A Love in the Middle East

No one would dream of living where they live.
Unless forced to.
His country
is a bulletin of war
coming from the borders,
originating within.
a divided land,
stitched together by wars and treaties.
Proud countries.
Hysterically feared by the world.

He tells her: Write about our love, my love.
She promises she will.

They have their own way of coping with reality,
of preserving their love.
They pass by the respective daily checkpoints
each one knowing
that today one could be fake,
controlled by the wrong faction,
unfriendly with friendly fire.
Perhaps their last checkpoint.
They both refuse
political or religious discussions.
They dream big and endlessly.
So often together.

He tells her: Write about our love, my love.
She promises she will.

They talk about their jobs,
the daily insignificances.
It paints normality
where nothing is normal.
They dream big and endlessly.
So often together.

She knows
he is not safe.
He fears
she is nothing more than a target
to reach the headline news.

they both refuse
to follow the news.
He knows where she is at 11 am
She knew he was sleeping this morning.

He tells her: Write about our love, my love.
She promises she will.

He called her.
He went to the Capital this morning.
And no, he kept it to himself.
The checkpoints
the bombs
the demonstrations
He spared her all these thoughts
“I did not tell you, my love”, he says.
She knows the reasons why

He tells her: Write about our love, my love.
She just did.

Picture: artwork of Laila Shawa

A Day for Yemen in Paris

Un Jour au Yémen,يوم اليمن في باريس ، A Day In Yemen Paris May 28th

Salam for Yemen is an International Initiative for Peace in Yemen,  a social and humanitarian initiative, without any political or religious links, aiming to enhance the security, the stability and a lasting peace for all Yemeni citizens. The members of this collective belong to various nationalities, all over the world, all united for PEACE.

On these grounds, SFY is organizing a day for Yemen in Paris on May 28th to celebrate Yemen, whose people and heritage are in acute danger, and to raise awareness for a country in need of help and solidarity.
A country which needs not to be forgotten and needs to be advocated.
On May 28, Salam for Yemen will uncover exhibitions, films, live music and experts who will debating at the Ecole Speciale d’Architecture 

تنظم جمعية SFY سلام من اجل اليمن
يوم يمني في باريس يوم السبت 28 مايو القادم . علي العنوان المرفق في المنشور ادناه
اليمن وشعبه وتراثه الأنساني في خطر، شاركونا لجلب الانتباه ولتوعية العالم من حولنا .
اليمن بحاجة لدعمكم وتضامنكم
يوم حافل بعرض أفلام وصور فوتوغرافية ورسوم فنية ومحاضرات لكبار الباحثين والمهتمين باليمن مع وصلات فنية ومأكولات يمنية
SFY organise une journée pour le Yémen à Paris le 28 mai pour célébrer le Yémen, dont les habitants et le patrimoine sont en danger, et pour sensibiliser les gens car le Yémen a besoin de votre aide et solidarité.

The event will take place at : École Spéciale d’Architecture, 254 Bd Raspail, 75014, Paris

From 10:00AM to 10:PM
Metro station : Raspail, line 6

10:00 AM – 1:00PM: Films
– A New Day in Old Sanaa, Bader Ben Hirsi
– Théodore Monod : Le Vieil Homme et la fleur, José Marie Bel
– Trésors du Yémen (documentary), Sadek Alsaar



Portrait Of A Young Man In Amber Eyes by Eric Lafforgue


2:00PM – 2:30PM: “Aden, a Yemeni mythical port, on the footsteps of Raimbaud” By Mr José Marie Bel, PhD in Plastic Arts, conservator, specialized on Yemeni Architecture, President of the ” Espace Reine de Sabaa “
2:30PM – 3:00PM: “Shabwa and its architectural and artistic context” by Mr Jean-François Breton, Archeologist and Historian, Research Director at CNRS, ex-Director at CFEE
3:00PM – 3:30PM: Mr.Mégo Terzian, Doctors Without Borders’ President 3:30PM – 4:00PM: “One year of conflict in Yemen” by Mr Laurent Bonnefoy Researcher in political science at the CNRS, CERI / Science Po Paris, currently deputy principal investigator of the European Research Council Advanced Grant. He specializes in the Arabian Peninsula.
4:00PM – 4:30PM: “Yemeni vernacular architecture” by Paul Bonnenfant Sociologist, former senior researcher at the CNRS, associated researcher à the IREMAM (Aix-en-Provence), works on traditional architecture mainly in the Arabian Peninsula.
4:30PM – 5:00PM: “Antique jewelry in pre-islamic South Arabia” by Mrs Leïla Ali Aquil, PhD in archeology.
5:00PM – 5:30PM: “Yemen’s heritage in danger” by Mr Jean Lambert, teacher/researcher in anthropology and musicology at Musée de l’Homme, Anthropologist and ethnomusicologist, permanent associated professor at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle of Paris, researcher at the Centre de Recherche en Ethnomusicologie . He is a former director of this center (2009-2014) and of the CEFAS
5:30PM – 6:00PM: Mr Sadek Alsaar, Salam For Yémen


7:00PM – 10:00PM: CONCERTS


Acid Arab


— Berry Hayward, American musician, Orchestra conductor at Maison des métallos – Aleksandar Petrov & Nenad Elmaz, Macedonian Musicians – Redwan Al Salahi, Yemeni musician, organist

– – Shadi Khries, Dj, percussionist member of ACID ARAB





– Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Photos of Yemen from the Sky
– Eric Lafforgue, Yemeni portrays
 – Guillaume Binet An Ignored War
– Peggy Crawford, Yemeni Architecture
– Stephanie Ledoux, Travel diaries
– José Marie Bel, Dessins d’architecture
– Aurélie Pedrajas, Travel diaries

Sleepless in Mareb (Yemen)

This is what it feels like to have dear ones in a war zone: the moment you know of a suicide bomber, a bomb explosion, aerial airstrikes and the lapse of time it takes for news from those you care about to reach you, sum up to  a long, exhausting, corroding wait.

There was a bomb  explosion yesterday, May 6, in the troubled city of Mareb, 156 kms East of Sanaà, Yemen. It happened after Friday prayers at the qat market. Being Friday (weekend), the qat market was packed with people. Virtually everyone in Yemen chews qat, the mild leafy stimulant, on a Friday.

I happen to have a friend in Mareb. The area has been always a nightmare: it rests on Yemen´s richest oil and gas fields and has been the constant battleground between tribes, government, smugglers, AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) fighters and, since 2015, a nevralgic point of fighting between those loyal to former President Hadi´s Saudi backed government (in exile) and Ansarallah militia supported by Yemeni military forces loyal to ex President Saleh.
The war in and on Mareb has been long. Devastating.

Only today my friend replied to my immediate message, making me realise that the explosion of yesterday is only an additional bomb to a daily story of fighting, pain and struggle.
‘The battle is close to me, it is just 3 kilometers away.12974515_1007156106004086_4164260433325426796_n
God will save us though the war is in all Yemen, it is everywhere ..but in Mareb we have an ongoing war basis. 
The battle is from 4 sides. North and West is where they use all kinds of heavy and light weapons: missiles, artillery, Katyusha and aircraft. Sometimes we don’t sleep at night Dear.
We all pray, you pray too Dear.

We will be OK, with God’s will.’

My friend survived, yesterday.
He has not seen his son who lives abroad in more than 8 years. Talking about lapse of time.



featured image: Nabil Hassan

Looking for Hibah Ahmed from Aleppo

‘I was in a relationship with a girl from Aleppo University, where I was studying. But after the crisis started, I don’t know where she has gone.’
(You call it ´crisis´).

Do you still have contacts with someone in Aleppo?
‘Wallah (I swear): No. No one.’

University people, someone.. Relatives, friends.  Think..
‘I wish I had. But no one.’

When was the last time you heard from her?
‘After the events started in Aleppo.’
(the ‘events’ you say)

‘Must have been around middle of that year. Maybe.’

Did the two of you have any friend in common? Someone you can look up?
‘In Syria you mean? No, no one.’

Love stories cannot end this way
‘I know. But with war, everything is possible.. I was studying with her, in the same department’

But how could it be that you lost contact immediately? Did you look up for her in Facebook, Twitter? Do you have a picture of her? You can look at Google Images and see if you find her
‘Nothing of this. She hadn’t a Facebook account, I lost my phone with her photos.’

I want to help you. How can I?
‘Hahaha. I forgot her. Maybe she is dead. She was such a beautiful girl. Smart. She loved me so much. She was such a giving person. She was even lending me her car. She used to invite me to her home to have food. With her parents. She was everything to them. She was their only child.’

Do you remember the father’s name, his job?
‘I think it was Ahmed. But I never asked her the last name of her family.’

Will you make me a promise?

Will you look for her?
‘I am always looking for her. But I have found nothing. She is also the one who lost contact with me. I think she is dead now.’

Do not say it…Do you think so?
‘After all that has happened, no one will remain alive.’

Maybe she left Aleppo long time ago

(After a silence of 20 minutes. Long, heavy minutes)

‘Do you believe I will find her?’
Never give up hope, I believe
‘It’s impossible.’

Do you feel she is dead?
‘Yes. If she is still alive, she would be looking for me too. Because she loved me so much.’

Maybe she is looking for you
‘She knew everything about me, after I arrived to Yemen. I gave her my Facebook account, gmail, my phone number. And I have never changed it.
She promised me she would open a Facebook account, but nothing.
Do you know what? I stopped so many efforts to get married. Because of her. My parents wonder why I am not married yet. I told them I am waiting for someone. But till when?’

Till when you are ready to move on. This is why you have to find her. If not her, her fate.
Is the university closed?
‘In Aleppo, yes.  The life has been closed, not only the university. I really feel so sad because I have mentioned this story. I know I made you sad with this. Sorry dear.
Her name is Hibah Ahmed, of the University of Aleppo – Faculty of Science, Biology Department.’

(you did not say Her name was)

The Broken Loves of War.
Love stories cannot end this way with wars getting in between.

I feel immensely naive, but I ask: Does anyone know of a beautiful girl named Hibah Ahmed who used to study at the University, in Aleppo, Faculty of Science, Biology Department, year 2011-2012?
If so, please tell her nothing has changed. She is still loved, more than ever and someone is waiting for her.

Yemen: this is why the War Hurts

Any war hurts.
Any conflict is a war on humanity and on the most vulnerable: children first. The poor. The sick, the elderly, the defenseless. Those who are silenced because their voice will never be reported. The animals. The illiterate. Those who live on less than 2 dollars per day. Or even 5. Those who have no documents, lest a passport.
Those who have nothing to sell and can rely only on their legs to run away. Those who cannot escape because there is nowhere to go.

Showing a picture of a blown up body in Europe will be received with a Rest in Peace. But it’s not here, it’s not here with me, close to me, contingent. It does not affect me.
There is a distance. It’s enough to move on.
Any war is not specific, contigent. Until the first bomb drops on your city, your neighbourhood, your house.

Why the war on Yemen hurts.
This war which is not here, close to us, has not made hundreds of thousands of victims (not yet, that is), is taking place in a country which for decades has received so much negative publicity we wonder if there is an equivalent on earth (maybe Afghanistan).
A war which has produced 2.5 million internally displaced who can only move from one village to the next one, to a school turnt into a refugee building in the Capital Sanaá but cannot cross borders.
The war is there, in Yemen. Not close to us. No refugees to kick out of our sacred European territory, our precious soil.
This war which has seen a country waking up one night under the sound of bombs falling from the sky.
Nine-to-One: this is the ratio. Nine countries united against one, the poorest country of the Middle East.
We remember seeing pictures of Ramallah, before the war on Yemen, and say: They seem better off than us.
A country which has always fought hard to reach the end of the day with enough food for the family, the water to find, the disease, the lack of electricity, unemployment, corruption.

This picture was taken in 2006, nine years before the war, in the Capital Sanaá.

13092002_1041504755942655_1876104030743934791_n                          © Sandro Rizzato

Enough to look at the pink dress of the girl on the left to understand and to know this was, at some stage, an Eid dress.
Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha being the only two occasions when most of the children receive their new wardrobe for the year. Do not think big: a pair of shoes, a dress and few other things. Chocolates. Pocket money from relatives and for one year they long for the next Eid. In the meantime, the pink dress fades in colour and texture.
Children of Yemen. This is why this war hurts.


© Mohamed al-Sayaghi

To and from the well. And back.
To and from the mosque. And back again.
To and from the charity tank set up and filled by an anonymous benefactor and back again. Till the tank is dry.
To and from the mosque, and back. To and from the well and back.
All under a scorching sun. Every day. So many times a day your legs become your clock: it is always time to move and fetch water.
Sisters of Yemen know no stroll. They work hard. Keep the family running fetching water which is undrinkable, uncookable. Still, keeps the family going.
This is why this war hurts. There has never been enough water to do anything.
Blessed are the monsoons: you can collect water.

With the siege imposed on the country, no gasoline is allowed to enter. No gas can be delivered to cities and villages alike. There has been no electricity since April 2015.
Many have found themselves selling the jewellery of the women in the family to buy a solar panel. Though it does not serve the purpose of cooking.Wood will do the job, if you are lucky to live in the countryside.
To and from the wood, and back.
This is why this war hurts.

Author Unknown

I took a taxi, in Sanaá, once. It was Ramadan. I hadn´t had food that day and the driver was surprised I was fasting.  It was by chance. I was not lying but he made of a single day of fasting a full month of observance.
When I reached the office, he refused the money and gave me a small copy of the Holy Quran.
‘Take this, please, Sister. And one day, when you return to Europe, tell them we are not all terrorists.’
This is why the war, this war, hurts.

Prior to the conflict, the health system in Yemen was significantly strained, with only three doctors per 10,000 people. Some 14.1 million people now need help to access adequate healthcare as a result of the intensified year of conflict. Lack of supplies, medicines, electricity, fuel for generators, and staff or equipment have caused health services to decline across the country. This is disproportionately affecting under-5 children, pregnant women, and people suffering from chronic diseases – including cancer, hypertension, diabetes. The three main causes of additional deaths among children under-5 are neonatal, diarrhoeal disease, and pneumonia. Health facilities report attending to more than 30,586 injured and 6,427 killed since the escalation of violence in March 2015. Demands and strains on the health sector and on host families are increasing along with the number of people that have fled their homes in search of safety and security
UN Office for
the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs