Mittwoch, 14. November 2012

What Yemeni men wear behind their daggers II

A dagger accessory less often encountered in Sanaa than in rural highland Yemen is the sikkīn [knife], a short knife used for mundane cutting tasks. It is usually stuck into a leather pocket or strap behind dagger. The blade of the sikkīn has a single cutting edge and generally bends to the left in the lower half like the blade of the janbiya does. Knives with straight blades are not considered to be originally Yemeni. Because the hilt of the sikkīn can sometimes be covered with a silver decorative casing referred to as either raʾs sikkīn [head of knife] or ilya (a term referring to jewelry or decorative elements on daggers, dagger scabbards, or dagger belts), the sikkīn is sometimes also simply referred to as ilya. As such knives no longer sell as well as they used to, the creative craftsmen of the Sūq al-Fiḍḍa, the silver market in the Old City of Sanaa, have created leather scabbards to fit these and now sell them to tourists.

© Marie-Christine Heinze

right ḥilya: Jewish silver work; left ḥilya:
Muslim silver work from Zaydiyya, Tihāma
© Marie-Christine Heinze

sikkīn with scabbard for tourists
© Marie-Christine Heinze

Freitag, 9. November 2012

Material culture in Yemen I: Whitening spa salts and racism

When I went to a supermarket here in Sanaa the other day, I came across these whitening spa salts, manufactured by Siam Yoko Co., Ltd., a Thai firm. For anyone who has had the opportunity of living in or visiting Yemen for some time and particularly for those of us who have been able to interact and socialize with Yemeni women, seeing such a product on offer hardly comes as a surprise: Yemeni society, for all the kindness and generosity of its people in general, is a deeply racist society. Beauty is judged according to color of skin (the whiter, the more beautiful) and when preparing for social events (exclusively female, of course) some Yemeni women like to whiten the skin of their face in such a manner that the aesthetics of such an appearance - which usually comes along with the natural, darker skin color of the throat and numerous other colors on eyelids, cheeks, and lips - is hard to grasp for someone who has grown up into norms of aesthetics that emphasize the enhancement of one's 'natural beauty' when it comes to cosmetics.

Also, the social category most discriminated against here in Yemen i.e. 'the marginalized' [al-muhammasheen], is usually considered to be 'of black skin' and to come 'from Africa'. Next to refugees from Somalia or Ethiopia, this term particularly refers to the 'akhdām' [sg. khādim; lit: servant], an endogamous social category of people who have been living in Yemen for centuries, but continue to be considered non-Yemeni by other Yemenis to this day. They live in seperate neighborhoods, are often employed as street-sweepers or housekeepers (if at all), face all kinds of harassments by other Yemenis including state employees, find it impossible to enroll their children in school with other Yemeni children, and would never be considered for intermarriage with a non-akhdam Yemeni. Not even the application of whitening spa salts made by Siam Yoko Co., Ltd., will be able to change this as long as concepts of nationality and citizenship here in Yemen continue to be based on blood and descent.

© Marie-Christine Heinze

© Marie-Christine Heinze

© Marie-Christine Heinze

Donnerstag, 11. Oktober 2012

Realms of Memory in Yemen I (al-Hamdi)

'Realms of memory' (lieux de mémoire, a concept introduced by the French historian Pierre Nora) are spaces, ideas, persons, concepts, songs, etc. in which the collective memory of a society condenses. They are thus highly symbolically charged and take an important place in the construction of collective identities, including nationalism. Examples of (European) 'realms of memory' are the battle of Kosovo for the Serbian nation, the Marseillaise for the French, Auschwitz for Germany as well as Israel, etc.

Today marked the day of the assassination of Ibrahim al-Hamdi, who could well be considered a Yemeni 'realm of memory'. He was North Yemen's third President after the revolution against the Imamate and ruled the country from 1974 until his assassination on October 11, 1977. Today, he is particularly remembered in Yemen as a man who aimed to curb the influence of tribal shaykhs on the political system of the country as well as of trying to build a modern army that was loyal to the country and not to particular persons or other affiliations - notions that many Yemenis hope their future country leaders will pursue when calling for a 'civil state'. While Yemeni society is currently highly politically divided, Ibrahim al-Hamdi is a symbol of hope to Yemenis of highly varied political backgrounds. He stands for the potential of building a new and better Yemen if the country's current leaders are willing and courageous enough to take decisive steps.

Below are a few pictures from a march organized by the Nasserite Party in Yemen as well as independent activists to the grave of al-Hamdi in Martyrs' Cemetery in Sanaa with the aim of a) demanding that those who killed al-Hamdi be finally held accountable (the exact circumstances of his death remain in the dark until today); b) reminding people as well as politicians of the important and highly sensitive period Yemen is going through today; and c) calling for the political elite to take decisive steps towards the building of a 'civil' state.

© Marie-Christine Heinze

© Marie-Christine Heinze

© Marie-Christine Heinze

© Marie-Christine Heinze

© Marie-Christine Heinze

© Marie-Christine Heinze

Montag, 25. Juni 2012

(K)Eine Revolution im Jemen? Zum Umbruch in 'Südarabien'

photography by Abdulrahman H. Jaber

Ich halte morgen einen Vortrag zu den politischen Entwicklungen im Jemen seit Beginn der Proteste im Januar letzten Jahres. Der Vortrag findet statt im Rahmen der Vortragsreihe "Vom arabischen Frühling zum islamistischen Herbst?", organisiert vom Orientalischen Seminar der Universität Köln. Er beginnt um 19:30 Uhr, Ort ist der Hörsaal XXI im Uni Hauptgebäude. Mehr zur Reihe gibt es hier

Donnerstag, 7. Juni 2012

Donating for Yemen - Updated

As more and more horrible pictures documenting the humanitarian crisis in Yemen emerge I thought I'd repost this list of possible international organizations to donate to. The original post is from July 2011 and I have updated some of the info and the links.

CARE International has been active in Yemen since 1993. At the heart of its work are poverty reduction and the promotion of social justice with a focus on women's literacy, water management, capacity building of local organizations, natural resource management, and relief assistance to refugees. Next to these long-term programs, CARE also offers emergency relief to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Yemen. From what I understand, you cannot donate directly to Yemen, but can help support the Rapid Response Fund (from which humanitarian relief in the current Yemen crisis is funded) here.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen is active in a number of fields in the country, amongst which are support to IDPs in Yemen due to the conflicts in North and South as well as refugees and asylum seekers in Yemen, support for detainees in Yemen prisons and vocational training for women prisoners to support social reintegration as well as advocacy for humanitarian principles. You can donate to the Red Cross in Yemen under "other operations" on this page.

Oxfam has been active in Yemen for about 25 years. At the core of its work in the country is advocacy for greater justice for women in Yemen, which includes campaigning against early marriage, increasing women’s economic empowerment, access to healthcare in remote villages, and working to secure legal protection. In regard to disaster preparedness, Oxfam cooperates with the Yemeni Red Crescent. You can donate directly to the 'Yemen crisis' here.

The World Food Programme (WFP) in Yemen focuses on food assistance to the most vulnerable. It has been active in Yemen since 1967 and has in recent years added several special programs to this broader aim, amongst which are emergency assistance to families affected by the conflict in Sa'dah, relief and recovery assistance to refugees from the Horn of Africa, and food for girl's education. You can learn more about the WFP's activities in Yemen here and there's a 'Donate'-button on the upper right side of the page if you want to contribute. It seems impossible, though, to donate to Yemen directly.

Mittwoch, 23. Mai 2012

What Yemeni men wear behind or around their daggers I

In line with the topic of my PhD thesis and following a recent discussion with my friend Marieke Brandt on the topic, I have decided to establish a new category on this blog displaying pictures of Yemeni men using their jihaz (= the complete dagger outfit including belt, scabbard, and the dagger itself) as a means of displaying status or worldview, but also as a mundane peg from which to hand things so that one will have one's hands free for other things. I will start with the ubiquitous qat bag, which tells us that this man has just been to the qāt market and is now on his way either to a restaurant to enjoy the inevitable pre-qat salta or on his way to the place where he will be chewing this afternoon. Qat bags hanging from janabi (pl. of janbiya) will thus never be encountered in the morning. They are an afternoon phenomenon. Note that this man has also wrapped his prayer beads around the scabbard, a common sight in Yemen (at any time of the day). Men might wear these as accessory to their jihaz to denote their religiosity although this might be a pre-reflexive gesture as most Yemeni men are deeply religious and would not feel the need to emphasize this. For some, the prayer beads are also a tool to play around with when bored.

(© Marie-Christine Heinze)

Sonntag, 22. April 2012

Review of Noel Brehony (2011): Yemen Divided

For those who read German, I have just published a review of Noel Brehony's excellent book on the political history of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). You can read the review here.

Samstag, 24. März 2012

Where Obama's notion of press freedom ends

In Yemen. Watch this well-researched documentary by AJE entitled "The dangers of reporting 'the war on terror'" to learn all about President Barack Obama's notion of 'the freedom of the press':

You can also read up on the reports of Iona Craig and Jeremy Scahill on this issue by klicking on the respective links.

Mittwoch, 14. März 2012

Yemeni youth forsaken

Below is a great piece that reflects precisely the feelings of disappointment and disillusionment of many Yemeni youth one year after the Yemeni revolution first began to gain momentum. "Ordinary Yemenis are in dire need of honest brokers", the author reminds us, "instead everyone is keeping silent, as the baking, boiling and frying continues in the Yemeni Kitchen." In many ways, and especially in regard to the national political elites and the international community, this holds true indeed. Nonetheless, there are a number of new initiatives, none of which will change the current situation immediately, but which will hopefully contribute to keeping the moment of politicization among the Yemeni youth alive and to enable them to work for a better future of the country in the long run. One of these intiatives is called "The Yemeni Dream" and aims at providing Yemeni youth with the role models and "honest brokers" they so desperately need. Read more on this project on its website.

"Peaceful" (photo by Abdulrahman H. Jaber)

Interesting times in Yemen
The Independent Op-Ed, March 12, 2012
by Safa Mubgar

An old Chinese curse runs “May you live in interesting times”. I have come to realise that it is certainly applicable to Yemen – what with the release of the film version of the 2007 novel “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”, and a particularly interesting ‘election’ brought about by a Yemeni style Arab Spring Revolution smoothing the way for a two year transitional period. Happily Yemen is flavour of the month; as opposed to the unfolding tragedy in Syria.

Abdu Rabo Mansour Hadi’s acclamation follows a pantomime waltz, choreographed by the international community, that literally celebrated Yemen’s dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power, honouring him, his cronies, and family with the immunity and garlands of gratitude for exemplary service (the 24 million Yemenis who suffered 33 years of this nasty regime can eat cake!) What’s particularly disturbing is that – much like “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” where a surprisingly “good” and “very rich” Arab brings hope and unity to Yemen – a more complex web of international and regional plots, “expertly blended” with a variety of fallacious arguments and petro-cash incentives, brought Abdu Rabo Mansour Hadi (Ali Saleh’s Yes-man, ex-Vice-President) to power in an uncontested “election” a few weeks ago.

Yemenis – we’re meant to rejoice, to call it a turning point, celebrate that at least it’s not Syria. You may want to follow the chorus of joyous optimism or simple relief; people did welcome relief from a year long struggle without electricity, water, or security – not that any of these are guaranteed to materialise after this election. although during the election campaign all services were restored briefly!! I, for one, reserve my right to feel cheated. Because nothing fundamental has changed: Ali Saleh’s old clique is still very powerful, and for the majority of ordinary Yemenis (Northerners and Southerners alike), the “new” government is just more of the same – witness the immunity law – But then again, this production was deliberately intended not to bring about radical change to Yemen.

Yet if anything, Abdu Rabo Hadi’s acclamation has led to a more chaotic picture in Yemen. An unsettled hotchpotch where everything is up for grabs – a far cry from the democratic aspirations of the peaceful youth revolution. In this cauldron, Yemen is subjected to numerous powerful forces – Western allies of Saleh, Gulf partners, and Saudi Arabia – all pouring in various influences and seasoning with petro-dollars. Added to this lethal mix is the Yemen’s domestic political clique, oozing opportunism and greed. None wish to see a successful revolution in Yemen, and will undermine it with all they can. For them, Yemen’s transition has to be cosmetic; for the West, this is acceptable as long as there is a kind of calm: shipping undisturbed through Bab al-Mandab, and their interests safeguarded and secured. They spend even more money to keep the lid on things, but nothing further.

In the meantime the embryonic peaceful youth revolution stand alone, peppered with false promises, with support from neither credible political opposition nor middle class to speak of. Ordinary Yemenis are in dire need of honest brokers; instead everyone is keeping silent, as the baking, boiling and frying continues in the Yemeni Kitchen.

By pumping dollars into the Yemeni economy, the Yemeni riyal seems not to be doing badly (considering Yemen’s economic situation) – but at the expense of Yemeni business, trade and sustainable development. People of wealth are getting wealthier, whereas the poor remain without education, jobs, opportunity or health. While Abdu Rabo Mansour receives his orders and administers from his huge palace (built for him by Ali Saleh a few years back) near the airport in Sana’a. The traditional tribal militias of Al Ahmar , Ali Muhsen and co, are aiding and abetting him. This gang has no remit or intention to change: 99% of Yemenis will not benefit; no real or sustainable development or growth will be generated.

The Yemeni revolution – a revolution which could have resulted in far reaching consequences and change in the Arabian Peninsula, has been pacified for now. But the kitchen remains hot, with too many cooks, and outcome yet unknown. Like others, I believe our Yemen Spring will not bloom until a Gulf Spring has flowered. If the ‘pruning’ in Bahrain is any indication, that may take some time.

So we wait. And watch. And pray for the countless who continue to suffer needlessly.

Montag, 5. März 2012

Yemeni music from the 1960s and 1970s

I am so buying this CD!!!

making music at Bab al-Yemen (© M. Heinze)

One man's research uncovers gems in Yemen's music history
The National, March 4, 2012
by Christopher Lord

In markets and antique shops across Yemen's capital city of Sanaa, a vast vinyl heritage has been gathering dust in cardboard boxes for the past 50 years.

Songs by a generation of Yemeni singers, with lyrics about unrequited love and inner turmoil, were impressed on to records after a rush of ad hoc recordings and studio sessions across the country throughout the 1960s.

Chris Menist is an avid collector and rescuer of old records, and spent two months in 2011 scouring markets in Sanaa and Aden for any bit of vintage vinyl he could lay his hands on. This search has culminated in Qat, Coffee and Qambus: Raw 45s from Yemen, a compilation of reissued tracks from among his best finds, released last month on the Dust-To-Digital record label.

"The Yemeni music I was finding reminded me of early blues recordings," says Menist, who was in the country just weeks before the start of protests against the leadership of Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"There was an honesty and rawness about the sound, like somebody just switched on a recorder and the musicians played without interference from record label people in the background. I don't understand the lyrics, but there's a great amount of emotion and, in a positive sense, simplicity to the music."

Menist holds a day job as a consultant for NGOs and the United Nations, but couples this with regular research trips to find and unearth overlooked music from around the world. He's previously worked on compilations of psychedelic rock from 1960s and 1970s Thailand.

The eight tracks on this new Yemen release sport enigmatic titles such as Hey, Who Enters the Sea of Passion? and Night Stars Watcher, and have a remarkably different sound from what is typically associated with Arabic music from that era. These singers, though active as recently as the 1960s, seem to call out from a more ancient period.

"There's a strong, poetic tradition in Yemeni culture, and a lot of these songs were recited during social gatherings or when people were chewing qat," says Menist, referring to the plant that, when chewed, has a narcotic stimulant effect and is an overarching pastime among many Yemenis.

"This is one of the oldest inhabited places on Earth," says Menist. "Culturally it's so rich, but has been left behind economically in places touched by the oil boom like Saudi and the UAE. In a positive sense, that has meant it's retained its originality." Conversely, he notes, this has also left much of the country mired in poverty.

Menist hears a rhythmic element in the music much stronger than that found in traditional centres of Arab music production such as Baghdad and Cairo. This may be the result of Yemen's proximity to the East African coast, he suggests, and there are audible connections between the music's jangling, bouncing cadence and that found in Swahili island settlements such as Zanzibar and Lamu.

But the compilation also captures the final years of popularity for the qambus, a fur-lined, lute-like instrument indigenous to Yemen that was superseded in popularity with the more widespread accessibility of the oud from the 1970s.

Menist market-crawled for two months, working closely with a de facto local fixer called Selim, and carting around his portable record player. "Most of the people I met there hadn't heard this music for 30 years, simply because they don't have the means to play records. Vinyl is regarded as an outmoded medium, and particularly in the Middle East."

HMV set up a recording studio in Aden in the 1950s, and the recordings produced at this time, Menist believes, remain locked away in the record label's vast archive in Middlesex, England. The field of studies for Yemeni popular music is fairly new, and when Menist returned to the UK with a stack of records, he was struck by the lack of academic writings on the subject.

Read the rest of the article here.

Listen to soundbites and buy the record here.

Freitag, 2. März 2012

Mein neues Forschungsprojekt zur jemenitischen "Revolution"

... durfte ich bereits vergangenes Wochenende auf der von der Universität Leipzig im Auftrag der VolkswagenStiftung organisierten Konferenz zum Arabischen Frühling vorstellen. Der Deutschlandfunk brachte hierzu ein Feature, in welchem auch das von der VolkswagenStiftung finanzierte Jemen-Projekt zur Sprache kam. Start des Projekts, welches in der Islamwissenschaft an der Universität Bonn angesiedelt ist, ist August 2012. Hier ein Ausschnitt aus dem Feature von Bettina Mittelstraß, der gesamte Text findet sich hier.

photography by Abdulrahman H. Jaber

"Für die Forschung geht es darum, diesen Prozess zu verstehen, indem man ihn begleitet und dokumentiert. Auch im Jemen ist die Neuverhandlung von Interessen oder Macht zwischen den gesellschaftlichen Gruppen nicht abgeschlossen. In der Hauptstadt Sanaa auf dem Platz des Wandels ist eine Zeltstadt entstanden. Dort trifft sich, wer zuvor noch nie auf die Idee kam, miteinander zu kommunizieren, sagt die Islamwissenschaftlerin Marie-Christine Heinze:

"Wir sehen, dass aus diesem Platz des Wandels praktisch ein Marktplatz der Ideen geworden ist. Ein Marktplatz von Debatten und Ideen und Ideologien und ein wirklich permanenter Austausch und eine permanente Diskussion. Es gibt Zelte wie das akademische Zelt oder das Medienzelt, wo die Leute zusammenkommen und Vorträge hören und debattieren oder sich einfach auch auf der Straße selbst austauschen und diskutieren. Es gibt Jugendgruppen, die sich dort gegründet haben von Jugendlichen, die sich vorher eigentlich noch nie gemeinsam irgendwas organisiert haben oder organisiert waren, die jetzt eigene Zeitungen herausgeben, die nur auf dem Platz des Wandels produziert und verteilt werden, um dort die Diskussion zu beeinflussen."

Das am Institut für Orient- und Asienforschung der Universität Bonn angesiedelte Projekt verfolgt gemeinsam mit dem unabhängigen Meinungsforschungsinstitut Yemen Polling Center, wie diese Gruppen auf die politischen Ereignisse reagierten und reagieren - die Ausreise des Präsidenten nach Saudi Arabien, seine Rückkehr, die Wahlen, die Erarbeitung der neuen Verfassung. Marie-Christine Heinze:

"Wie argumentieren sie? Und wie verändern sich die Ideen, die sie haben, und bestimmte Schlagwörter, die wir immer wieder hören, wie Demokratie, Freiheit, ziviler Staat. Wie verändern sich diese Begriffe und Ideen im Laufe dieser Debatte und des Abgrenzungsprozesses der verschiedenen Gruppen untereinander?"

Der Bedarf an Antworten auf diese Fragen ist enorm. Zur Konferenz, die die Volkswagenstiftung an der Universität Leipzig organisierte, kamen 140 Wissenschaftler - beinahe doppelt so viele wie geplant, etwa 50 davon aus nordafrikanischen und arabischen Ländern."

