Thursday, March 20, 2014

كل يوم هو عيدك يا أمي

أمي الحبيبه،

يا آعز من روحي، اكتب لك اليوم هذه السطور بينما الكل يحتفل بعيد الام و كأن كل يوم ليس عيدك يا أمي. وجودك في حياتنا هو العيد بعينه. في كل عام في مثل هذا اليوم اتصل بك عبر البحار و القارات لأسمع صوتك الحنون واطمئن على صحتك و استمع الى اخبارك كما افعل كل بضعة ايام.

 آه يا أمي... كم هو صعب و مرير بعدي عنك كل هذه الاعوام، و بالأخص الاسابيع الماضيه، فقد كانت هي الأصعب.
 أحمد الله عز وجل الذي كتب لك النجاة و بفضل بركة الدعاء رد القضاء وادعوه في كل سجده ان يبعد عنك كل مكروه و يمن عليك بالشفاء.

اكتب لك هذه الأسطر يا أمي لأبوح لك ما في قلبي ولا أعلم متى ستتمكني من قرأتها بينما انت طريحة الفراش وعين الله ترعاك.

سامحيني ايتها الغاليه اني مقصره في حقك و لست بجوارك و انت في هذه الحال. مهما حاولت جاهده في رحلاتي الاخيره ان اكون بجوارك واقضي اطول وقت معك فلا زلت مقصره فهذا كله لا يساوي قطره مما قمت به من أجلي.
 سامحي بعدي عنك يا أمي بسبب ظروف الحياة، يعلم الله كم انا متألمه و ممزقه و اعد الساعات والدقائق و الثواني لأكون بجوارك مجدداً لأقبل رأسك و يديك و قدميك و اطلب رضاك. 
سامحيني يا امي ان كنت قد اغضبتك يوماً عن عمد او غير عمد. سامحيني عن كل يوم تمنيتي او طلبتي شيئاً و لم احققه لك، سامحيني يا أمي ان كنت يوماً قد خيبت لك رجاء أو رديت عليك بجفاء، فلا اطلب من هذه الدنيا سوى رضاك التام عني.

علمتيني يا امي بحنانك و دفئك و عفوك و عطائك الدائم المعنى الحقيقي للأمومه. علمتيني بعزيمتك وجلدك و ايمانك و صبرك كيف اكون انسانه قويه.

 لا ادري ماذا اهديك اليوم مقابل كل ما فعلتي من اجلنا غير ان ابتهل الى الله بالدعاء و الرجاء ان يشفيك و يعافيك ويحفظك لنا. لوكان بمقدوري يا أمي ان اقدم لك صحتي كهديه لفعلت و ما ترددت للحظه.

كل يوم و انت بخير يا أعز الحبايب، حفظك الله ورعاك دوماً يا أمي و شفاك من كل داء أو ألم و البسك ثوب العافيه. 

*رجاء لكل من يقرأ هذه الصفحه ان يدعوا لأمي و كل الامهات الاتي يصارعن المرض. شفاهن الله جميعاً و حفظهن.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Day in Jebel Amman


I lived in Amman for two years and a half and have since visited it several times, so it was nice to be back once again for the Arab Bloggers Meeting. I spent my first day with a close and art loving friend in the part I missed most, Jebel Amman. Our first stop was at Sufra Restaurant, one of the best restaurants in Jebel Amman, which offered a wide variety of jordanian appetizers and main courses accompanied with freshly baked bread just out of the 'tanour'.

The making of the bread in the 'tanour'


Traditional tea with miramieh (Sage leaves)

It was a nice sunny day, not too cold, so it was perfect weather for us to enjoy an afternoon walk in the quiet streets of Jebel Amman. Our first destination was to the art gallery Nabad.

A side street of Rainbow street
A lovely orange tree at the entrance of  Nabad
Artworks by Architect and Designer Jamal Joucka
An illuminating artwork by Jamal Joucka
A beautifully crafted piece by Artist Abeer Seikaly
Metal artwork by Iraqi artist Himat Mohammed Ali


We stopped to enjoy the view from one of the roof tops before entering Wild Jordan. The beautiful structure was built by architect Ammar Kammash.

Wild Jordan is a socio-economic and eco-tourism division of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, it has a gift store and a cafe offering light and healthy snacks overlooking Jebel Amman.
Most of the material present in the building is eco-friendly and recycled
A graffiti on the staircase leading to the Soap House
Our third destination was to the Soap House, which was set in a beautifully restored old house with a great view of Jebel Amman. The aromatic soaps and creams were made from all-natural ingredients ranging from olive oil, orange, lemon, honey, lavender, rosemary, sea minerals and salts.







A beautiful display of the range of products
A colorful and aromatic range of soaps

Jordan River Design and Bani Hamida are a landmark in Jebel Amman and one of my all time favorite desitnations, so I couldn't miss it. The embroidery project was set up in 1988, offering women in the area an extra income to embroider traditional and contemporary home furnishing, gift items and artifacts preserving the local heritage.


Hand made baskets and artifacts
Hand made bed sheets with traditional and contemporary designs
Bani Hamida hand made rugs
Hand embroidered cushions reflecting the heritage

Um Kalthoum themed cushions
Our last stop was at the Jacandra Art Gallery, where I fell in love with the photography work of Charlotta Sparre, Sweden's Ambassador to Jordan, who was re-assigned recently to Egypt. With an exquisite style she produced a beautiful collection of photos from the Arab cities she had visited. I added Cairo and the East and West Bank to my art collection.

Cairo
The East and West Bank (Palestine)
Beirut

I hope you enjoyed the walk by reading this post and hope you get to visit Amman, if you haven't already and experience it yourself too. 

My First Arab Bloggers Meeting #AB14


I wrote these lines on my flight back home after an amazing week in Amman, reflecting back at the inspiring group of people I spent the last couple of days with, the activists, artists, bloggers, editors, journalist, visual tools and digital security experts along with all the organizers, sponsors, and facilitators.

It was the first time for me to attend an Arab Blogger's Meeting and although I hadn't met many of the participants physically before, through our interaction over the years our virtual connection had been well established. There was an air of familiarity, comradeship and solidarity which laid the basis for new friendships. Sadly, there were activists and bloggers who were absent either due to unjust incarceration or shameful red tape which prevented them from being physically there, yet their presence was very much felt amongst us.


Unfortunately, I caught a cold in my first day in Amman which I spent catching up with close and longtime friends and walking through the old streets of the city I lived in and loved. Ironically I developed laryngitis and started my first Global Voices event, which I looked so forward to, without a voice! 

The circle time with our remarkable MC Mohammed Alqaq was a fun time which we all looked forward to, for warming up and getting energized for the long day ahead. I had never thought about the advantages of being cloned until I was faced with the tough choice of determining which track I wanted to follow for the next 3 days of the closed sessions.

On the first day, I chose the digital security track and through the afternoon clinics offered, we learnt about internet security, how to choose a strong password, how to protect the hard drive and were given a list of other valuable tips. Some of the very helpful team of experts even extended their offer to be in touch to guide anyone through the process, if needed.

On the second day, I switched to the Visual Tools track. As a writer I always appreciated the power of words but the visual tools team taught us ways to pair that with strong visuals to make our storytelling more impactful. Through one of the fun and creative exercises we did, we learnt that Palestinians love having eggs for breakfast and hence "Palestine Eggsists."


In the afternoon tracks we sought help from experts in fields we needed advice and tips in. Dina Elhawary from Midan gave us tips on news fact checking and verification. We also learned more about the struggle in Syria from the personal recount of the brave Marcell Shewaro from Aleppo and more stories were shared by Laila Nashwati's "Syria Untold," Ahmed Jedou briefed us about the ongoing struggle and multiple challenges facing Mauritania. Abir Kopty and Ramzy Jaber among others were fine examples of Palestine's dedicated youth using their knowledge, expertise and resources to champion for the Palestinian cause. The artists amongst us were the positive and creative vibe, and their spontaneous performance was always welcomed.

The brainstorming sessions, discussions, interactions, inspirations and the overall motivational boost the meeting gave us was among the many things that made it outstanding. We plan to keep that momentum by developing a platform for more concrete and consistent collaboration among us. 

I was humbled by the experience and knowledge, inspired by the dedication and determination, and touched by the human interaction and solidarity that were shared in the Arab Blogger's Meeting, all of which can not be captured in words. All I can say to conclude is that it was an enriching and extraordinary experience and I look forward to be invited in future Arab Bloggers Meeting, hopefully in a country where all Arabs are welcome.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Another Year is Ending

Once again we have reached the end of the year and about to begin a new one. It is that time of year where wishes of happiness, heath and success are exchanged. It is a time to recapitulate the events of the year, the happy and joyous ones as well as the sad and tragic ones. It is also a chance to reflect on our personal journey. As Muslims, we believe that this life, no matter how comfortable or short, hard or long, is but a journey to the eternal one, the Hereafter.

In the Holy Quran, Surat Al'Ana'am, Chapter 6, verse 32, Allah says:
"And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah, so will you not reason?"
وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلاَّ لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَلَلدَّارُ الآخِرَةُ خَيْرٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ

Therefore, no matter what faith you believe in or what calendar you follow, one thing is for certain and that is at some point, this journey will end just as this year is ending. What we do in the coming year and the rest of our life will determine our final destination. Worldly matters or personal ego often sway us but we should not loose sight of what matters. We are all humans, created equally and must live together on this earth peacefully. We should struggle to improve our character, be better human beings, strive to help one other, reach out to those in need and try to make a difference in someone else's life. We should try giving without expecting anything in return. Most of all we should try our best to make the world we live in a better place for all of us.

On that note, I wish you all blessings and peace in the coming year and in everyday of your lives.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Yemen’s Great Expectations



The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) agreement was considered as the best option for Yemen to transfer power "peacefully" and save it from slipping into a civil war and a "bloody Syria scenario. Many discontented Yemenis had no option but to accept it and had high hopes in a National Dialogue Conference that would lay the road map for Yemen's future. There is so much at stake for Yemenis and the "Friends of Yemen" who backed the GCC agreement, all of whom would not want to see it fail.

International backers of the GCC agreement which laid out the mechanism for the transfer of power in Yemen, ending president Ali Abdullah Saleh 33 year rule and outlining the phases of the 2-year transitional period, are eager to present Yemen as a successful model for the Arab spring. Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference has been described as “the most genuine, transparent and inclusive deliberate process the Arab region has ever witnessed” according to the United Nation Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal BenOmar who has been shuttling between New York and Sana’a to facilitate the conference.

"With dialogue we make the future" is the motto of Yemen's National Dialogue Conference, which consists of 565 delegates representing different factions of Yemen’s political spectrum, including the marginalized youth activists and women, civil society representatives, Huthis, and Hiraki Southern movement. It formed into 9 working groups to forge a national consensus for Yemen’s plan for the future, draft its constitution and pave the way to the 2014 presidential elections.

Many Yemenis disagree about its acclaimed success so far and have grown wary and disappointed with the process. There is a general feeling of ambiguity and apprehension surrounding the outcome of the National Dialogue Conference among Yemenis, which is very different in comparison to the hopeful vibes projected by the UN special advisor and in the statements by the "Friends of Yemen".

Originally set to begin in mid November, Yemen’s National Dialogue finally started in March 18, 2013. It had been scheduled to end six months later on September 18, yet further delays, disputes and withdraws caused it to be delayed even further by “one, two, or three months, but not more” as Mr. Abu-Baker Al-Qirbi, Yemen’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, was quoted saying.  In fact, the National Conference continues to drag on struggling to overcome the challenge of appeasing Yemen’s political elite while the human living conditions of millions of Yemeni citizens continues to deteriorate.  


Each of the members residing in the capital Sana’a are compensated $100 per day, those residing outside it are compensated $180 per day while sessions are being held in the five star Movenpick hotel. All of which raises speculation regarding the delegate’s, enjoying such benefits, commitment and eagerness to have the NDC end anytime soon. The apparent reluctance in achieving a consensus and the evident delay in the decision-making has broken confidence in the process altogether.  

Six months later, many issues discussed among the various working groups are not yet finalized, such as setting 18 years as the legal marriage age, the 30% quota for women in the three branches of government and the most challenging southern issue remains unresolved. There is evidently a lot of friction and resistance in the conference between existing partisan, political, tribal elite who are safeguarding their own interests and the 40 independent youth who are genuinely seeking to bring about real change for the country. The discontented Huthis and Hiraki factions frequent withdrawals, the last one during the plenary session prior to the Eid break make it unclear whether they will continue or cause the dialogue to fail and what will the final structure be of the suggested federal state to solve the Southern issue.

Just as the National Dialogue has been turbulent, Yemen’s transitional period has not been as smooth as expected nor hoped for. Over the past two years, Yemen has witnessed an unprecedented record of military assassinations, car bombings, destruction of oil pipe lines and electricity cables, kidnapping of foreigners and Yemenis, in addition to an increase in US drone strikes. Power outages as a result have been reported for days rather than hours in many parts of the country adding more obscurity to the challenging living conditions.

The political process and focus of the negotiation in the National Dialogue Conference moving forward overshadowed the security situation, humanitarian issues and economic reality that Yemen is undergoing.  Nearly half of Yemen’s 24 million population (10.5 million) do not have enough food, most (13.1 million) do not have access to safe water and sanitation, 431,000 are displaced and nearly half of Yemen’s children under five years (2 million) are stunted and 1 million are acutely malnourished. Yemenis live on $2 a day, illiteracy rate of both sexes (15 years and above) is almost 40%unemployment among the youth is at 40% and the country ranks last at 136 in the Global gender gap, 156 out of 176 n the Transparency International 2013 Corruption Index and 6th in the 2013 Failed States Index.

Besides the overzealous outcomes hoped from the NDC in resolving national issues resulting from 30 years of conflict, mismanagement and corruption, Yemen is also faced with the challenge of restoring political security and economic stability which is required to improve the lives of millions of Yemenis who struggle daily due to the lack of access to food, water, electricity, fuel, health services, education and employment. Yemenis are looking hopefully to the NDC to improve their lives, without any further delays.

Some observers consider the NDC a failure so far, while others feel there is so much at stake now that if it does not succeed and without an alternative plan B, the country risks slipping into a civil war. Yet the NDC is not only faced with many challenges to reach its targets, once it concludes, the real challenge will be in passing the recommend laws and agreements in a GPC (General People’s Conference, Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’ s ruling party) and Islah (Conservative Party) dominated parliament. Accountability, political commitment and a strong government are needed to implement the desired outcomes. It is therefore not in Yemen’s interest to have any further delays since the road to change is still arduous and long and many Yemenis are losing patience in the process.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

US Drones Killed Her Family, Does Anyone Care?


"Nada", a young girl who survived the US military strike on the community of al-Majalah in Yemen, in a film still from “Dirty Wars”

She walked out and gazed at the clear blue sky,
Dreading to hear the humming noise or spot the killers that fly.

Her eyes searched, filled with tears,
Painful memories mixed with fears.

The tragedy happened when she was only three.
Yet the cries, the fire, the horror she can still hear, feel and see.

Missile strikes burnt her house and obliterated her entire family.
She was the only survivor who managed to flee.

Her caring father and loving mother are no longer there.
Brothers, sisters, even cousins she played with all vanished, how was that fair?

She has become a lonely orphan with a heartbreaking stare,
Nothing left for her but anguish and nightmares; more than a child can bear.

She wondered, US missiles and drones strikes kill indiscriminately causing pain and despair,
Claim to target "terrorists" which her family wasn't, but does anyone care?
Can anyone stop them, speak out against them, does anyone dare?

This is the story of many families in Yemen for you to share.
Thank you for reading it and for the time you can spare,
to speak up for them and show them WE CARE. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Human Rights Do Yemenis Have?!


I am a Yemeni blogger participating in Blog Action Day 2013, which aims each year to raise awareness about a global topic. The topic selected this year is Human Rights. As far as I know, I am the only Yemeni blogger participating this year. Hence, I will be writing about human rights in my country, but let us first get a general understanding of what human rights are by watching this short video which lists the 30 articles in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.


Now I seriously wonder how many of these universal rights do Yemenis actually have or even realize that they are entitled to. Since this is a blog post I will keep it short and just pinpoint a few of them here.

While food and shelter are a basic human right the UN estimates that more than 10 million people — nearly half of the population — goes hungry or are short of food. Child malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world with close to half of Yemen’s children under the age of five are stunted. Some people in Yemen do not even have houses and are forced to live in caves.

While people have the right to education, illiteracy rate in Yemen is among the highest in the region, 60% for women and 30% for men. Public schools in the capital Sanaa and in many cities are in appalling conditions while there aren't enough schools in many rural areas. Children seeking an education have to walk for miles to reach schools in neighboring towns. Due to economic and social reasons girls education are cut short and are forced by their families to marry. According to HRW 50% of girls in Yemen marry before the age of 18, and 15% marry before the age of 14. In some cases they were as young as 8. There have been many cases of victims of child marriage in Yemen who die in their wedding night from bleeding while others lose their lives while giving birth.

While freedom of opinion and expression is a right, journalist in Yemen are under threat for speaking their mind and reporting on violations. And while article 12 and 20 state "no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" and "everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and association", many youth activist in the 2011 revolution who peacefully marched demanding a better life and a change of the regime were killed, arrested and tortured while some are still forcibly disappeared.

Article 18 clearly states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion yet religion has often been misused in Yemen by radical religious cleric as a tool to declare those who challenge the fundamentalist norms as infidels in order to intimidate and silence them.


"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services..." as stated in article 25, yet the average Yemeni has none of those rights and the list goes on and on. 

Two years after Yemen's 2011 revolution calling for change, the living conditions of most Yemenis unfortunately deteriorated. Electricity power blackouts across the country have been reported not only for long hours in a day but for days. Yemenis have also been suffering from a shortage in water, fuel and food supply which have been greatly affected due to the economic conditions that the country is undergoing which is putting the lives of many at risk. Therefore the sad reality is that while citizens of the world are demanding more human rights, citizens in Yemen are still struggling today, not only for their basic human rights such as eduction and healthcare - let alone the struggle for democracy, freedom and social equality - but for basic necessities such as food, water and electricity.