Dr. Abdulaziz in Brief: A Man of Ideals and Integrity Biography of Professor Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf [Archives:1999/23/Front Page]

June 7 1999

Personal Data:
Full Name: Abdulaziz Yassin Al-Saqqaf
Date of Birth: 24th October 1951.
Place of Birth: Hadharem Village, Hugarriah, Taiz Governorate, Yemen
Marital Status: Married, and has four children
Educational Data:
Ph.D. in International Business: Harvard University and Fletcher School, USA
MPA: Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
MA: Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA
BA: Sanaa University, Sanaa, Yemen.
Since July 1997: Member of the Consultative Council
Since February 1991: Publisher and Chief Editor of Yemen Times
Since January 1980: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor at Sanaa University
Did other jobs at various times.
NGOs and Other Associations:
– Chairman: Hadharem Welfare Association
– Secretary-General: Yemen-American Friendship Association
– Founding Member and First Secretary-General: Yemeni Association of Economists & Businessmen
– Founding Member: Arab Thought Forum, Amman, Jordan
– Founding Member: Association of Arab Economists, Baghdad, Iraq
– Founding Member: Center for Media Forum – Middle East and North Africa (CMF  MENA)
– Member: American Economists Association
– Member: Middle East Studies Association (USA).
Human Rights Contributions:
Active for over 15 years in the promotion of human rights, especially with reference to children’s rights, women’s rights, minority rights, press freedom, etc. During this period, Mr. Al-Saqqaf was suspended from work (at Sanaa University for one year), was imprisoned seven times, beat up two times, and was subjected to numerous forms of harassment.
A: Examples of institutional contribution include:
– Founding Member: Arab Organization for Human Rights, Cairo, Egypt – 1982.
– Founding Member: Arab Thought Forum, Amman, Jordan – 1984.
– Co-Founder and Co-Sponsor: Yemeni Organization for Human Rights – 1986.
– Founder, Co-Sponsor & Executive Director: Yemeni Institute for Development of Democracy – 1994.
– Member: Committee to Protect Journalists, New York – 1995.
– