feud with AQAP, the Yemeni wing of Al Qaeda. AJE recently ran an analysis of this on-going conflict, which some people believe could lead to ”an all-out sectarian war”.

Yemen Still Cause for Concern, According to UK Report

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 01/05/2014

kullarostadbearb”Widespread violations of human rights in Yemen continued during 2013, with the government showing limited capacity to improve the situation.” 

The very first sentence of a new report from the UK government.

So, what’s new? The government of the United Kingdom recently published a report on human rights and democracy around the world, including a chapter on Yemen, titled ”Yemen – Country of Concern”. Hardly unexpected, since that country always seems to be a source of concern for many concerned people inside and outside its borders. I stumbled on the current report thanks to a mention on another blog called The Wadi.

So, what’s the state of affairs in Yemen right now or at least during 2013, according to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Here are some excerpts: The minimum legal age for marriage has been an issue for some time now, since Yemen is one of the countries where a significant number of – yes, mostly girls – end up being married at a very early age. A so-called National Dialogue Conference has recommended changes, such as implementing av minimum legal age in this case, but really making it happen could take some time.

DSC06122Freedom of expression is said to have improved. Slightly, at least. The troubled nation is still parked among the lowest-rated in the World Press Freedom Index, currently 169 out of 179. Human rights defenders are still reported to suffer perscution. Yemen is presently ruled by what is called a transitional government as a result of the protests and upheavals that started in 2011 and which made long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh resign and leave the country. There is room for improvement when it comes to the justice system, according to the new report. Evidence-based convictions are not as common as they should be, apparently. No surprise there either. My personal impression, based on the few things I managed to learn during my one year in Yemen in 2010 was that the justice system is arbitrary, to say the least.

The death penalty is still used. A lot, probably. Earlier it has been sort of an official secret that many of the executions are carried out in secret, ‘off the record’ and all statistics on the matter are highly unreliable. The UK report specifically comments on the use of capital punishment for juvenile offenders, which is in fact ”prohibited under Yemeni law”. It is also claimed that African migrants have been captured on arrival and tortured to ”extort their family details”. Who’s doing this? The report does not accuse the government of being perpetrators (as far as I can see) but criticizes authorities for not doing enough about it. Furthermore, some 300 000 people could be displaced in the country, following armed conflicts going on there.

gitarrtriobearb1Women’s rights… Always an issue here. The report claims that Yemen is currently ranked at number 148 out of 148 nations in a UNDP Gender Inequality Index. (Note: I have tried to find that exact statistic at UNDP:s website, but so far I’ve got a little lost among their tables and hope to be able to explore the topic more later on, sometime). While there are progress in some areas, in others the trend is arguably going backwards. Women are, at least on the surface, getting more influence in politics, but some of the female activists are being ”co-opted by political parties”. There is also an important difference between educated women and the majority; poor, uneducated women who still remain outside any real sphere of influence. What springs to my mind is the gap between men and women concerning literacy rate. Although the situation seems to improve slightly, the majority of men are considered literate while the majority of women are not, according to all available statistics. And I suspect there is still a big difference between urban and rural areas when it comes to girls’ possibilities to get even basic schooling.

Economically, Yemen as a whole ”remains the poorest country in the Middle East” according to the report, suffering from ”high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition”. Some cold, hard numbers:

– Approximately ten million Yemenis do not get enough food each day

– 13 million lack access to safe water or sanitation

– 7,7 million don’t have access to health care

These were some ‘highlights’ from the corporate report ”Yemen – Country of Concern”, published by the United Kingdom Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 10 April 2014.

The Newsroom – Sana’a Steil

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Kultur by yemenity2010 on 21/09/2013

The truth is not always easy to find, but a fascinating place it is. New York journalist Jennifer Steil tried running a newspaper in Yemen a few years ago and shares her experiences in The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, a candid account of life and work in one of the oldest known civilizations on earth.

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Among all the thank-you’s in the introductory pages, there is one dedicated to ”all the taxidrivers who kept their hands on the wheel”. Apparently, as described by the author in one  of the anecdotes later on, not all of them did…

But that’s more of a parenthesis. This contains a lot more than complaints and observations on the less appealing traits of Yemen. Cause that’s where the action takes place. Most of it in the capital Sana’a, supposedly one of the oldest cities on earth – some say 2500 years old, which is mentioned by the author. No one knows for sure. Personally I’m fascinated with her story not least because I spent one year in the same country, though most of the time in the city of Taiz. Also, my journalistic training adds to the common denominators. But I probably wouldn’t have fared so well running a newspaper in Yemen. That’s the challenge New Yorker Jennifer Steil decides to take on some time in 2006. To begin with, it’s only about visiting and teaching some journalistic principles for a few weeks, but she is asked to come back and embarks on an adventure where the cultural clashes become an everyday thing, it seems. Interestingly enough, a lot of it seems to come as a surprise to her, but she also appears to be a fast learner.

