Students for Responsible Policies in Yemen

It started straightforwardly, with a message:
Please share this petition against America’s drone campaign! If we get 100,000 signatures, the White House has to respond, and we have a chance to save countless lives.

The petition read:
Curb America’s drone campaigns in Southwest and Central Asian countries, including Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
America’s drone campaigns are morally, legally and strategically irresponsible.

Morally: Distance from the battlefield produces psychological detachment in soldiers/technicians. Civilian tolls are high and ´´signature strikes´´ target people whose identities are not even known.

Legally: Amnesty Internationaland Human Rights Watch have documented the legal issues with drone strikes.

Strategically: Drone campaigns turn public opinion against the US, empowering groups like Al Qaeda ( AQAP membership has swelled as a result of America’s drone war.
Mr. President, please use your final months in office to curb the drone program and end “signature strikes.” ‘


Surprised, I said we wanted to know more about how they came to think about Yemen under the drones as we wanted to give more light to this  action and he replied: ‘ I just know that drones are a major issue in Yemen. I am president of my university’s “Students for Responsible Policies in Yemen” club, and we are trying to make a difference in our government.’
He added: ´A lot of it is because Yemen is so forgotten. No one in the US seems to care, which I think is so sad and wrong, especially because the American military plays such a big role in Yemen’s problems.’

Do you have a website or reading material so we can blog it also? And why Yemen?
´I did write this article Rethinking America´s role in Yemen, but we don’t have much of an online presence yet – we are a brand new group! If we have anything more in the future I will definitely send it to you.’
He actually thanked us for what we are doing while we were thinking: someone cares and is asking Obama to do something, at least in his last 9 months of presidency.
His name is Ben Gladstone. Pen it down.



Not alone

Hadn´t the war occured, I would have never felt cosmic solitude, abandonment.
That definite feeling of having fallen in the silence of the universe, of having been forgotten.
Feeling still lingers on. It appears, sharply or mildy, according to the days. Moments.
War never leaves us but reality has proved us wrong; we have never been totally alone.
Below is a message received through social media from a total stranger:

“No words can describe the suffering of people in the Republic of Yemen.
I live several thousands of kilometers from Yemen but my heart can feel your sufferings 
and pains.
My deepest sympathies go to those who have lost their loved ones. Your homes, hospitals, schools, markets and food stores are torn to pieces and not to forget your civil infrastructures. Your country is also besieged so there is barricades of food, medicines etc which you need very badly to just survive. And all this is happening while the world stood silent to the war in Yemen.
War is evil to mankind as it cause innocent poor countries to suffer, whilst the offensive rich allies take pride in their brutal killings and helping the weapons industries to prosper.
May God the sole creator of infinite have mercy to the people of Yemen. My best wishes to friends in Yemen . Wassallam.
Zainal Abidin”

He added this picture. His post went viral.



My dead people usually never talk to me. They never appear, guide me. They never even smile to me, in my dreams.
Once my people leave, they leave for something like forever. The rest of my lifetime without them is the eternity  I face.
Last time we met was in the 90s, just before Christmas. We never managed to fix a cracked relationship, though.
Relatives got in our way I believe, or other people I do not even know.
You were not an easy Grandmother, I was not a delightful member of the family.
You were a conservative, I found out later in life; at the time, to me, you were just different from my friends´ grandmothers.
You were the one who tried to explain to me that no, squatters are not entitled to homes just because they have no job and those bedsheets hanging out of windows stating ´Homes for all´ mean nothing if you do not pay the rent. And your tone meant ´Period, no further discussion´.
Two decades later you bought the apartment upstairs just to get rid of noisy tenants who used to party till late. An empty apartment to give room to silence.
When you asked about the newspaper I was writing on, I rushed with words. I was so proud to tell you it was financed by the provincial Communist party: it gave officiality to the project.
Your mouth moved and I made things worse adding ´´The place where we meet is very basic. Just chairs and a table. There is a poster of Ho Chi Minh..´´. I told you you were different: you knew who he was.
To you I was an activist just because for Christmas my cards were bought from Greenpeace. But you were proud I remembered Christmas and sent my cards at the beginning of December so to make sure the receivers felt thought. Etiquette .
Thanks to you and Grandpa, I managed to go to good schools, travel around the world. I did things unthinkable to my friends.
If I can walk well now I owe it to you: you always took care of my orthopedic shoes. I hated them. I wanted to have shoes like yours: normal, light.
My passion for books comes also from you but I did not share your passion for hiking and skiing.
I remember your perfume, in this moment. And your skin. Our holidays together, your stories from what seems to be another world.
You passed away and no one had any reason to inform me. I found out after long.
We had not spoken in more than a decade.
My dead people usually never talk to me.
But you did appear in my dream. In a night when the planes seemed just over my head, when I felt I was forgotten by everyone, when I was thinking that if it had to end that same night, I would not be able to understand the meaning of life.
A night I was hugging the dogs and falling asleep every now and then to wake up to the sound of the missiles.
You appeared sitting in my room, on the corner of a bed I had placed close to the window to feel, stupidly, more protected while I was sleeping on the floor.
You were wearing a red jersey dress, Grandma. You looked just the same: skinny and classy.
While holding a piece of paper with some telephone numbers, you looked at me and said: ´´I will protect you´´.
Now I know you have never abandoned me and you know what I do in life. You know I have fallen in love with a far away land, its history and people. You know I am looking for kindness and compassion in the world, that I am still an idealist, support all the lost causes, never keep quiet, have never compromised. You know how tough it has been, at times.
I am aware I am not whom you wanted me to be, Grandma. But do not worry: I am not a squatter.
I have always paid my rent.

picture: Atlantic Monthly. CA Illustration Annual, 2007, Chris Lyons