Archive | January, 2012

Generation of Peace initiative aimed at Yemen’s youth

23 Jan
A boy performs on stage at the USAID “Generation of Peace” opening ceremony on Saturday. Picture by Dorelyn Jose

Malak ShaherYemen Times


SANA’A, Jan. 21st – A new initiative called “Generation of Peace,” aimed at fostering understanding between 1000 youths from different backgrounds, was launched on Sunday.

The initiative is being held in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The “Generation of Peace” initiative aims at encouraging Yemeni youth to be more productive and constructive members of society.

To be conducted in training workshops, sports activities, and an art contest, the initiative’s activities are designed to help youths resolve existing conflicts and reduce the risk of future unrest and conflicts during Yemen’s transitional period. Workshop topics will include democratic processes, civic participation, community service, and tolerance.

“This initiative gives youths an opportunity to enhance relations in their society. This job is not only for officials’,” said Ahmad Al-Qubati, 23, from the Resonate Yemen institute.

“Such initiatives bring us together and make us understand each other. We should not work separately without knowing how the other side is working,” he said.

Nearly 300 youths from political coalitions and universities in Sana’a joined representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations as well as government and USAID representatives for the initiative’s opening ceremony.

“Today’s youth play an integral role in bringing about positive social change,” said USAID Technical Director Charles Swagman in a speech delivered at the ceremony. “This collaborative project will help maximize Yemeni youth’s potential to contribute to civil society and steer their country towards a bright future.”

“Generation of Peace” activities have been designed to encourage interaction, dialogue and to help promote an acceptance of differences among youth participants. “This job is not just for the officials; this is everybody’s job,” said Ahmad Al-Qubati, 23, from the Resonate Yemen Institute, a youth organization.

The initiative has been implemented through USAID’s Community Livelihoods Project (CLP). Working closely with the government, CLP focuses on agriculture and water, health, education, governance and economic empowerment in communities. Through the “Generation of Peace” activities, CLP will encourage youths to contribute in those fields that are vital to Yemen’s growth and stability.

It is hoped that the initiative will encourage participants to share knowledge acquired from their families and communities, as well as to be more positively engaged in the political process. The implementation of the initiative will be carried out in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as local civil society organizations.

“I hereby tell our youth that this is the time to work together and achieve our ultimate goal, that of peacefully living together in a country that enjoys stability through our collective work,” said Mo’ammar Al-Eryani, Minister of Youth and Sports.

“For this purpose, we will support every work supporting an environment that builds the youth’s capacities and talents, and work with them for a generation free of violence.”


Do dreams really come true?

19 Jan
Cartoon by: Nabil Al-QanesStory by: Malak ShaherPublished:19-01-2012

In the time of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), the call for prayer was introduced after it appeared in two of his companions’ dreams. However, hundreds of years before that, Joseph interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh of Egypt and his people. The pharaoh dreamt that seven skinny cows ate seven fat cows. Joseph told him that Egypt would bear witness to seven good years, a time when people would grow vegetables and fruits. After these seven years, the next seven years would be hard, with people forced to eat what they had saved during the previous seven years. Ever since, dream interpretation has taken up a great portion of people’s time. Yemenis are no exception to this. They try to find meaning in their dreams, and attempt to use them to predict the future and even to dictate their actions.

Bakr Al-Junaid is a dream interpreter. A woman called on him to ask that he find meaning in her dreams. The dream the woman had became true two days later, when the mosque where the president and a number of ministers were praying was bombed.

“She said she saw that a number of moons and a planet were hovering in the air when a mosque minaret fell down on them,” said Al-Junaid.

As she went on to describe the details of her dream, she said she had seen an ambulance waiting outside the mosque.

Al-Junaid interpreted the dream and said that a mosque would be attacked and that the president and some ministers would be injured. But the presence of an ambulance meant they would survive.

According to Al-Junaid, who has been interpreting dreams for more than 15 years, the moon indicates a minister or somebody in a higher position, while the planet represents the president.

