In many ways we Yemenis are an unremarkable people. Babies are born, families argue, tribes fight and protect, we cry for lost loved ones.
Life goes on.
The exceptional thing about us is that we continue to do this while our president drops bombs on us.
In Yemen, current governance is a blood sport.
Yet Yemen’s President Saleh has more than mere arms in his arsenal. Casting the economy back to the Stone Age is a much underreported act of terror on the people. Over seven million Yemenis do not have enough food to eat. Unicef, the UN children’s agency, warns that malnutrition levels are as severe as Somalia.
Children continue to die.
The UK co-chairs the Friends of Yemen group of countries which in the past has encouraged much richer Gulf donors to give aid, but billions of pounds of promised aid has yet to hit our unhappy land in earnest.
We must get the message out. Today, UK Yemenis had a traditional breakfast with development ministers in a call for more aid to stave off starvation for millions. Outside DFID we took food together, civil servants and activists alike, we agreed that more could be done; more must be done. Yemen is at the top of DFID’s concerns; it continues to increase its focus on and its aid to Yemen, for which we British taxpaying Yemenis are both proud and grateful.
That’s just the start. Wherever you are, do something – anything – to tell the world about this silent disaster. And please give what you can to Unicef’s children of Yemen appeal.
Food, electricity, clothing, everything – Yemenis are fighting for their lives and their livelihoods.
A note to Obama. Visit the Yemen protest camps and you’ll find imaginations set free in a world of debate, of poetry, song, art, satire and drama. You’ll also see the bullet holes. The very best of humanity meets the very worst. Yemen is not a choice between President Saleh and Al Qaeda. Everything that is beautiful in human creation lies in the space between those two evils. Everything we are fighting for. Support us.
Obama, drop by Change Square for some freedom tea or perhaps some…
Make it. Take it to work. Share it with you neighbours. Spread the word, share the flavour.
• Tin each of haricot beans and red beans
• Oil for frying
• One large onion, finely chopped
• Two large tomatoes, chopped
• Two garlic cloves, sliced
• Teaspoon of ground cumin
• 2 medium green chillis, sliced
• Handful of green corriander
• Dash of lemon juice
• Salt and pepper
Open the tins and drain the beans, reserving the water from the tins. Fry the onion, chillies and garlic with the chopped tomatoes. Add the cumin and the coriander. Cook gently, mixing in the beans, lemon, salt and pepper and half the bean water. Continue to cook over a medium heat, adding water if it dries out too much, until cooked through. Serve garnished with more parsley, lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.
No knives and forks here: serve with pitta, khubz, or baguette to scoop up the beans. It tastes better that way.
For Fawzia Mubgar (February 1939 – October 2011)
Democracy now. Saleh must go.