A general observation is that Steil’s revealing storytelling includes many details that could very possibly get people involved in trouble. Sometimes she leaves names out, often at least surnames remain undisclosed, and in the fine print you come across the disclaimer that she’s changed some ‘names and details’ and dealt with these issues before publishing the book. Granted, things like the female garments come up and Steil takes time to explain the difference between abaya and balto (two similar kinds of robes) as well as niqab (covers the face except the eyes), hijab (covers the hair) and burqa (hides the face and leaves only a grille for the eyes). At least what they mean in Yemen. For the record, the words I heard mostly were makrama instead of hijab and lithma – another epithet for niqab, the way I understood it.

One of the main dilemmas facing the new temporary editor of Yemen Observer in 2006 is obviously the lack of properly trained reporters. There are a couple of English-language papers in the country but it’s difficult to find staff combining knowledge of English and journalistic education. Also, Steil comments on cultural traits like ”The Yemeni education system does not encourage critical thinking. Children learn almost entirely by rote, and corporal punishment is common”. This and other cultural differences lead to a series of conflicts and frustrations in the process of finding news, writing, editing and producing the paper as a whole. Some of the predominantly young staffers catch on faster and Steil is obviously fonder of some of them, like the always curious and hardworking woman Zuhra. More troubling and unpredictable is the interaction with Observer’s owner Faris al-Sanabani, a man with more of a business-like background. Although educated in the US and with some big visions, he seems to be torn between loyalties; keeping good relations with the government does not always easily go hand in hand with being an independent publisher.

Remember, this was a few years before the so called ‘Arab Spring’ and Yemen had for almost three decades been ruled by authoritarian ex-military officer Ali Abdullah Saleh. Was he a dictator? Not strictly speaking.  As the author explains, Yemen at the time was at least a nominal democracy with some separated branches of government and a parliament with 301 elected members. Yes, there were elections even before the upheaval that started roughly two years ago. The system was more democratic than in many other neighbouring nations. But – Saleh as president and his party still controlled more power than would be accepted in a real democracy, the whole system was known for its corruption and presidential elections were for many years a formality, even if there were opponents. And campaigning.

Is there a form of recklessness inherited in the culture? Well, that might be a provoking statement, but the author makes some telling observations about the Yemeni mindset that are not completely misplaced, such as the frequent use of ”insha’allah” (roughly translated as ‘if God wants…’) as an excuse when things do no go as planned. It just wasn’t meant to be. ”The absence of personal responsibility bothers me” Steil writes (on page 158 to be exact) adding that her female reporters seem to work harder to get the stories finished in time, while the men ”spend the bulk of their time justifying their minimal efforts”. The latter have, in her view, in general had a more privileged upbringing and so… Well, the point is hard to miss. And the notion that girls usually have more obstacles to confront than boys in this respect is probably hard to argue with. bookrevies-blogotype1

Another worthwhile observation that at least seemed valid a few years ago (but may have to be reconsidered after what we’ve seen from the Yemeni version of the ‘Arab spring’ in the news in recent years) is the lack of witnesses in the stories published on especially dramatic events. The reporters seldom come near for example fresh crime scenes and as a rule they get most of their information from so called official sources, something also attributed to ordinary people often being afraid to talk to the press in these cases. This results in ”dull and often misleading stories” according to Steil. This while the country for years has been of interest to international media mainly for the terrorist groups based in the country, due to corruption and poverty. Steil emphasizes the government’s failing in translating the oil revenues to adequate services for people in general as a cause for that situation.

Although the lion’s share of the book takes place in 2006, the epilogue and afterword deals with some later developments, both personal and somewhat political, wrapping up the accounts during the fall of 2010. The conclusion after spending what turns out to be a couple of years in Yemen, is obviously a scepticism towards most of the reports coming out of there. ”It’s not a country a reporter can figure out in a flying visit… The only way to stand a chance of knowing what is really going on in Yemen is to be there. And even then the truth is elusive.” Hard to argue with that one as well.

By the way – I wonder what Aaron Sorkin could make out of this story if he decided to give it a shot?