After this dream, Sabafon and MTN, two telecommunications companies in Yemen, started dream interpretation services. Al-Junaid became popular in his field, interpreting dreams for a fee when people dial 1902.

According to Al-Junaid, there are two types of dreams:  those that reveal one’s previous experiences, and dreams known in Arabic as Ro’a, or visions, which reveal events that may happen in the future.

According to Muslim dreams interpreters, one dream can be read in a number of different ways, depending on the person who actually had the dream. So two people might have had similar dreams but receive totally different interpretations.

One day in the Islamic era, two men went to a dream interpreter. Each said he had dreamt about the call for prayer. The imam told one of the men that he would go for pilgrimage and the other that he was a thief.

When his companions asked him why he gave two different interpretations for the same dream he said, “I read their faces. The first person had a face of a good man while the other was bad and I interpreted according to verses in the Quran.”

As the popularity of dream interpretation grew in the Arab world, a number of TV shows cropped up to capitalize on people’s interest in the subject. People watch the shows carefully so that they may apply the interpretations to their own dreams.

In March 2011, Ahmad dreamt that he was on his way to perform the Friday prayer, when Muslims gather to pray together at the mosques. He was surprised that he was the only one in the mosque. He saw an imam bathed in light, who told him:

“After 20, 20 will fall down, 20 will die and 20 will survive and you will be the only witness.” Ahmad asked the imam to make himself clear and he explained that 20 towers will fall, 20 important persons will die, 20 states will interfere for reconciliation, and that Ahmad would be the only witness. Ahmad saw the names of the 20 and said that among them were famous people.

“Please I really cannot stop thinking about it…I need that dream to be explained,” he told the interpreter.

A dream interpreter named Abu Hafs told him it meant that the year 2011 would witness drastic changes in the Arab world. He said that some of the changes would lead to chaos; that is, until states stepped in to solve the problems – as has since happened in Yemen. However, skeptics might say that by the time Ahmad’s dream was interpreted, the Arab Spring was already in full swing, with both Tunisia’s Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak forced out of office and with mass protests already taking place in Yemen.

According to the website, most people over the age of ten dream at least four to six times a night during a stage of sleep called Rapid Eye Movement – which is itself a distinguishing characteristic of this stage of sleep. During this stage, the brain becomes as active as is when a person  walks, though not all parts of the brain are active.

According to the same website, people actually forget 95-99 percent of their dreams.

Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, claimed that unfulfilled urges and impulses – which, one way or another, must be released – surface in disguised forms as dreams.

Even though most dreams are simply reflections of experiences they’ve already had, many people nonetheless look for interpretations – perhaps even going so far as to make decisions based on such readings, leaving their waking relationships and actions affected.

Ahlam Mohammad, 16, said that she barely tells what her dreams are about as she “doesn’t care and doesn’t want to know about interpretations of them”.

“I dreamed that my younger brother was flying away and he was not looking nice. I felt scared and I simply could not talk to him for a week.”

Fireworks in Yemen: a day-to-day routine

19 Jan

Malak Shaher
Yemen Times

Yemen has been witnessing a lot of changes and 2011 was an unforgettable year for many. During the Yemeni youth revolution, gunfire and blasts were heard on an almost daily basis as clashes erupted between pro-government and pro-revolution forces – and sometimes also in celebration.

But since July 2011, it hasn’t just been gunfire and shelling that has echoed across the city; fireworks can be seen and heard almost every night.

It was ten at night on July 7 when all of a sudden, Nadia Ahmad, 23, of Sana’a heard huge blasts and gunfire. Her father called her and the rest of the family to hide under a big table in the living room of their house so that no one got hurt.

“I thought it was the war,” she said. “We did not know what was going on until my cousin called us saying that we should not be scared because the blasts were actually fireworks.”

For her, that day marked the beginning of fireworks becoming a “day-to-day” routine. In her neighborhood, people are allying Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was in power for 33 years before signing a deal to step down in November.

“It turned out that they were happy when they found out that he survived the attack against the Al-Nahdain mosque where he was praying, and were celebrating,” she said.

Ahmad said that men in her neighborhood light fireworks simply when they “feel bored”.

However, fireworks began to spread across the city a month before exploding over Nadia Ahmad’s home. On June 4, when President Saleh left for Saudi Arabia for treatment after being injured in the mosque attack, fireworks were set off in Change Square.

A month and three days later, army forces and government supporters shot bullets into the air and set off fireworks in almost all Yemeni provinces on hearing the news that the President would survive, according to state television.

“Fireworks cover the skies of the capital Sana’a and other Yemeni governorates to celebrate the successful surgery of President Saleh,” Yemen official television channel reported, according to Xinhua news agency.

Before the crisis, the Ministry of Interior was the authority buying fireworks to set them off on national days. However, during the uprising, “things fell out of the hands of the state and people were not held accountable if they bought fireworks or even firing bullets into the open air,” according to Riyadh Al-Zubair, a secretary in the minister’s office.

Al-Zubair added that the ministry used to give permission, with limitations, for those who wanted to buy fireworks.

“The problem in Yemen now is gunfire, which is more dangerous. If some set fireworks off, others shoot at weddings or whenever they just feel happy.”

Children are terrified

Mahmoud Mohammad, a husband and a father of four, says the sound of fireworks terrifies his children and that they shout “war, war!” when they hear them. Sometimes, they awake late at night when they hear blasts. He added that the setting off of fireworks is not a new problem, but through 2011, it became a much bigger issue.

In Mohammad’s village in Taiz, women sometimes burn the remains of papers to light a fire in the stove. He said that one day a woman found a cardboard box and assuming it was empty, used it as fuel. “It was for fireworks and there were some material remaining. She put it and left it, causing a big blast,” he said. “But luckily, she was away when the stove exploded.”

According to a worker at one of the certified shops selling fireworks, who preferred not to be named, they only sell fireworks to those who show them invitations for weddings.

“We only sell to those who live outside the city of Sana’a. But there are other uncertified places who smuggle fireworks and sell them to people for less money,” he said.

A box of fireworks is sold at their shop for YR 2,500 or USD 12 while it costs half that at a shop not certified by the Ministry of Interior.

“People are using the insecurity in the country to do whatever they want. They set off fireworks and even sometimes start fires,” said Mohammad Al-Qaedi from the Ministry of Interior.

Stone Age tombs discovered in Yemen

14 Jan


Experts say more than 200 tombs were found in Mahweet.

Malak ShaherPublished:12-01-2012

MAHWEET, Jan. 11 – At least 200 Paleolithic tombs were announced to have been discovered in Mahweet in 1996, according to the governorate’s deputy governor Hamoud Shamlan.

Shamlan, who was the head of the Tourism Office at the time of the discovery, said that authorities wanted to keep the tombs, which contain mummies and other relics, “a secret until they got technical support to protect them”.

“We located the cemetery but did not announce the news as we were afraid that the mummies would be stolen,” said Shamlan.

He explained that retired members of the army and tribesmen were guarding the cemetery, which is surrounded by barbed wires.

“We decided to reveal the discovery as we need support now. The situation in Yemen is not secure and we do not want anything to be stolen,” explained Shamlan.

He added that the road to the cemeteries is not a paved and that’s why technical and financial support is needed in this critical time.

According to the state-run Saba News agency, the tombs date back to the prehistoric Stone Age, a period known as the Paleolithic era, which is thought to have begun over two million years ago and ended around 8,000 BC.

Mohammad Ahmad Qasem, Director of the Archeology Department at Mahweet, the cemetery was created from rectangular slots in high mountains.

The openings of the tombs are narrow but widen as you go inside, he explained. Some are just one room and others are two, depending on the number of bodies they hold. Some graves contained groups and others individuals or families.