Donnerstag, 2. Februar 2012

New study opportunities for Yemenis in Germany

There are several calls open to Yemenis from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for master degrees in Germany (in cooperation with universities in Egpyt and Jordan). Note that you need work experience for all four master courses. Also note that the deadline for the second call is already on February 15!

new campus of Sanaa University (© M. Heinze)

1. DAAD Scholarships German-Arab Master’s Course „Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)“, Cologne University of Applied Sciences / University of Jordan

This master’s course is designed with an interdisciplinary and integrative approach that goes beyond addressing problems related to engineering, economic and environmental policy issues. The economic, ecological and regulatory policy dimensions of the water sector (e.g., quality control, distribution, treatment and recycling, national, cross-border and sustainable use, legal aspects etc.) are reflected in the curriculum along with the socio-cultural aspects. The programme stretches over three semesters: two semesters in Amman/Arab region and one semester in Cologne. Moreover, the first semester includes an German or Arabic language course and modules in intercultural training.

The target group are young professionals active in water-related fields, with practical work experience. By working in small mixed groups, students are trained in intercultural communication and management skills, so that as graduates they will be in a position to cooperate on international projects in areas such as development cooperation or scientific- technological cooperation. English is the language of instruction and applications are open to participants from the following countries: Germany, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.

The complete application must be submitted by March 3, 2012. Further information here.


2. DAAD Scholarships for German-Arab Master’s Course “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for the MENA Region (REMENA)”, University of Kassel / Cairo University

This master’s course is designed with an interdisciplinary and integrative approach that goes beyond addressing problems related to the natural and environmental sciences. The economic, ecological and regulatory policy dimensions of the energy sector (e.g., national and international energy and climate policies, energy management legislation, etc.) are reflected in the curriculum along with the socio-cultural aspects. The course stretches over 20 months: two phases in Cairo/ the Arab region and one phase in Kassel.

The target group are young professionals from the field of Renewable Energies, with practical work experience. By working in small mixed groups, students are trained in intercultural communication and management skills, so that as graduates they will be in a position to cooperate on international projects in areas such as development cooperation or scientific-technological cooperation. English is the language of instruction and applications are open to participants from the following countries: Germany, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.

The complete application must be submitted by February 15, 2012. Further information here.


3. DAAD Scholarships for the German-Arab Master’s Course “Economic Change in the Arab Region (ECAR)”, Philipps University Marburg

This master’s course pursues two goals: on one hand, it further educates Arabic economists in their field under special consideration of the economic reform needs in their partner region. On the other hand, German students who have already completed a first formal training in economics will simultaneously be educated as economic experts for the region, and will familiarize themselves with the conditions of economic transactions in the Arabic cultural area. The programme consists of an introductory pre-semester in Cairo, followed by two semesters in Marburg and one additional semester in an Arabic country.

The target group are young professionals from the field of Economics, with practical work experience. By working in small mixed groups, students are trained in intercultural communication and management skills, so that as graduates they will be in a position to cooperate on international projects in areas such as development cooperation or scientific- cooperation. English is the language of instruction and applications are open to participants from the following countries: Germany, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.

The complete application must be submitted by March 31, 2012. Further information here.


4. DAAD Scholarships for the German-Arab Master’s Course „International Education Management (INEMA)“ University of Education Ludwigsburg / Helwan University, Cairo

This master’s course is designed with an interdisciplinary and integrative approach that is aimed at conveying general capabilities and knowledge in education management. It is divided in four semesters. In each semester one attendance phase in Egypt/Cairo as well as one in  Germany/Ludwigsburg is part of the programme. The course has to be completed within three years Besides education management the studies comprise also comprehensive political and socio-cultural subjects.

The target group are young professionals active in education-related fields, with practical work experience. The participants acquire capabilities in intercultural communication and management that enable the graduates to join international development or scientific-technological co-operation projects. English is the language of instruction and applications are open to participants from the following countries: Germany, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen.

The complete application must be submitted by March 31, 2012.  Further information here.

Dienstag, 24. Januar 2012

Combating sexual harrassment and gender discrimination in Yemen

photo by Yemen Times

These days, great initiatives spring up everywhere as young people, emboldened and politicized by the Yemeni "revolution", decide to become active on issues they consider detrimental for society. Below is a report by the Yemen Times on one of these initatives:

Fighting for Yemen's morals
Yemen Times, January 23, 2012
by Marwa Najmaldin

In a hall in Sana’a, on International Volunteers Day last month, a whiteboard was hung with words often used by men to harass girls. A room full of young boys were told to throw arrows at the board and when full, the words were pulled back to reveal a picture of a girl. On the picture, pocked with arrow marks, was written the words, “I am your mother, I am your sister, I am your wife, I am your daughter.”

“We started this campaign because we feel that this problem [of harassment] is getting worse and the results will be harmful to individuals and to our conservative society,” said co-founder, Amani Abd Al-Qader, 21, a student at the University of Sana’a.

Under the slogan “Are there any morals anymore?” Al-Qader, explained the campaign was against any form of harassment – whether directed at women or men.

Read the rest of the article and view further pictures of the campaign here.

Mittwoch, 18. Januar 2012

On Sana'a

view on the Old City of Sanaa (©M. Heinze)

Tim Mackintosh-Smith is a British author turned Yemeni, who regularly writes on the country. His book "Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land" is one of my favorite non-academic books on Yemen and won the 1998 Thomas Cook / Daily Telegraph Travel Book Award. Below is a recent publication of his on Yemen's capital city Sana'a, where he has been living these past thirty years.

The City: Sana
The Daily Beast, January 16, 2012
by Tim Mackintosh-Smith

What do Kazan, Caracas, Sadr City, Marrakech, Mumbai, Berlin, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, and Frankfurt have in common? Answer: they have all recently shared the epithet “city of contrast.” I confess I didn’t look at any more of the 285 million hits for the phrase on my search engine…You get the idea. You will search the globe in vain, it seems, for a city of boring homogeneity.

It must be said, though, that the city I’ve lived in for most of the past 30 years, Sana, the Yemeni capital, gives new life to that clapped-out cliché. For a start, the contrast with the rest of the Arabian Peninsula could hardly be greater. The other day, for instance, the placemat for my lunchtime saltah, a nourishing beef and fenugreek hotpot eaten in a hole in the wall in the souk, was the usual sheet of newsprint, this one from a Gulf daily. It showed a row of multimillion-dollar yachts in a marina in Abu Dhabi—a short flight away, but which for most Yemenis might as well be on one of Jupiter’s moons. Conversely, my tower house here—and any one of the thousands of historic buildings in the ancient heart of Sana—would be classed as a national monument in the Emirates.
But it is the contrasts within Sana that are stranger. They were already ancient when the 10th-century geographer al-Hamdani noted the paradoxical character of the city. In fact, they are innate: because Sana was founded during a conjunction of Venus and Mars, al-Hamdani explained, the contrary characteristics of the two planets coexist in its people—good manners and love of la dolce vita contend with a fondness for unseemly jokes and quarrels and for messing about with knives. More than a millennium later, Yemen’s greatest modern poet, Abdallah al-Baradduni, portrayed the city in chiaroscuro as “a pretty woman wooed by consumption and mange.”

Read the rest of the article and look at Karim Ben Khelifa's beautiful photograph here.

Donnerstag, 12. Januar 2012

One day without qat

Today, the Yemeni youth demonstrates once again its faithfulness to the goals of the Yemeni revolution, which go much further than "simply" getting Salih to leave office. Much rather - and as the currently ongoing "parallel revolution" demonstrates - Yemeni (educated) youth aim to change society as a whole. For today they have called upon fellow Yemenis to participate in a Day Without Qat, thus drawing attention to once of the most prominent and in many ways detrimental practices of Yemenis, male and female alike.

To inform yourself about the pro and contra debate in regard to qat, I recommend you read Daniel Varisco's paper on "The elixir of life or the devil's cud? The debate over Qat (Catha edulis) in Yemeni culture" or, if you have time enough for a book, Shelagh Weir's seminal study on "Qat in Yemen: Consumption and social change".

To inform yourself on the ongoing campaign and its possiblities of success, click here.

Dienstag, 10. Januar 2012

New opportunity for researchers on Yemen (updated)

me with my friends from YPC in Sanaa

The Yemen Polling Center (YPC), an independent research and training institute in Sanaa, offers internships to foreign researchers, graduate and postgraduate students residing in Yemen for research purposes or those studying Arabic Language courses.

YPC also hosts a small number of Visiting Fellows every year as part of its Fellowship Program. YPC assists in securing sources, resources and research materials. YPC also offers opportunities for the fellow to participate in different events in Yemen and to interact with our diverse national staff and establish contacts with officials and other Yemeni stakeholders. Visiting Fellows receive a small stipend.

Applications are open to all; there are no preconditions for submitting an application and all foreign students and researchers are invited to apply. However, researchers with the following backgrounds are favored: political sciences, social sciences, mass communication, media, law and economic studies.

YPC interns and Fellows are expected to assist headquarter staff and field representatives in carrying out their duties, realizing the center's mission and helping implement its different projects.

The duration of the internship or Fellowship shall be for a minimum of 10 weeks with a 12-hour workweek. Applicants are encouraged to seek funding and/or academic credit through their affiliated university or college.

YPC will host no more than two interns and/or Fellows at one time

Read more on this opportunity on the website of the Yemen Polling Center.

Update: Researchers and academics working on Yemen can know exchange and discuss in the Facebookgroup 'Yemen Researchers Forum'.

Montag, 9. Januar 2012

Vortrag zur "Revolution" im Jemen am Mittwoch

photography by Abdulrahman H. Jaber

Diesen Mittwoch um 19:00 Uhr halte ich in Leipzig einen Vortrag zur "Arabischen Frühling" im Jemen mit dem Titel

"Wem gehört die jemenitische 'Revolution'? Akteure, Strategien und Rahmenbedingungen des politischen Umbruchs im Jemen"

Mehr Informationen zu Vortrag, Organisator und Veranstaltungsort gibt es hier.

Samstag, 7. Januar 2012

Yemen's artistic creativity

photography by Abdulrahman H. Jaber

The "revolution" in Yemen has not only created a new sense of political awareness among Yemeni citizens, it has also sparked, enhanced, yes: unleashed Yemeni creativity. From the Marches of Life and Dignity, art exhibitions, poetry, music, photography, and film-making, etc. Yemenis have explored multiple ways of expressing their beliefs and feelings as related to the ongoing upheavals and to draw the international community's attention to their struggle. Below is the most recent example, a high-quality film created by an initiative of Yemeni Americans called Support Yemen, which you can also watch on YouTube:

Freitag, 6. Januar 2012

A new, "parallel revolution" in Yemen

photography by Abdulrahman H. Jaber

Yemen rises up against its mini-dictators
The Guardian, January 5, 2012
by Abubakr al-Shamahi

In the current state of confusion in Yemen, with the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his family attempting to retain control behind the scenes even though he is officially due to leave office in February, Yemeni protesters have a new tactic.

A "parallel revolution" of anti-corruption protests and strikes is seeking to remove the mini-dictators – Saleh's lieutenants who are in charge of the various state institutions and the bloated state bureaucracy.

Ten months after the start of anti-government protests, and with the country's future steeped in uncertainty, Yemenis are determined to ensure that real change is the fruit of their sacrifices.
A dictator's power comes from having the ability to surround himself with a loyal group of henchmen, the faithful minions who will ensure that power remains in the hands of the leader. Without such followers it is impossible to rule dictatorially.

Over his 33 years at the helm, Saleh has managed to build an effective network of partisans, people who aid him in controlling the various branches of the state, and yet also know that they are only in their position because of their loyalty to Saleh.

In turn, Saleh allows these men to get rich and to run their institutions as personal fiefdoms. These corrupt officials have siphoned off millions, most likely billions, in a country that is ranked as the poorest in the Arab world. This nouveau riche group are busy building villas and mansions on the edge of Sana'a, Yemen's capital. In the meantime, the city is running out of water because of mismanagement and poor infrastructure.

Weak state institutions mean that officials can get away with many illegitimate practices. Contracts are given out to friends and family, or simply the person willing to grease officials' hands with the most money. Yemen's oil and natural resources industry – its main (but dwindling) source of income – is notoriously corrupt, with oil revenues under-reported and educational scholarships from oil money going to the children of high officials.

The Yemeni mini-dictators abuse their power in other ways. There have been reports of military officers running "personal prisons" and taking money from officers' salaries.

One protester at a government office in the city of Taiz said his boss had put a gun to his head only the week before. The boss, at first confused, and then angry, was barred from entering the building by the protester and his colleagues.

Read the rest of the article here.

Brian Whitaker has also commented on this new development in his blog al-Bab.

And the Yemen Times offers a very nice map with some examples of this new form of revolutionary clean-sweeping.