Yesterday was simultaneously one of the most comforting and disheartening days I’ve had in a long time. Celebrating Nowruz with a family I’ve come to know, the day in the mountains epitomized everything I know about community: love, family, food, taking care of elders, laughter, dancing, and patriotism.
Yet at the same time, yet another tragedy hit Yemen, two suicide bombs in mosques, targeting people praying, of all things. Up until yesterday, friends, say, Sana’a was as safe and quiet as they had remembered it in years. Fewer checkpoints, calmer nights, and any sort of violence moving toward the south. Yet after the carnage that killed 150 people broke not only bodies, but hearts.
This sounds so cheesy and like I’m writing on a trope, but I’m really not. I think one of the strongest things that makes photography effective is love. In the three years I’ve lived there, I have not just been based in Yemen, but I have developed relationships, gone through emotions, and care about my friends and neighbors, just as I know they care about me. This is obviously not possible for all people in all situations or countries, but because of my love for people in Yemen, I want all the more for the outside world to know and see the truth about the country, rather than just dusty overhead views of protests and burning tires, shot on one day and one street.
I’ve encountered some journalists (obviously not all) who go through the motions in a country, talking about fixers as just people who “work for them” and running quickly through interview questions about a death toll without empathizing with their situation, without really trying to feel what the people of that country feel.
Though I’m not a citizen of Yemen, I feel like I am losing the country I fell in love with three years ago. But then I remember the ordinary citizens are those who make up a country. In this time of uncertainty I am thinking of Abdul Moghany the corner store owner next to my house, the family that sells fries and cheese sandwiches next to the domed mosque I’ve never entered, Am Ali who sells the richest tea in the city and gives it to his cats as well, the family that just opened a corner store selling sweets and cakes their wives have made, the shwarma shop that insists on giving me 2 free sandwiches every time I walk buy, the juice stand in Tahrir that knows I buy carrot orange juice nearly every day, the strawberry juice stand that knows I like my juice ice cold and my friends just room temperature, and the countless families I lunch with on the weekends.
As the situation has grown more unstable, I have seen the faces of my friends grow weary, from hopeful youth post-revolution, to ones with stubble and tired eyes too old for their faces. Thank God for the faith of ordinary Yemenis, because the “wisdom” of the country’s leaders is failing them. الإيمان يمان والحكمة يمانية