Reviewed: The Woman Who Fell from the Sky by Jennifer Steil (Broadway Paperback 2011).

Related: Steil’s official homepage

New Map Showing Drone Strike History in Yemen

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 08/08/2013

Drones. Or, if you use a more formal term, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, have been a topic of discussion for some time now. The reason being its frequent use by primarily the United States in its so called ‘War on Terror’. Yemen is one of the places where the method has been employed most of all. How much, exactly? There is a recently published interactive map of probable US ”drone, missile and other air strikes” against suspected terrorists in Yemen since 2002, as reported by PBS Frontline News, an American public service broadcaster. Red dots are indicating where the strikes are believed to have been carried out. There are 98 of them, so far. The accompanying blue dots show suspected terror plots, attributed mostly to AQAP, the branch of al Qaeda operating in Yemen from the year 2000 and on. There are 19 of those on the map. So far.

Interactive Drone Strike Map from PBS Frontline News

Another Terror Alert in Yemen – How Serious This Time?

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Politik by yemenity2010 on 06/08/2013

kullarnaharögonTerror alert in Yemen – again. Apparently there is a threat real enough that the US strongly encourages its own citizens in Yemen to leave the country. It’s not the first time, or the first time several embassies close down temporarily. But some reports suggest the capital Sana’a ”is experiencing unprecented security measures” (BBC).

It reminds me of the time I spent there, and maybe most of all the very first week, in the beginning of 2010. The so-called underwear bomber from Nigeria had tried to blow up an American plane in late december, instructed by Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, it was reported. There had also been strikes from government forces (or someone supporting them from the outside, possibly) against suspected terrorists in Yemen.

I was just settling into the situation and risk assessment was not really up to me at that point. I simply didn’t know enough. But my superiors in Taiz had to start interpreting the signs and possible evacuation was discussed when several embassies in Sana’a (as I remember it, the US, French and British ones) closed down. As it turned out, they opened again within a week or so. But it was enough time that I began to realize that this project could prove to be the shortest job I’d ever had. That week hundreds of mostly young people lined up to register for new courses at the institute where I was expected to eventually add some more cultural activities (the job description was vague, but also intriguing). There were probably no direct threats to the institution itself, though it was one of the foreign installations in the city. But there were rumours concerning a young man, reportedly carrying some kind of explosive device in a belt, walking around town but no one seemed to know if he had a specific target in mind or not. Happily, things calmed down and things gradually took on a rhythm with daily routines; planning, buying groceries, doing laundry, trying out the Yemeni cuisine, visiting the prison and trying to realize different creative ideas little by little. And getting to know people, not least.

Something I realize clearly while re-reading my blog posts from that time, is that I was reluctant to deal too explicitly with sensitive political issues. Simply put, I was advised to be cautious and it was common sense to follow that advice, especially at these early stages. Yemen is really not a place you can easily sum up and evaluate in a short while. And a lot has happened these last years, such as the ‘Spring’ process taking off soon after I left in January 2011. Sadly, the Taiz area which a few years ago was considered one of the safest in Yemen, doesn’t seem so secure anymore, at least not for foreigners – according to most available sources I know of.MoskéSanaa1

So, how serious is the terror threat this time? We’ll see. I will definitely not try to make any predictions, especially not from a distance… Or to quote the final sentences of the book ”The Woman Who Fell from the Sky” by Jennifer Steil: ”The only way to stand a chance of knowing what is really going on in Yemen is to be there. And even then the truth is elusive”.

More on the topic can be found at Al Jazeera English, Al Arabiya, CNN and Yemen Times.

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Intriguing ‘Game’ Seen from Different Perspectives

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Kultur by yemenity2010 on 16/07/2013

It might seem like everyone is watching it. Obviously, it’s just a minority of the population on this planet. Still, if you get caught up in the machinations of ”Game of Thrones”, it might be difficult to leave… So, I couldn’t resist writing a few sentences myself and adding some comments from different perspectives about the HBO fantasy show. You can find it on one of my other forums, Cast Against Hype.

Some basic issues:

What are the core ingredients in most dramatical storytelling?

How do you create an interesting podcast about TV shows like this?

Is ”Game of Thrones” a great way of describing human history through metaphors and fictitious characters? One historian seems to think so.

Or is it, like one writer suggests, too grim for its own good?

Read more at Cast Against Hype.

There is also a version in Swedish available at Fair Slave Trade.

Somewhat related stuff: ”I’m a rebellious woman. I’m against traditions, stereotypes, and society rules that are imposed on us under no basis or logical ground.” Yemeni filmmaker Alaa Al-Eryani speaks up, interviewed by Yemen Times recently. Film producing, writing and human rights activism seem to be equally important to this up-and-coming talent, according to the newspaper.

Welcome to Wherever. Oh Wait, Not Really?

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 21/06/2013

welcome-xicotencatlTeaching. Learning. Moving. That’s been my life recently. Just occasionally writing and publishing something. I’ve spent most working hours this last year as a substitute teacher, predominantly working with teenagers, which lately meant deciding about their grades – admittedly, my least favourite part of that job. Simultaneously, I tried to improve my Spanish in the academic sense at least, through part time studies. And yes, being married to a native Spanish speaker is not a disadvantage in this situation. Although I’m still not 100 percent sure I passed all the exams yet, mostly designed as essays to be written about a range of topics – not least literature, which I might be commenting on more extensively later on.

And as a bonus, me and my wife moved to a slightly bigger apartment. Simply because we needed more space. And to rearrange things a little. The actual moving is done, but the work has just begun…

Reading? Well, now and then I’ve had time to read stuff not related to work or studies. Such as the story of an American reporter spending a year in Yemen; The Woman Who Fell From the Sky by Jennifer Steil, published a few years ago. As a whole, it was entertaining and reminded me of my own experiences there, even if I didn’t spend that much time in the capital Sana’a, where most of the action in the book takes place. Anyway, I plan to be back with a more thorough review of the book soon enough. Hopefully. Insha’allah.

Other Yemen-related things I’ve come across during the last months:

A satirical piece was published in Yemen Times a couple of weeks ago, titled ”Yemen’s ‘Ministry of Corruption’”, written by freelance journalist Afrah Nasser. According to the article, explicitly labelled as Humour by the editors to avoid too much trouble, I guess, the message still has a resonance and universal appeal, since corruption is a huge problem in many places,  not just Yemen. A few highlights: ”The process of establishing the ministry was not easy. There were many applicants… Politicians poured in their requests…” Or the explanation that politicians ”were becoming stressed because there were increasing matters to corrupt and they were tired of running from one ministry to another.” Not to mention the punchline, which is almost too good to spoil, but deals with the fact that the ministry might face problems surviving for a longer period, since some people already seem to be stealing the funds needed to run the office…

On a more uplifting note, international surveys appear to reveal that Yemen is among the countries most welcoming to foreigners. The results apparently can be found deep inside a World Economic Forum report and were discovered there by Washington Post a few months ago. As I remember it, a friend recommended on FaceBook then but I didn’t take the time to really delve into the article at the time. But it’s worth checking out! On a map where blue means basically welcoming and red more or less hostile, Yemen is one of the clearest blue along with Canada, Iceland, Thailand, Morocco and a handful of other nations. My home country Sweden gets a lighter blue shade, which seems OK under the circumstances, whereas Yemen’s northern neighbour Saudi Arabia seems to be among the most menacingly reddish territories on earth, in the company of Russia, Bolivia, Venezuela and China. Now, I lived for a couple of years in Ecuador, which is presented as a pale red colour, which surprised me somewhat. Or a lot. Mexico on the other hand, is kind o’ blue. In a good way.

The findings are commented on by the Post writer Max Fisher, noting the growing nationalism in Latin America, ”a region generally friendly to foreigners”. But their governments are seemingly considered too nationalistic to fare well in the report. Or is that the explanation? Fisher seems puzzled and intrigued at the same time – as do I.

The same newspaper (and author) more recently published a similar map of the most and least racially tolerant countries in the world. Reportedly, two Swedish economists are responsible for this investigation. They asked people in some 80 countries what kind of people they wouldn’t want as neighbours. Their conclusion was that economic freedom didn’t necessarily mean more racial tolerance. But in brief, people in Anglo and Latin countries are more ”likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor” than, most obviously, citizens of India and Jordan. In Europe, there was a variety of attitudes in that respect. This map also uses blue as an indicator of being more ‘friendly’ or tolerant and red as the opposite. Interestingly, France comes off as less accepting, together with for example Turkey. Scandinavia, North America and Australia seem more colourblind according to the map. As does Pakistan, by the way. Fascinating world we live in, right?

yemeni-lunch-june2010

México en mi mente

Posted in Artículo en español, Tema: Latinamerika by yemenity2010 on 30/12/2012

Belleza. Gente amable. Comida conocida en todo el mundo. Y lastimosamente muchos problemas con delincuencia y violencia. México es una nación con caras diferentes. Además es la tierra natal de mi esposa. Hace casi un año me fui a visitar allí – y descubrí que todavía hay mucho más para descubrir. 

gomezfarias-vy1esp

Diciembre 2011, unos días antes de Navidad. Por fin he llegado en el aéropuerto de Brownsville, en el sur de Tejas. Esperando a mi equipaje y buscando alguien que debería estar allí esperando por…mí. El aéropuerto no es my grande, pero por alguna razón demora un rato antes que nos encontremos, mi novia y yo. Vamos a pasar casi las tres semanas siguientes juntos, viajando y visitando a su familia en diferentes partes de, bueno, México primereramente, pero además cruzando la frontera entre México y los Estados Unidos algunas veces.

La razón por eso es algo que pasó unos años antes. En los fines del año 2009 yo había aceptado trabajar con un proyecto cultural en Yemen. Fue un tiempo bien interesante en general y aún más porque allí iba a encontrar a Emilia – también conocida como Mily – una mexicana involucrada en el trabajo del mismo centro educativo donde estaba yo entonces. Salí del país en los inicios del 2011, justamente antes que empezara el proceso ahora conocido como ”la primavera árabe”. Ella vino a visitarme en Suecia por unos meses el mismo año y empezamos nuestro propio proceso de ‘primavera’, solicitando una visa de residencia en Suecia para ella.

ilustr-brownsville1esp

Finalmente, la hora llegó para mi primer viaje a México. América Latina no era un continente completamente desconocido para mí. Había trabajado en el Ecuador por tres años, y claro que sí hay similaridades (como el idioma), pero México es definitivamente más grande y hay diferencias culturales. Por ejemplo parece haber una certitud, uno podría llamarla autoconfianza, y una manera de comunicarse más directamente sin la cortesía generalmente requerida en el país andino. Aunque, según mi esposa, eso refleja más el norte de México, mientras en el centro y el sur del país la cortesía es más necesaria.

Mi entonces novia (ahora esposa) ha vivido por el mayor tiempo de su vida en la ciudad de Matamoros, ubicada en el estado de Tamaulipas, justamente a la frontera con los EEUU. La ciudad más cerca es la previamente mencionada Brownsville. En el lado estadounidense también hay un montón de hispanohablantes, pero los carriles son mejores y hay más restaurantes y centros comerciales. Las señales al pasar por la aduana muestra unas distinciones interesantes. Al entrar en EEUU te indican que ‘no puedes traficar drogas a los EEUU’ mientras en la dirección opuesta te piden ‘que por favor no lleves armas a México’. Y hay razones por eso. El narcotráfico y contrabando de armas de fuego es un problema grave allí. El día de Navidad había un artículo en un periódico regional sobre cuerpos decapitados hallados en una fosa en el estado vecino, Veracruz. Además recibimos noticias de una balacera entre policías y delincuentes en Matamoros la misma noche, noche de paz…

julspel-queretaro1

Pero nosotros celebramos la Navidad en casa de su mama, unos diez minutos en carro de la frontera, con algunos familiares y amigos; comiendo pavo, espagueti, puré de papas y chocolate sueco. Además – por supuesto – compartimos regalos y finalmente jugamos karaoke. Sí, de veras.

Después pasamos unos días en el centro del país. Algunos amigos nos habían aconsejado que ”no pueden quedarse aquí en la frontera todo el tiempo – tienen que ver un poco de la belleza de México también…”. Querétaro tiene completamente otro carácter, con una abundancia de arquitectura colonial, guías turísticas contando la historia de la región y sobre todo de los movimientos de libertad durante el siglo 19. La gente allí se refiere a su ciudad ilustre como ”el ombligo de México” y ”la cuna de la independencia” para que nadie se olvide de su importancia. Orgullosos? Parece que sí, pero creo que tienen razón. Un día fuimos a San Miguel de Allende, una ciudad más pequeña pero aún más turística (además es Patrimonio de la Humanidad), donde anduvimos caminando o en tranvía por las calles angostas, por subidas y bajadas, aprendiendo todo lo importante. Además almorzamos en un bar con videos del grupo Los Tigres del Norte pasando en una pantalla grande.

Si no me hubiera sentido un poco mal del estómago creo que habría tenido un tiempo aún más lindo en ese área, pero así es. Luego pasamos el año nuevo y unos días después en el pueblo Xicoténcatl en Tamaulipas, donde vive el padre de Mily. Hicimos excursiones en los alrededores, donde hay mucha naturaleza bonita y algo tan raro como un centro ecológico en el pueblo Gómez Farías. Además, durante esos días recibimos la respuesta de nuestra solicitud de visa de residencia en Suecia para mi novia.

Creo que he olvidado algo significante. Claro. Justamente antes de Navidad fuimos a Brownsville, compramos dos anillos y nos comprometimos ese mismo día, el 22 de diciembre 2011.

Obviamente no alcanzaban esas tres semanas para ver todo lo que hay en México. Sobre todo querría ver más historia precolonial y lo que queda de las civilizaciones aztecas y mayas en el centro y sur de la nación. Hay muchos lugares famosos en esas áreas y cerca del golfo. Pero, algo me indica que no fue la última vez viajando allí. Y la próxima vez espero que tengamos por lo menos un mes para explorar a todo eso. O casi todo. O por lo menos un pequeño porcentaje de todo…

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Less could mean more for Yemeni agriculture

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Vatten by yemenity2010 on 09/09/2012

Water is getting scarce in an increasing number of countries around the world, not least Yemen. What can be done about it? Some ongoing projects are addressing the issue, for example when it comes to agriculture. Such as the Water for All project, overseen by the international NGO Operation Mercy. Specifically, it deals with more economic ways of watering crops, something normally executed by flooding. With drip irrigation, new possibilities open up. In the words of one farmer:

– The traditional method took a lot of money in order to pay workers and buy fuel for the pump. With drip irrigation, the amount of water needed is very minimal, but the crop is abundant!

Another farmer also stresses the savings of water, as well as money, time and effort put into the work when they’ve tried drip irrigation. With support from a local NGO, funds are being set up to help more farmers get the equipment necessary to try this method of watering their fields. So, could this be one way of creating a more sustainable system of agriculture and help the economy in a society presently struggling on so many levels, including internal strife in almost the entire country? At least, the organization responsible hopes so.

Read more at the Operation Mercy website.  

Romance and Rhythm from Three Female Singers with Yemeni Roots

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Kultur by yemenity2010 on 13/08/2012

Yemeni singers. Male ones – well, they tend to appear at wedding parties and such, I learnt during my time in Taiz. Female ones seem to be a rare sort of bird. But they do exist, at least according to a recent blog entry from Afrah Nasser, Yemeni writer currently living in Sweden.

 

Recently I stumbled across a list that caught my attention, not least because of my fascination for  topics such as culture in general and music in particular. I spent a fair amount of time in Yemen trying to figure out what kind of music people (predominantly students and young adults) listen to on a daily basis, why and for what purpose, what they can learn to appreciate and what they spontaneously dislike. The final outcome of these little investigations are still an unfinished project, that I hope will be presented some time in the future. I published some reflections in the entry  ”Music On My Mind – Part 1” (december 2010).

Three Yemeni singers. As I said, female ones. Now, these three artists all have roots in Yemen, but none of them actually lives there.And it has to be said, for a woman making a career as a singer or an artist of any kind will probably have to counter a number of obstacles in the Yemeni society. I find it difficult to interpret my own impressions of this intriguing country any other way.

Balqees Ahmed Fathi is the daughter of a famous Yemeni singer, Ahmed Fathi, apparently a big star during the 1990’s. Balqees herself seems to have been living mostly in the United Arab Emirates and has been recognized as a great talent by a French fashion magazine. Rana al-Haddad also has a famous singing father and has landed a contract with a leading Saudi Arabian music company. Finally, Arwa is not only a pop star but also a TV show host, born in Kuwait by a Yemeni father and and an Egyptian mother. She also seems to have spent most of her life outside of Yemen.

Judging from some attached video clips, Balqees is directed towards a romantic and rhythmic sort of pop music and she does have a more than adequate voice for the purpose. Rana delivers an anthem that could have been sponsored by the Yemeni ministry of tourism, providing some nice views of the old town in Sana’a and other national attractions. The editing, however, is not the smoothest I’ve seen and the presentation as a whole borders on kitsch, though not without its charm. Her own voice is a strength and the genre could be defined as a more traditional form of oriental pop. Arwa works more in the same vein as Balqees with an obvious emphasis on romance and glamour. Pretty nice and well produced, though not exceptionally original or visionary. All in all – three faces (and voices) completely new to me, and definitely worth checking out if you have the slightest interest in what kind of popular music gets created in the Middle East.

Source: ”Let me Present To You Three Dazzling Yemeni Singers” by Afrah Nasser / July 15, 2012

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