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Yemen’s winning World Press Photo

18 Feb
Samuel Aranda’s winning photo beat off competition from more than 100,000 other entries.
Samuel Aranda’s winning photo beat off competition from more than 100,000 other entries.

Fatima Al-Qaws, is the veiled woman cradling her wounded son after an anti-government demonstration in October. She is also one of the subjects in Samuel Aranda’s winning World Press photo.

Al-Qaws, who is from Ba’dan district in Ibb governorate but lives in Sana’a, explained that she only found out about the photo after her niece phoned from the UAE – though she still did not realize the significance of the picture.

“I thought that the photo people were talking about was actually my appearance in an interview on Suhail TV and Al-Jazeera some months ago, so I did not pay much attention to it,” she said, but her niece insisted it was her and her son.

Al-Qaws explained that she first saw the photo on her son’s mobile phone and recalled the day of October 15 on Al-Zubairy Street – a conflict line between anti-regime protesters and security forces at the time.

“It was after an attack against demonstrators on Al-Zubairy Street,” she said. “I went to the field hospital and did not see my son among the dead or wounded protesters. I checked the place again and saw my son lying on the ground suffocated with tear gas,” she explained. “So I embraced him and [Aranda] must have taken the photo at that moment.”

Her son, Zayed Al-Qawas, 18, said he thought it was a joke until more people called to tell him about Aranda’s picture.

“I did not expect this photo to win among thousands of pictures and it is a real support to the revolution,” he said. “It demonstrates that Yemenis are not extremists.”

Helping Yemen

The Spanish photographer’s photo, which was taken while on assignment for the New York Times, beat off competition from more than 100,000 entries to win one of the most prestigious photography awards on Friday.

The New York Times’ Lens Blog wrote that after hearing the news, Aranda called his mother in Spain, who cried for 45 minutes. He said that “while conversations might revolve around composition and form”, he hopes it will help the people of Yemen. He also commented on the help he received from Yemeni photographers – specifically mentioning Mohamed Al-Sayaghi of Reuters.

Aranda, who now lives in Tunisia, covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. In December, he presented a selection of Arab Spring photos at the Spanish Embassy in Sana’a, alongside freelance photographer Lindsay Mackenzie.

‘An intimate moment’

Koyo Kouoh, one of the jury members on the World Press photo board, said: “It is a photo that speaks for the entire region. It stands for Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria, for all that happened in the Arab Spring.

“But it shows a private, intimate side of what went on. And it shows the role that women played, not only as care-givers, but as active people in the movement.”

Nina Berman, another World Press judge, added, “In the Western media, we seldom see veiled women in this way, at such an intimate moment. It is as if all of the events of the Arab Spring resulted in this single moment – in moments like this.”

Yemeni photographers are also proud of Aranda’s achievement. “We feel proud of this photo because it is very important for the world to have a new impression of Yemen,” Nadia Abdulla, a freelance Yemeni photographer, said.

“The foreign media has been presenting Yemenis as terrorists but this is the first time Yemen’s beautiful and expressive side has been shown,” she added.

Setting the standard

The 2011 World Press Photo award is the 55th annual contest in what is universally recognized as the world’s leading photojournalism prize, setting the standard for the profession.

The contest draws entries by professional press photographers, photojournalists and documentary photographers from across the world, with 5,247 photographers from 124 countries participating this year and 101,254 pictures judged.

The jury awarded prizes to 57 photographers in nine themed categories, with the Arab Spring and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami both making a big impact.

All entries are presented and judged anonymously by 19 internationally recognized professionals over two weeks before the winners are announced.

Aranda will officially receive his World Press award in Amsterdam on Saturday, April. 21, 2012. The award also carries a cash prize of €10,000 and a Canon EOS Digital SLR Camera and lens kit.

An exhibition of the award-winning images will be open to the public at the Oude Kerk, Oudekerksplein, in Amsterdam on Friday, April 20, until June 17.

A worldwide tour of the exhibition will also be launched, covering a record 105 venues in 45 countries. Combined with a yearbook, distributed internationally in seven languages, the winning images will reach a worldwide audience of millions in the course of the year


Women seek one-third quota in government

2 Feb
At least one hundred women participated in the workshop meant to prepare for the Woemn National Conference to be held on March 8th.
photo and Story by Malak Shaher

Yemen Times


SANA’A, Jan. 29 – A two-day workshop intended to help women obtain their political rights during the nation’s transitional period was held on Sunday in Sana’a.

The workshop was conducted by USAID through the Responsive Governance Project (RGP) in cooperation with the Ministry of Human Rights and the Women’s Supreme Council.

RGP Party Chief Scott Thomas said that having women from across the political spectrum is “an extremely good thing and an example of the kind of democracy we all hope will grow and flourish in Yemen.”

The objective of the workshop was to find common ground among women for the conference on March 8. “This is not to say that everyone must agree on everything. But a consensus on key elements on which the women at the workshop can agree will be found,” said Thomas.

Minister of Human Rights Houria Mashhoor said, “The workshop includes not only people from different backgrounds, but also younger women. This indicates that the youth are part of the upcoming phase of change.”

The Women’s National Committee holds an annual celebration on National Women’s Day. At the celebration, focus points are gathered from all around Yemen.

The minister said that this wasn’t the first time such a conference was held. However, participants regarded this conference as more important, with a focus placed on women’s participation rights on the political stage during the two-year transitional period.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, which is one of the most important factors in the framing of the constitution, included a 20 percent quota for women in one of its drafts. Before, in 2004’s National Women’s Development Strategy, Mashhoor said that they demanded the quota be set at 30 percent for women’s participation in government.

The workshop was attended by nearly a hundred representatives with various political backgrounds, as well as deputy ministers and women’s rights activists.

A committee of eight women will be formed in coordination with the RGP to prepare the national conference.

The women should be from different political, governmental and civil society organization (CSO) backgrounds.

The committee will start meeting on February 1, with its last session planned for March 15. It is to meet once a week to prepare to conduct activities in support of women, to coordinate with donors, and engage women with different social and political issues.

The workshop aims to gather women from throughout the political spectrum and discuss common needs, regardless of individual political agendas. This is to help them attain a considerable quotain committees during the two-year transitional period.

During the workshop, women occupying high positions in ministries presented their visions for their prospective roles in the transitional period.

Nabila Al-Mufti, a lawyer and member of the Watan Collation, gave a presentation analyzing how fair the GCC has been to women.

One draft for the initiative said women should participate in all committees formed during the transitional period. This means that there should even be women on the military committee, according to Al-Mufti.

USAID supported three workshops during the past year. The first was on April 25 and included 35 women from opposition party leadership roles and civil society organizations, as well as youth activists. The second workshop was held on May 23, in which 40 women from the government participated. The third workshop was held on October 26, in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

35 young female trainees from the training center of the Ministry of Youth and Sports participated in the workshop.

The main target of these workshops was to guarantee a 30 percent quota for women in all transitional councils and in the constitution formulation committee.

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

Stronger rial leaves questions over exchange

15 Dec
The Yemeni rial dropped sharply in March due to the conflict but began gaining value again a few days ago.

Malak ShaherPublished:15-12-2011

SANA’A, Dec. 14 — The value of the Yemeni rial has rapidly increased in the last two days from 238 rials to 218 rials to the dollar, leaving some angry after losing thousands of rials in the exchange rate.

“I heard people saying that the value of the dollar was rapidly decreasing yesterday. I had a thousand dollars and I did not want to lose money,” said Asma Abdulla, a teacher, who had to exchange her money in a rush. Abdulla exchanged her one thousand for 220,000 YR instead of YR 237,000 the previous day.

Demand and supply variables caused the rapid increase in the value of the Yemeni rial. People started to exchange their saved dollars into Yemeni rials in a bid to beat any further losses. But the more people exchanged their dollars the more the value of the Yemeni rial increased.

In a press statement, the Studies & Economic Media Center said it had received complaints from people who tried taking dollars from their bank accounts, but their banks had not allow them to do so.

Local banks said that the Central Bank refused to provide them with hard currencies, especially dollars, during the last few days, according to the Marib2day website.

“The rapid increase of the Yemeni rial has made some people insecure and they want to exchange the dollars they have for rials at once,” said Mohammad Jubran, an accounting teacher at Sana’a University.

Escalating violence in Sa’ada hinders IDPs return

25 Nov
More than 280,000 people remain displaced from their homes due to violence in Sa’ada. IDPs live in tents, relying on aid agencies for food and shelter.Yemen Online NewsMalak ShaherPublished:25-11-2010

SANA’A, Nov. 24 — Renewed fighting between Houthi rebels and a pro-government tribe had left at least 20 people dead and several wounded. The clashes are the worst since the cease fire signed in Feb. 2010, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).Since Nov. 13, violence between the pro-government Galga tribe and the Houthis have killed at least 20 and injured another nine. Further fighting broke out in Bani Owaibary to the north of Sa’ada, killing six and injuring three.

“How can we return to our villages while the clashes continue to increase? We cannot return back as our houses are destroyed and danger is everywhere,” former Sa’ada resident, Ali Ahmad, told the Yemen Times. “Now I live with my three children, my wife, mother, brother and sister in a small tent suffering from the cold weather. I cannot risk taking them back and exposing their lives to danger, let alone that our house in Sa’ada has been destroyed.”

Dozens of families, like Ahmad’s, want to return home but the escalating violence between Houthis and pro-government tribes, which erupted again without warning, is forcing the internally displaced people (IDPs) from Sa’ada to stay in the camps.

The recent conflict began on Nov. 15, paused for five days over Eid, and resumed on Nov. 20. More than 12 armed Houthis were killed before Eid.

UNHCR’s public information assistant, Jamal Al-Najjar, told the Yemen Times that the clashes, which started just three days before Eid, prevented dozens of IDPs from returning to their homes. UNHCR has not had access to other IDPs living in tents in Qataber and Manbah, near the Saudi border.

“The intermittent clashes between the tribes and the Houthis have stopped many IDPs from returning home,” said Al-Najjar. “Only 20,000 IDPs out of 300,000 went back.” He added that other tribes have mediated between the Houthis and the Galga tribe to stop the clashes at least during Eid.

“This is an alarming escalation. UNHCR adds its voice to that of the local mediation committee in calling for calm and protection of the civilian population,” said spokesperson Andrej Mahecic in a press conference in Geneva. “We remain very concerned about the lack of access and the humanitarian situation in other parts of the governorate.”

Ahmad Ali is currently one of 280,000 displaced people. He has been displaced for nearly a year after leaving his house during the last Sa’ada war, which started in Aug. 2009 and ended in Feb. 2010. Although he receives aid and food in the camp, he dreams of the day he can return back home with his family, where his children can go to school and his family can live peacefully.

Car bomb attack

In a separate incident in the northern governorate of Al-Jawf, a car bomb struck a religious procession of Shiites, killing at least 15 people on Wednesday. A car packed with explosives detonated alongside a crowd of Houthis, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam told AFP.

Abdulsalam said the attack targeted Houthis who were preparing to mark Al-Ghadeer, the day on which Shiites commemorate Ali Bin Abi Taleb, a key figure of the Shiite Houthi faith, as supposed successor to the Prophet Mohammed in ruling the Islamic Umma.

The anniversary has long been a source of conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. A tribal leader told AFP that the bombing was the work of Sunni militants loyal to Al-Qaeda.

“A suicide bomber driving a four-wheel drive vehicle blew himself up alongside the procession,” the tribal chief told AFP. “Among the dead was the provincial tribal chief Hussein bin Ahmed bin Hadhban and his son.”

Other tribal sources warned that the death toll was likely to rise. One told AFP “it could reach 30.”

Two journalists killed by snipers

21 Mar
Jamal Al-Shar’abi (left) freelance journalist and a photographer was killed in the protest. However, journalists are still concerned as covering protests is not the only cause behind the abuse or deaths. Last year, Ali Al-Rabo’e (right) journalist in Hajja governorate, was killed by unknown men for his reports on corruption cases.
Malak Shaher, Yemen Times


SANA’A, March 20 — Jamal Al-Shar’abi and Mohammad Al-Thulaya were the first journalists to be killed in Yemen’s unrest on Friday when snipers opened fire on anti-government protesters in Sana’a.The two journalists were shot by snipers while taking photos of the protests, according to Abdul Rahman Barman, lawyer at the National Organization for Human Rights (HOOD), who also was at the protest when snipers opened fire.Eyewitnesses say the snipers were highly skilled marksmen who shot protesters in vital areas such as the head, neck and chest. According to the Ministry of Interior, 24 people were killed on Friday. However, the number is increasing as more of the injured succumb to their wounds.“They died holding their cameras,” said Barman. “Journalists are simply observers and should not be treated as part of the protest.”

Al-Shar’abi, 34, worked as a photographer and a freelance journalist. He was originally from Taiz but worked in Sana’a.  Al-Thulaya, however, lived in Amran and worked for a newspaper run by the Islah opposition party.

Barman added that HOOD received complaints from a number of journalists who said that they received death threats and were told they would be fired from their regular jobs if they continued to work as freelance journalists.

Ahmad Al-Lahabi, the communication officer at the Ministry of Information, told the Yemen Times that the ministry will endeavor to protect journalists who have received threats.

Al-Lahabi added that the ministry is not the source of these threats and that it promotes press freedom.

Last week, national security forces deported eight foreign journalists who were covering recent events in Yemen. Of the deported journalists, two were British, three were American, one was Italian and the others were Aljazeera Arabic employees.

Al-Lahabi said that the journalists were in possession of tourist or student visas, not press visas. However, the journalist’s claim they were invited by the ministry to press conferences before and after demonstrations began in Sana’a in mid February.

Corruption cases behind deaths of journalists

Jamal Al-Shar’abi and Mohammad Al-Thulaya were not the only journalists killed fulfilling their professional duties in the wake of violence against protesters. In February last year journalist Ali Al-Rabo’e, who was working for Al-Qahira newspaper in Hajja governorate was killed by an unknown group of armed men said to be involved in “a dirty deal”.

The case involved a contractor who was responsible for providing people in Hajja with non-potable water.

Al-Rabo’e was killed when he was on his way to work in the morning, an incident that spread fear among journalists that they may be killed at any time, even outside of conflict zones.

“If a day goes by where I don’t receive a death threat, I think something is wrong,” said Abdul Kareem Al-Khaiwani, former editor-in-chief of Al-Shora newspaper run by the Islah opposition party.

According Al-Khaiwani, he received threats from “people in power” he knows but refused to name them. The last threat he received was a week ago.

Twelve year-old first victim of violent protests in Ibb

10 Mar
Omar Abdulrahman
Photo by News Yemen
Malak Shaher, Yemen Times
SANA’A, March 9 – Violent clashes between pro and anti-government demonstrators left dozens injured and at least one protester dead in Ibb governorate, 150 km south of Sana’a, on Sunday.The casualty, twelve year old Omar Abdulrahman, was shot in the back and died from his injuries in hospital the following day, according to NewsYemen website. At least 20 others were wounded, two critically, after government loyalists raided the protesters’ sit-in and opened fire on Sunday, according to a local councilman.The death raises the number of people killed since the beginning of the demonstrations in Yemen to 28. The majority of those killed have been anti-government protesters in the southern port city of Aden.“I was at my home when I heard the fire. Immediately I called my son and asked him to come back,” said Hana Muhammad, a local, who lives in a house relatively far away from the area of demonstrations.

Before the clashes broke out the pro-Saleh loyalists were chanting, “Yes for development! Yes for stability,” while the anti-government group was calling for president Saleh to step down to“allow for change.” Hana said her son was in the demonstration and he saw pro-Saleh supporters waving pictures of the president and attacking the protesters with clubs before the shooting started.

On Tuesday protests were held in 12 governorates across Yemen, organised by the Joint Meeting Parties, an opposition coalition of six parties, in response to the violent crackdown on Sunday.

Tens of thousands once again took to the streets of Ibb calling on the government to prosecute those responsible for Sunday’s attack. Women threw candy to the protesters from the roofs of their houses, witnesses said.

Last week Saleh appeared on state TV ordering security forces not to shot at demonstrators and asking the protesters to remain “peaceful and civilized”.