Yemen: Art, love, bombs and bans\By Dorian Geiger


Yemen: Art, love, bombs and bans

Yemen’s most prolific street artist copes with Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

Subay’s artistic campaigns invite everyday Yemenis to pick up a paint brush or can of spray paint and participate in his art [Al Jazeera]


Dorian Geiger is a Canadian journalist, award-winning filmmaker, and a social video producer at Al Jazeera English.

They call him the Banksy of Yemen. ButMurad Subay, a 29-year-old street artist based in the capital Sanaa, shrugs off such comparisons.

Subay has transformed the streets of an active war zone into his own vibrant gallery. His canvases are often the ruins of war – crumbling, abandoned houses with gaping holes caused by mortar explosions.

“It is three letters only: W-A-R,” said Subay of his work, which continually shines a light on Yemen’s horrific humanitarian situation.

“It’s just to show the ugliness of war – this is what happens by war. This is my way to to protest against the injustice of this war and for peace.”

Subay’s work also focuses on Yemen’s dire economic situation, political corruption, disappeared persons, and US drone strikes.

‘It’s just to show the ugliness of war – this is what happens by war. This is my way to to protest against the injustice of this war and for peace’ [Photo courtesy of Murad Subay]

Yemen’s revolution, which unfolded on streets across the country on the heels of the Arab Spring just over six years ago, largely inspired his brand of artistic activism. Subay was there with the people, protesting in the streets of Sanaa. Those blissful but fleeting moments were short-lived, as the revolution would soon turn into a full-blown civil war.

“Yemenis were united in every part of Yemen,” said Subay. “It was a great moment. We loved it. When the revolution came, it never stops and it will continue.”

Unlike many street artists, who often work in the shadows, Subay’s work is a collaborative effort. Subay’s artistic campaigns invite everyday Yemenis to pick up a paintbrush or a can of spray paint and participate in his art. It’s an artistic approach he says is for the people, by the people.

“It’s a voice of [the people],” he described. “I’m a Yemeni. When I discuss something, I first [ask] what people should care about, what they are afraid of, and what [are] the issues that concern them? People are longing to end this war.”

His open-sourced style of art is what led him to his wife Hadil Almowafak. Almowafak, then in high school, had learned of one of Subay’s campaigns on social media. It was 2012, shortly after Yemen’s revolution and the ousting of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

She was mixing colours when Subay first approached her.

The happy couple are now separated and do not know when they will see each other again [Photo courtesy of Murad Subay]

“When we arrived we saw people painting on the walls,” she recalled. “Everyone was there. That was something new. People in the streets were standing by watching or [were] taking the brush and started painting. He wants to make the whole society part of his work.”

From then on, Almowafak was hooked – on both Subay and his art.

“Even if I had school, many times I would skip school just to go paint with them,” she added.

Three years later, in October 2015, the pair celebrated their wedding. By that time, civil war had broken out in Yemen.

Today, Houthi rebels and loyalists to former president Saleh are still engaged in a bloody battle against the current government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. A Saudi Arabian-led coalition – aligned with Hadi, and supported by the US – bombs the country routinely. It’s a fertile breeding ground for al-Qaeda, which the US frequently targets with drone strikes, and there’s an ISIL presence, too. But more often than not it seems, it is everyday Yemenis who pay the cost, often with their lives.

Just last week, a botched Navy Seals raid targeting al-Qaeda killed roughly 30 people, many of them civilians and some of them children, in President Donald Trump’s first attempt at military intervention in the country.

Subay’s work also focuses on Yemen’s dire economic situation, political corruption, disappeared people and US drone strikes [Photo courtesy of Murad Subay]

Tens of thousands have died in the fighting, many of them regular citizens. Hospitals and schools and have been bombed to bits, starvation is rampant and UNICEF has reported that a child dies every 10 minutes.

“Every day you hear of civilians being killed,” said Almowafak, now 21.

“When you hear air strikes, especially if it’s nearby, the whole house will be shaking. At night, you don’t know where they’re going to hit, especially [if] you’ve been hearing they’re targeting civilians. You’re always in this uncertainty. You don’t know if you’re going to be next, if your neighbour’s going to be next. It was insane. They will be firing at each other. The shelling, you’ve got mortars, you’ve got snipers killing people. It’s just crazy.”

Then, last year, the couple received life-changing news: Almowafak had been accepted to Stanford University in California, where she is currently studying. Conditions in Yemen had deteriorated at such a swift and deadly pace that it was impossible for Almowafak to pursue a serious education at home.

The acceptance offer from such a prominent US university was a life-preserver amid a sea of death and destruction. It was a way out and a bridge to achieving her dreams. Almowafak had dreamed of coming to America since she was a child.

But under Trump’s immigration banthat prohibits citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, from entering the US for 90 days, Almowafak’s academic future has been cast into doubt.

Subay has transformed the streets of an active warzone into his own vibrant gallery [Photo courtesy of Murad Subay]

“It’s really unfair,” said Almowafak, who wants to be a human rights lawyer.

Although a federal judge in Seattle has temporarily blocked the ban, it is unclear if this will stick.

“I am disappointed to see America take this road. I do feel like I’m trapped, like when I was in Yemen and the airport was closed and people wouldn’t be able to travel. I felt trapped there, as well, but at least there was war. The war was unfair to us. But here in US, in the land of freedom, and this happens, I just couldn’t believe it.”

The US only granted her a 12-month visa for her studies, as opposed to a four-year permit, which Almowafak would need to continue studying. If the block on Trump’s ban doesn’t hold, Almowafak will probably be forced to abandon her studies and return to Yemen indefinitely.

“You’re at Stanford, that’s a good place to be trapped in,” said Almowafak. “It’s like it’s a golden cage. I can’t visit my husband. He cannot come here, as well. I cannot visit my family. I can’t study abroad. I came here to study and I cannot do that and in a year I won’t be able to if the ban continues. I’m holding on to hope because I don’t want to think about what’s going to happen next.”

Almowafak had planned to return to Yemen this summer to be with Subay, but now those plans are in jeopardy.

“The first time [I heard about the ban], I thought it was a joke actually,” said Subay. “[The US] is the country of opportunities, the country of democracy and in the 21st century, you ban people according to their race, their religion for their nationality? This is stupidity. This law is racist. It’s unbelievable. [It’s] like putting honest, innocent people in a prison.”

Though the odds are stacked against them, Subay refuses to believe that his wife must give up on her dreams.

“She’s been following this chance to have a scholarship for two years. I know, I was there every step,” he said.

“Our country is what they call the third world. Our chances [are] not a lot. It sometimes comes once. So such a chance, to prove yourself in such a respectable university, it is really important and [precious] so she must and she will stay there to continue her studies. She is very brilliant.”

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Continue reading “Yemen: Art, love, bombs and bans\By Dorian Geiger”

Ripped apart: Yemeni couple fearful after Muslim ban\ On “Aljazeera English”


Ripped apart: Yemeni couple fearful after Muslim ban

A young Yemeni artist shares his experience of being banned from visiting his wife, who studies in the US.
Murad Subay says the US Muslim ban is unjustified and feels certain the world will not be silent towards it [Courtesy of Murad Subay]
By: &

Prior to US President Donald Trump’s recent Muslim ban, Murad Subay, a Yemeni artist, never had to worry about being able to see his wife, Hadil, who studies in the US on a scholarship.

Following the recent executive order, which placed a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries including Yemen, seeing his wife again has become a distant dream.

Subay cannot travel to visit her and fears that if Hadil returns home, she will not be allowed back in the US. What was once a valuable opportunity for Hadil to study political science at Stanford University in California has now turned into a nightmare.

Subay is stuck in a war-ravaged country while his wife lives in a place where foreign Muslims are eyed with suspicion.

Here is Subay’s account of how the Muslim ban changed his life for ever.

READ MORE: Trump’s Muslim ban – This could never happen in America

My wife scored 94.5 percent in her high school final examination. Last year, she went to the US to complete her bachelors and masters.

I am astonished at how a country known for defending democracy is implementing such orders.

Today, she cannot return to her country whenever she likes so long as this decision stays in effect. This will negatively affect her studies and our life.

This ban is absolutely upsetting.

Hadil and I were planning to meet every summer. She can either come to Yemen or I can travel to see her in the US.

That was our plan.

However, with Trump’s Muslim ban in place, entering the US is impossible. Even if she decides to come to Yemen, she may not be able to return to the States.

This is a racist and unreasonable decision.

Now our families are worried about our future. We do not know what lies in store for us. We do not know if this ban will persist or be repealed.

Whatever the difficulties will be, Hadil is going to pursue her studies until 2020 as long as she is permitted to continue. However, the worrying matter is that she must leave America every year to another country where she can renew her visa in any American embassy. She cannot renew the visa in America.

READ MORE: Trump’s Muslim ban ‘will rip our family apart’

We will do our best to support her to complete her studies in America or elsewhere. In Yemen, the education system is weak and it is unfortunately being destroyed.

Hadil is ambitious and hardworking, and I will not let her down.

She got a scholarship to the US last year, and I was happy that she would be able to receive quality education there. We did not know time would change in America.

There is no justification for banning Muslims from entering the US. All those refugees or immigrants belonging to the seven banned countries including Yemen have not committed any terrorist acts. This is a politically motivated decision, and it intends to show off power and strictness.

Americans themselves will resist this racist decision. It is unreasonable for this unfair decision to succeed.

The majority of the countries targeted by this order are fragile. This is a big problem. We are living in the 21st century. I am astonished at how a country known for defending democracy is implementing such orders. This is an individual deed.

The protests against this decision are ongoing. I hope they will continue.

It would be impossible that the beacon of democracy and freedom blocks people from travelling on racist and religious grounds. Millions of people should not pay the price for terrorist acts carried out by some individuals.

This decision dishonours America.

The consequences of this decision are grave, and I do not think the world will let it pass unopposed. I believe the principles of democracy in America will not be easily abandoned.

As told to Khalid Al-Karimi and Mohammed Al-Sameai. 

Source: Al Jazeera News

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Yemenis condemn Trump visa restrictions STORY\ On “Reuters”


Yemenis condemn Trump visa restrictions STORY:

U.S. President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on Yemeni citizens travelling to the United States sparked panic and anger among Yemenis, with some describing the move as “racist” and “unjust”. The war-damaged and impoverished country in the south of the Arabian Peninsula is one of seven majority-Muslim countries whose citizens face a 90-day ban on entering the United States. Trump, a businessman who successfully tapped into American fears about terror attacks during campaigning for November’s presidential election, has also put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States.

   Speaking from the capital Sanaa, internationally renowned Yemeni street artist Murad Subay said the visa ban has effectively prevented him from seeing his wife, who is currently studying in the United States. “Unfortunately this is a decision that is going to affect millions of citizens in these countries. For me personally, my wife is a student at university in America. This is a totally racist decision,” said Subay. “We (my wife and I) can no longer meet after this decision. I, along with any nationals of these countries, will be completely prohibited from entering (the US). And if these people left the United States, they will be prevented from re-entering. This decision must be revised and Americans should oppose it,” Subay continued.

   The Houthi-led government in Sanaa also denounced the decision describing it as “illegal and illegitimate”.The Houthi-controlled news agency SABA quoted a foreign ministry source as saying the ministry was aware that such an action is the sovereign right of the U.S. government.

   But “the source said emphatically that any attempt to classify Yemen or its citizens as a possible source of terrorism and extremism was illegal and illegitimate”. Yemeni Human rights activist Radiyye al-Mutawakal said her office has received numerous calls from Yemenis tied to the United States asking questions about how the visa restrictions may apply to them.

   “This decision…affects many in Yemen, for example like those that reside in the United States but are currently visiting relatives (in Yemen) and they are wondering and concerned that they may not be able to return to America and to their lives there. This decision impacts many different segments and it is unjust,” she said. The Yemeni embassy in Washington issued an advisory on Sunday (January 29) for Yemenis already inside the United States not to leave the country until details of the visa ban and its ramifications are clarified.

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