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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


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.”

Hundreds of Sa’ada prisoners released

3 Jan
Malak Shaher & Mohammad Bin Sallam
Yemen Times


SANA’A, Jan. 2 — Nearly five hundred Sa’ada war prisoners were released on Thursday in exchange for weapons, Mohammad Albasha, the spokesman of the Yemeni embassy at Washington told the Yemen Times.

Albasha explained that the Qatar mediated and brokered the peace deal as part of proceedings initiated in August 2010.

Almost 270 prisoners were released from prisons in Sana’a and around 200 were released from political security prisons in Sa’ada, according to Mohammad Al-Mansoor, spokesman of the Shiite Al-Haq Party said to be in contact with the Houthis.

Al-Mansoor told the Yemen Times that the detainees were released after the Houthis returned 31 weapons to the Yemeni army. The weapons were taken by the Houthis in Sa’ada and Harf Sufian during the sixth round of the war between August 2009 and March 2010.

Concerns of those released

Some of the detainees claim that their property was seized when they were arrested and never returned back to them.

For Khaled Abdulwahed Shareef, who was arrested in June 2008 and released at the end of the same year, getting his cars from the port has become almost impossible.

Shareef, 26, imports cars. He buys them second hand from the USA and sells them in Yemen. He said that when he was detained by political security in Sana’a, he received four cars from the US that were seized by the political security.

“It has been around two years since I was released and I have still not got my things back that were with me at the time of my arrest,” said Shareef. “I have spent around USD 1,500 in procedures with the government to try to get my possessions back but have received nothing.”

Shareef said that besides from the four cars, two digital cameras and a university certificate were also taken from him when he was arrested. His certificate was for an Information Technology degree from the USA.

On Saturday, the Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights released a press release asking the government to compensate the released prisoners.

According to the head of the organization, Ali Al-Dailami, around 30 of those who have been released have registered their names at the organization in order to help them retrieve their possessions.

“The 30 cases we have are only a few of the actual number of cases as people are also going to other human rights organizations that are appealing for the return of their possessions,” Al-Dailami told the Yemen Times.

“Now, the organization is working on getting these possessions back to their owners,” he added.

He also explained that some prisoners became infected with diseases as a result of their time in the political security prison.

“The organization calls on the government to treat the prisoners who were infected with dangerous diseases – such as heart and gastric problems – as well as to return their properties back to them,” Al-Dailami said.

In a telephone call with the Yemen Times, Mohammad Al-Qaedi, the Press Officer at the Ministry of Interior, said he is not authorized to give any information regarding this issue.

Possible re-arrests

Despite the release of the prisoners, their families are still concerned about whether they will be arrested again.

Fatima Al-Ezzi breathed a sigh of relief when she heard on Thursday that her husband, Al-Ezzi Rajeh, was among those prisoners released from the political security prison in Sa’ada. Despite her happiness at her husband’s release, she said that she was still afraid that he may be arrested again if the government accuses him on another charge.

Al-Ezzi was arrested in 2005 and released in 2007 and then later that same year he was arrested again before being shortly released. On both occasions he was accused of having relations with the Houthis simply due to his position as both an Imam and a Zaidi.

The prisoners are still concerned that the government is not going to compensate them for the loss of their property as well as for the health risks they suffered while in prison.

There are still nearly 500 people in prison accused of conspiring with the Houthis, according to Al-Haq party.

According to estimations by the Yemeni Organization for Defending the Human Rights, approximately 8,000 people have been arrested on the charge of being either Houthis or of conspiring with Houthis since the beginning of the war in 2004.

More Zaidi arrests, second car bomb in northern Yemen

1 Dec
Malak Shaher
Yemen Times


SANA’A, Nov. 28 — As many as 25 persons were arrested in Amran on Sunday during the Zaidi commemoration of Al-Ghadeer day, confirmed Ali Al-Dailami, executive manager of the Yemeni Democratic Organization for Defending Human Rights.

This human rights organization condemned the arrest of unarmed civilians whose only ‘crime’ was to participate in a religious event.

“Unfortunately the government accuses everybody who is Zaidi of being a Houthi,” Al-Dailami told the Yemen Times.

The organization condemned the arrests in a statement on its website, saying that Zaidis were being accused of being part of the political conflict in the north because they shared a common religious belief with the Houthi rebels.

Another three persons were arrested in Jahna, Sa’ada, said Al-Dailami.

Second car bomb in three days

In another day of violence in the north, at least two people were killed and eight injured in a car bomb attack on a Houthi funeral convoy in Sahar, Sa’ada, on Friday.

The mourners were on their way to the funeral of Bader Al-Deen Al-Houthi, the Houthi’s elderly spiritual leader, who died of natural causes on Thursday. The 86-year-old reportedly suffered from asthma.

A bomb in an unmanned vehicle, not a suicide bomber as previously reported, attacked the convoy, Houthi spokesman Saleh Habra told the Yemen Times.

Bader Al-Deen Al-Houthi was the father to both the current Houthi commander, Abdulmalek Al-Houthi, and the founder of the Houthi movement, Husain Al-Houthi, killed in the first Sada’a war in 2004. Husain Al-Houthi formed the movement as a rebellion against the Yemen government in the same year, demanding an independent state in Sa’ada.

Friday’s bombing was the second in three days targeting Zaidis. At least 20 people were killed in Al-Jawf in an attack on a religious procession of Shiites on Wednesday. The procession was travelling to Sa’ada to mark Al-Ghadeer day to commemorate Ali Bin Abi Taleb, a key figure of the Shiite Houthi faith. Al-Ghadeer day falls on the 18th Thu Al-Hajja, in the Islamic year. Zaidis spread the celebrations over the days before and after.

Despite claims that Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) was responsible for the attacks, AQAP has not claimed responsibility for either of the two explosions.

The Houthi media office claimed that the US government planned one or both of the bomb attacks, an accusation the US embassy in Sana’a denied in a statement on Sunday.

The first attack turned out to be targeting tribes from Al-Jawf who wanted to participate in the Al-Ghadeer day whilst the second attack targeted Houthis, said Al-Dailami.

Arresting Zaidi people

Sa’ada has witnessed relative calm since the Houthis signed a cease-fire with the government in February 2010.

However, violence in Sa’ada has been escalating since clashes between the pro-government tribes and the Houthis broke out on November 15.

These clashes killed at least 20 and injured another nine. Further violence, between the Houthis and the pro-government tribes, broke out in Bani Owaibary to the north of Sa’ada, killing six and injuring three.

The war in Sa’ada started in 2004 when Houthis proclaimed their aim to seek autonomy from state for the Zaidi Shiite population. Six wars have taken place in Sa’ada since 2004.

The conflict has spilled over into neighboring Saudi Arabia and has led to the destruction of the infrastructure of Sa’ada, including schools and hospitals. It has also displaced more than 300,000 people of which only 20,000 have returned to their homes.