Niches in the walls of the tombs contain pottery, funerary tools and weapons for the dead. Their placing inside the tombs allowed them to remain well preserved for such a long time.

According to Qasem, the burial grounds were found in the districts of Mahweet like Shibam Kawkaban, Al-Rojom, Melhan, Hufash, Bani Sa’d and Al-Tawila

Street cleaners strike, streets left unclean

10 Jan
Malak Shaher
& Fuad Mused


Sana’a, Jan. 7 – More than 2,000 street cleaners went on a strike from last Tuesday to Thursday to demand their rights.

For more than sixteen years, Hanash Sa’eed, 30, has worked as a street cleaner without receiving a paid vacation or other employees’ rights. The more than 4,000 street clearness in Sana’a are paid just YR 25,000 or USD 110 a month.

According to Ali Al-Maghribi, a secretary for the General Cleaning Administration (GCA), street cleaners were promised that they would be officially hired and receive paid vacations and benefits like medical insurance after the strike.

Al-Maghribi said that Minister of Defense Mohammad Naser Ahmad urgently gave orders to the Logistics Department to provide the street cleaners with 2,000 sacks of sugar, 2,000 bottles of oil and 2,000 boxes of canned beans.

Past disappointments and new promises

In a GCA meeting held on Wednesday, it was decided that street cleaners will receive medical insurance and paid vacations after one months’ time.

The street cleaners have, however, complained that they have received promises before and that this time around they remain unsure whether such promises will be followed by action. “The most important thing is that they fulfill their promise this time. We only want our rights,” said Sa’eed, who has a wife and a child who also work as street cleaners. Jabri Al-Jamal, a street cleaner, said that this is the sixth such promise they have received. “Their promises are like antibiotics that keep us silent for a while,” said Al-Jamal, 34.

He said that although he owns a house – where he, his wife and six children live – the money he receives as a monthly salary is not enough to live on. Sana’a’s street cleaners also went on strike two years ago to demand that they be officially employed and receive medical insurance and paid vacations.

In general, street cleaners work three shifts. The first is from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m., the second from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the third from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Each street cleaner daily works two out of three shifts in areas specified by the municipality’s cleaning administration. In addition to the street cleaners, the cleaning administration also has possesses vehicles to collect garbage from houses and shops. There are 17 districts in Sana’a. Each district has two supervisors who report on their area’s cleanliness and who also monitor whether the cleaners are performing their duties or not, Abdulhakim Saber, a worker at the administration, told the Yemen Times earlier.

More than 2,000 street cleaners went on strike in Sana’a demanding paid vacation and medical insurance.  YT photo by Malak Shaher

An environmental problem

At least 10,000 tons of garbage is collected in Sana’a each day, according to Abbass Al-Sharafi, head of Operational Unit at the administration.

Al-Sharafi said the garbage is disposed of using an old method in which it is buried in the soil and covered with sand, leaving behind “huge mountains of garbage that aren’t recycled at all.”

In Aden, however, people have become concerned about the environmental consequences of burning garbage in residential areas.

Garbage has also piled up in Aden’s streets after the city’s street cleaners went on strike for the last two days. Shop owners in Aden’s Crater District gathered all the garbage in their area and burned it near the Al-Za’faran Market.

“This forced us to close all our windows on Friday as the smoke was everywhere and did not allow us to breathe clean air,” said Salem Mohammad, a resident of Aden.

Mohammed called on officials to respond to the street cleaners’ demands and to give them their legal rights. Since last Thursday, garbage has been burned in other areas in Aden, leaving people afraid of falling ill following exposure to the suffocating smoke.

Qaed Rashed, head of Aden’s Cleaning Fund, called on the Minister of Finance to officially increase the street cleaner’s salaries.

He said that he is willing to consider resigning after striking street cleaners demanded that he leave his position. These problems came on the heels of environmental problems caused when Sanitation Administration employees went on strike.