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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

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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

Published:30-01-2012

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.

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 dreamresearch.net, 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.”

Yemen poorest women and children involved in six-year plan

28 Feb
The Ministry of Health project aims to help women and children in rural areas and provide family planning advice. Frequent pregnancy contributes to Yemen’s high child mortality rate.

Malak ShaherPublished:28-02-2011

SANA’A, Feb.27 – A six- year plan by the Yemeni Ministry of Health and Population will involve a million of Yemen’s poorest women and children from rural areas, according to Ali Jahaf, general manager of the Department of Family Health.

The project, approved by the World Bank, will cost USD 35 million and be implemented over the next six years.

“Yemeni women in remote areas need help,” said Jahaf. “The project will involve the poorest women and children in six governorates over the six coming years.”

According to the World Bank the child mortality rate in Yemen is 69 deaths to every 1,000 live births, the highest rate in the Middle East and North Africa region. Yemen also has the second-highest rate in the world of child malnutrition for height and age. Maternal mortality is the second highest in the Middle East with 210 deaths for each 1,000 live births according to 2008 figures.

The project will be initiated in the remote areas of Sana’a this year and extend to other areas with the highest concentration of poor health indicators. It will involve the governorates of Ibb, Reima, Al-Dhale’, Al-Baydha and the slums of Aden. The project will also including the remote areas of these governorates after the six years.

Jahaf said that the ministry aims to send small medical teams consisting of: a doctor, a midwife, social worker and a person to register their findings of the field visits.

The visits, which will be held four times a year, will target pregnant women and their children under the age of five and will provide them with basic medication, vaccinations and awareness campaigns for family planning, added Jahaf.

Women trained in traditional crafts at Sana’ani Heritage House

13 Jan
Amatalrazaq Ghaf, head of the Sana’ani Heritage House, displays hand-made items made by graduates of a recent craft production training course.
photos by Malak Shaher

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:13-01-2011

The Sana’ani Heritage House held a traditional graduation party this week for the first group of young women who completed their craft training at the house.

The course in traditional crafts lasted for three months from the beginning of July until the end of September. It was financed by the Liquid Natural Gas Company in Yemen (LNG).

The first 45 young women who participated in the training completed courses in a variety of fields, including sewing, embroidery and making bags. For many it was also a unique chance to learn the arts of preparing traditional Sana’ani food.

“Despite the fact that I am a Sana’ani girl, I learned to cook different Sana’ani dishes that we no longer prepare at home. This experience took us back to a time when we were little children and reminded us of our grandmother’s food,” said Iman Al-Hamzi, 25.

Iman Al-Hamzi, her sister and two of her cousins were among the first 45 participants. At the graduation party this week Tuesday, Jan. 11 2011, they shared their joy and some of their newly acquired knowledge with the Yemen Times.

Hana Al-Hamzi said she had learned not only about cooking but also how food affects one’s health.

Two men in Sana’ni traditional dress singing at the graduation party for craft course trainees. YT photo by Malak Shaher

“Beside the different dishes I learned nutritional facts about Sana’ani food,” she said.

“For example, Al-Salta, a very famous dish in Sana’a, contains a lot of fats and we should not have this dish too often. I have learnt that fatty and sugary dishes should only be eaten once a week,” the graduate explained.

Apart from the training, the girls enjoyed the particular and homely atmosphere in the Sana’ani Heritage House. They did not have to wear the face veil as there were no men around.

“Inside the house we were having fun as if we were in our own homes. This is the first time we had fun while learning something good for our future,” the two sisters and cousins said.

The specific Sana’ani style was the particular focus of all aspects of the course, including the graduation ceremony. The girls received their certificates in a traditional Sana’ani room where they sat on mattresses embroidered in red and yellow threads and listened to two men who sang traditional Yemeni songs.

Amatalrazaq Ghaf, chairwoman of the house, explained that the 45 girls had intentionally been selected from the Old City of Sana’a so that they would be near the venue. The house will continue to supply them with the materials needed to practice their crafts. When tourists visit the Sana’ani Heritage House they will invite the girls to sell their products or prepare traditional food.

The San’ani Cultural House in Sana’a Old City. YT photo by Malak Shaheri

According to Ghaf, the link between the graduates, the house and its visitors is beneficial for all. While the house is in need of trained people who can help out at short notice when tourists are around, the girls have an opportunity to earn their living with traditional crafts. Ghaf is particularly excited about the idea that Sana’ani girls will prepare and serve traditional dishes to tourists.

“Food is not just to be eaten. Food means culture and it reflects the people’s background,” Ghaf said.

Apart from enjoying the dishes, visitors will therefore learn about the historical and cultural background of Old Sana’a where they were invented.

At the graduation ceremony, Ghaf was already looking forward to welcoming more tourists and receiving them with Sana’ani food and crafts.

“I am very happy indeed as we are more ready now to welcome visitors to this house,” Ghaf said.

Women fight for their husband’s release from jail

3 Jan
Since the arrest of her husband, Waleed Sharaf Al-Deen, who was accused of spying for Iran in 2009, Alia Al-Wazeer (pictured above with her daughter Zainab) has joined the Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights in order to participate and organize protests demanding the release of her husband. Alia will continue working at the organization even if he is released. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

Malak Shaher

Published:03-01-2011

Since her husband was arrested in August 2009 and accused of spying for Iran, Alia Al-Wazeer has defended him as she believes he is innocent. The 30-year-old woman and mother of two girls said that her life changed drastically when her husband disappeared for almost four months before she had any news about him.“I was in a frenzy when I found out that my husband had been at the National Security Prison for four months without knowing what he was accused of,” said Alia.Her husband, Waleed Sharaf Al-Deen, was 33 years old and worked in the United Nations office as an accountant when he was arrested. Four months later, in December 2009, he and three others were officially charged with spying for Iran and attempting to promote the Twelver Shiite doctrine.Shiites have come under increasing pressure in Yemen since the Houthis, who follow the Shiite sect of Islam, demanded in 2004 the establishment of a separate state in Sa’ada province in the north of the country. In Yemen it is a widely held belief that Shiites are supported by Iran.

“For nearly seven years, since the war with the Houthis began, the Yemeni government has had a phobia of people following the same religious doctrine as the Houthis,” explained Ali Al-Dailami, head of the Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights.

From the beginning of the war between the Houthis and the government in 2004 until the most recent bout of fighting in 2010, many Shiite supporters were detained in various governorates and accused of supporting the Houthis. In response to these arbitrary arrests, over a hundred women joined Al-Dailami’s organization to defend their husbands.

“Ten of the hundred women are vital members of the organization now,” Al-Dailami told the Yemen Times.

Alia Al-Wazeer is one these women. A few months after the arrest of her husband, she joined the organization, in which she both organizes and participates in protests demanding his release.

Prisoner’s wives protesting for the release of their husbands whose pictures are shown in these posters. These women demand for the release of their husbands who are allegedly unfairly detained by the Yemeni government. Source: Freedom 4 Waleed

Last year while she was participating in a demonstration in front of the Al-Saleh mosque, Alia was beaten by police women. However, her struggle has made her only more persistent. “I will defend him with my life,” she said, adding that even if her husband was released she would continue her work as a human rights activist.

“When I see my two daughters growing up without their father who was arbitrarily arrested, I realize that I have to get my family back together,” said Alia. “The last time I visited my husband in prison with my daughter she cried in such a hysterical way that the guards allowed her to see her father.”

Recently, Alia, her two daughters and other families of Sa’ada prisoners protested in front of the Political Security building. The families sent a letter to the head of Political Security asking him to respect the law. The letter also stated that the children of the detainees often had not been allowed to visit their fathers.

Waleed Sharaf Al-Deen and his three fellow detainees are examples of people who were arrested in relation to the war in Sa’ada. However, none of them has benefited from the amnesty the president decreed for Sa’ada prisoners of war. Waleed and the others remained under arbitrary custody for four months before they were officially charged and the trial began.

Twelve months later the trial is still ongoing. Waleed’s brother Ibrahim, a lawyer in the Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights, considers the men’s arrest illegal.

“The police broke the criminal procedures code when they arbitrarily arrested and held the detainees for a long period of time without trial,” Ibrahim Sharaf Al-Din told the Yemen Times. In his view the accusations are false.

His boss Al-Dailami explained that the arbitrary arrests have turned many members of the prisoners’ families into human rights activists. He points to Fatima Al-Ezzi, 28, as another example of a housewife turned activist.

She joined the organization three years ago when her husband Imam Al-Ezzi Saleh Rajeh was arrested. He was arrested because he had been talking about the Sa’ada conflict in his Friday sermons. He was released last Thursday.

“I didn’t know why they were holding my husband. I couldn’t visit him either,” said Fatima.

Even though her husband was released, Fatima said that she would continue working with the organization to support other prisoner’s wives.

As Al-Dailami told the Yemen Times, his organization currently tries to find out where the arrested people have been taken and why it is difficult for their families to visit them. He demanded that the state investigate these arbitrary disappearances.

Single educated Yemeni women hard at work to secure opportunities

9 Dec
More young women in Yemen are enrolling at universities and getting job opportunities. Female students at universities are up from 20 percent in 1990 to 37.5 percent in 2010. Photo by Sadeq Al-WesabiBy: Malak Shaher

Yemen Times

Published:09-12-2010

For Abeer Abdulla, a university student in her early twenties, completing her education and finding a job are more important than getting married.The dream of the majority of young women in Yemen, especially those who are educated, has shifted from getting married to getting a job.

This has increased the number of women in the labor force. Now, 63 percent of women in urban areas are either already working, or plan to in the future, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

The survey data was collected from 1,993 women and 508 men in June and July 2010.

“I want to be financially independent. For me education and work are more important than marriage,” said Abeer Ahmad.

“Most of the time when a woman gets married in Yemen, she is asked by her husband to stop studying if she is a student, or stop working if she is an employee.”

While few women in Yemen participate in the workforce, more are interested in pursuing a career and this is particularly true among younger women. Women who study at university and engage in paid work are more likely to have the freedom to leave home, have greater financial security and access to credit, according to the survey.

The study mentioned that labor force participation among Yemeni women, both educated and uneducated, is extremely low, particularly when compared to men.

According to the Head of the Human Resources Department at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Abdulla Hazza’, women constituted 10.2 percent of the paid workforce in 2010. This is up from 9.6 percent in 2004, and 7 percent in 1999.

The survey by IWPR and IFES pointed out that participation in the workforce is higher among more educated women. Around 21 percent of women with high school and 48 percent of women with a university degree are working in the public or private sector.

Despite cultural traditions that restrict women entering the workforce in Yemen, factors such as income, access to educational facilities, and marital status may also influence a women’s choice to work. Around 38 percent of women in rural areas who were included in the survey intended to pursue a career.

“Women in Yemen are working hard to gain opportunities, along with men, to help their families and communities,” said Jane Henrici, study director from the IWPR. “More Yemeni women are getting formal education than in the past, and this seems to help with other opportunities.”

Female students represented 37.5 percent of students at universities in 2008, up from 20.5 percent in 1990, according to UNDP’s 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report.

Women with a higher level of education also tend to have greater access to health care. Around 51 percent of women with lower than a primary school education have access to health care. In contrast, 67 percent of women with a university degree or higher have access to health care.

IWPR and IFES conducted the survey research as part of a project on ‘The Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa’ with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).