Yemeni journalist Redhwan Al-Sharif: “Trapped in my country for my profession”
by Anna Lisa Maugeri
DW(ITALIA).Being a journalist is a mission in some areas of the world more than in others. When writing reality means opposing an army or a regime, every article, every reportage, every word is tantamount to risking one’s freedom or even one’s life. In the case of Redhwan Al-Sharif, the words used as a means of telling reality are on the one hand the cause that made him prisoner in his country, and on the other the ransom, the escape from that cage thanks also to the world of web and online newspapers that those words have accepted.
I had the great privilege of working with Redhwan Al-Sharif; read the dramatic reality that Yemen is experiencing and facing today through his writings, I asked myself a question: why do most western media not deal enough with this massacre?
Redhwan Al-Sharif was present in Italy through the pages of the Daily Worker, for whom he collaborated in the demonstration of professionalism and humanity. Interviewing him and making him known to all of you is a duty and an honor.
Redhwan Al-sharif is a Yemeni journalist, was born in Saudi Arabia and grow up in Sana’a, Yemen. He has a bachelor’s degree in Mass faculty of communication. He works as a journalist with many local and international media. He published many articles, news, press reports on social, political, rights and freedoms, women’s rights, and children’s education.
Today I introduce you to Redhwan Al-Sharif.
Redhwan Al-Sharif, when and how did your passion for journalism begin?
When I was in secondary school, the neighborhood where I lived “Beni Hawat” there were a lot of poor people and nobody knew about them.
Some published press works In the newspapers by journalist Redhwan Al-SharifA man with a motor disability came and told me that he wanted an electric chair but he did not have the money to buy the chair, so I told him that I will help. I wrote to the authority of Yemen in Sana’a an article about the man with motor disability and that he wanted help to see the sun outside, then he replied that he will buy the electric chair and asked me to Bring the handicapped man with me to receive the chair. So that was the beginning of my entry into the world of journalism, after that, I decided to study at the Faculty of Mass Communication, and use my pen to help people and get their suffering to the decision-makers.
In 2011 the Arab Spring gets to “Yemen” and the youth revolution came out against the previous regime. I was a journalist working with “Marib Press”, the most famous and important news website in Yemen. I covered the Yemeni events, and the news that I wrote spread. Many of the international media relied on the news, I send which I wrote from Change Square in the middle of Sana’a.
You told the dramatic consequences of the war in Yemen, but you gave readers the opportunity to look at the beauty of the Yemeni people, places and culture too. Why is it important to tell about disaster and oppression, but also to remind everyone of the beauty and strength of the yemeni people?
My writings get published in the official Yemeni and independent newspapers, I write about social issues, environment, poverty, epidemics, and women’s rights.
The war on Yemen by the Saudi led-coalition increased the suffering of the Yemeni
people, the war and the siege increased the spread of diseases, I wrote press reports
about cholera, diphtheria, and showed the world the suffering of children and women. First of all, I am a journalist, and it is my mission to show the reality of life in this disastrous situation because many media outlets are shadowing the truth
War and airstrikes destroyed the heritage of Yemen. I tried to get the world’s attention to the Yemeni heritage before it gets destroyed. Yemen is a beautiful country and has a history and civilization.
My duty as a journalist is to show people around the world more about Yemeni culture, heritage, archaeological features, confusion, customs, and traditions, as the world must know the truth of what is happening In this great country, most of our ancestors are simple people who do not deserve to live in the shadow of war, poverty and displacement for five years, or maybe more as no one knows when the war will have an end. War, corruption, poverty, and ignorance, too, are forced to all Yemenis, and every effort was made to remain people in the dark and that what is known about this country is only terrorism and war.
The current situation is a coercive, forcing children to live in hunger and disease, for girls deprived of education for young people, losing their futures and dreams, and for the elderly to live in grief and pain over the future of their families. Yemenis are strong people and have proven their ability to go through many crises, for example, the gas crisis. Many women have used firewood and garbage to make food. The power outage crisis for about five years. Solar energy has been used as an alternative to electricity. The siege of medicines, Yemenis used natural herbs, but this does not mean that they deserve to keep living under this suffering in life.
Yemenis should see the light that comes from knowledge and education, before even having to see the light of electricity, as they have to have awareness of their rights and freedoms before anything.
What does it mean to be a journalist in a war-torn country like Yemen?
My pen has put my life in real danger and made my friends as the enemies the most dangerous job in Yemen is to be a journalist, I am an independent journalist and expose the violations of both sides independently and this is dangerous at the recent time because independent journalists are the target of the two warring sides.
Journalists in Yemen are under attack from all sides As rival forces crackdown on critics and threats can come from all sides, without exception. I never imagined that one day my pen would become a danger to my life, since the beginning of the war on March 26, 2014, Yemen changed and was shredded. We journalists in Yemen were torn by the war, when I wrote about the danger of dividing Yemen and the UAE’s plans to control Yemeni ports and islands. My friend Majid, is a journalist in Aden city, in the south of Yemen, sent me and said, stop writing or I will put you on the list of enemies.
When I wrote about the Saudi airstrikes that targeted civilians and killed many innocent people, also one of my journalists’ friends Ibrahim from Marib city, called me and said that I am with the Houthis and if I don’t stop writing, my house will be targeted by an airstrike.
When I wrote about journalists arrested in Sana’a and about the cut of salaries of employees, I was threatened by phone calls and messages of threatening being sent on social media. That is why I am now trapped in my country because of my profession. My pen has become the enemy of my life, and my writing has become a proof of guilt.
Despite all the danger surrounding my pen, I managed using this pen to convey the suffering of the Yemeni citizen and became loudly wrapped around the world in three languages Arabic, English, and Italian. I write, photograph and publish. I was prevented from writing in the Yemeni media, but other international newspapers opened their doors to me, such as the Daily Worker newspaper that published my writings, Also, the Lambert International Academy has published my book “The Yemeni Press In The Face Of War”.
In your experience as journalist, of all the things you have seen and told, what news or story has left its mark on your life, making you feel the importance and nobility of your work?
My experience as a journalist has made me feel that I am the voice of the poor and the hungry and the sick when I wrote a press report about the famine, the words of the people I interviewed, have been following me and made me proud that my pen was carving the pain screaming from inside their hearts, whenever someone threatens me I do not get afraid, and when I know that I am trapped In my country, I cannot travel because of the checkpoints. I remember the innocent tears that are the energy that drives me to keep going no matter what.
How would you describe the Yemeni people to the rest of the world today?
The Yemeni people are facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. A dirty war has made Yemeni citizens victims. The people in Yemen have a history and great civilization, also they are kind and peaceful, also, Yemeni women are great because they fight for children. Yemeni women have a message of strength in life and a powerful weapon against the difficulties of life. The Yemeni citizen has patience and courage during wartime.
Tell us about your book “Yemeni press in the face of war”, published in electronic and printed book on 15 Nov 2019 by the German publishing house LAP.
“Yemeni press in the face of war” is a title of my book. I have been writing articles during the current war in Yemen showing how the war has affected millions of Yemeni citizens, also how children and women have become the victims of the continues conflict. The war changed the reality and future of Yemen also, has increased the suffering of the people. I wrote about the blockade imposed on Yemen and the negative effects that caused it and lead the country to go through the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
The book contains a collection of articles regarding war in Yemen and specifically mentioning the great damage of war and how it has been a huge fatal to the humanity and making them victims of diseases, hunger, displacement, murder, literacy, unemployment, the deterioration of the economy and spread epidemic in the country. The reasons that prompted me to publish the book are first, I am a Yemeni journalist who has been affected by the war on a personal level and has been experiencing many of this violation against the journalism world and it’s freedom. Furthermore, people in Yemen are experiencing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and here comes my duty to send the tragic reality by my writing to get normal life to this country back.
The conflict between the Saudi-led coalition of Gulf countries and the Government of Yemen against the Ansar-Allah movement (also known as the Houthis), which escalated in March 2015, has so far caused more than 70 thousands civilian deaths and injuries. The country’s economy has been shattered, countless homes, warehouses, farms and vital parts of the civilian infrastructure have been destroyed, Basic services, like health or water supply, are collapsing and The flow of food – nearly 90 percent of which had to be imported even before the conflict started – have been massively disrupted by the warring parties. Prices are continuing to rise, while many of the poorest people have lost their incomes.
Now an estimated 19 million Yemenis, 80 percent of the population, are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition, including 2 million children. Besides, Yemen is facing the world’s worst-ever recorded cholera outbreak, which has spread to nearly every corner of the war-ravaged country.
Yemen faces the triple threat of war, disease, and hunger. Continuing conflict, airstrikes, and restrictions on imports have left people facing famine. For millions of Yemeni women, men and children, life remains a daily struggle and violence a constant threat.
12 Million Yemeni Children Were Born During War and It Is Their Future if it will not be stopped! An average of five children has been killed or injured every day since Yemen’s civil war sparked in March 2015, according to the report, “Born into War”.
An entire generation of children in Yemen is growing up knowing nothing but violence. Children in Yemen are suffering the devastating consequences of a war that is not of their making. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the violence, displacement, disease, lack of quality food, and emotional trauma that have accompanied this ongoing conflict. All those were written in my book.
What are your next projects? What does Redhwan Al-Sharif dream about the future?
My next projects are to open independent news channels instead of sites that have been confiscated from me by the two governments in Yemen.
I have a dream is that war in Yemen has an end, that the siege is lifted, peace returns, freedom of expression returns and I write freely and my life and my family’s life will be safe.
You can find all the reports made by Redhwan Al-Sharid for Daily Worker at the link https://dailyworker.it/author/redhwan/ and follow his videos on the YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC96UKQhqDbtZSZQ4Rrt7zZQ