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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

Fireworks in Yemen: a day-to-day routine

19 Jan

Malak Shaher
Yemen Times

Published:12-01-2012
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. http://www.almasdaronline.info

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

Italian tourists brave the headlines

4 Oct
Romualdi and his group pose for a photo during their 11-day visit to Yemen

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:04-10-2010

For 15 Italian tourists who left Yemen last Monday after an 11-day visit, Yemen is not a dangerous place that they should avoid. Rather it is a peaceful and beautiful place that deserves to be explored.

“When people in the airport knew that we were visiting Yemen, they said that we were crazy,” said Mario Romualdi, head of KEL 12 tour operators, and organizer of the trip.

This was the first time that anyone in the group traveled to Yemen, except for Romualdi who has been to Yemen 45 times since 1978. His previous experience in Yemen convinced the group that, as he told them, Yemen is not a dangerous place to visit.

“They saw that I was not harmed during the past 32 years and this is the reason behind their believing me like their prophet,” said Romualdi.

Hayd Al-Jazil, one of Romualdi favorite places in Yemen

He was very excited to tell the Yemen Times about his last visit with the 14 Italian tourists, as he was the tour operator who assured them that they would not be in danger. They made the most of their trip, visiting Taiz, Aden, Al-Mukalla, the Daw’an valley in Hadramout, Tarim, Shibam, Manakha, Kawkaban and Seyoun and many other places on the way.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Romualdi’s eyes sparkled with excitement. To best convey his feelings about Yemen, he spoke in Italian. Although he visited some beautiful places in Yemen many years ago, he said that this was the first time he had visited Hayd Al-Jazil in Hadramout, to the east of the country.

“I have been to many beautiful places in Yemen, but this was the first time I had visited Hayd Al-Jazil in the Daw’an valley. At the crack of dawn, the sun’s rays beamed down on the whole place. I could not believe my eyes. I thought I was dreaming. That place is not real, it is a part of Paradise.”

At Hayd Al-Jazil, 20 houses perch on top of a small plateau overlooking the valley below. The group found Yemen to be a peaceful country with beautiful nature and people.

“All that we had to do is avoid the areas in Yemen where there is fighting. In this way, no harm came our way, especially knowing that the Ministry of Interior did its work to protect us,” said Romualdi.

“For them, the nicest thing about the Yemeni people is that they do not wait for a tip. They are generous and welcomed us with their smiles.”

“Yemen is as sweet as its people’s smiles and as warm as its coffee. We were happy when we came here, but we are sad to leave it now.”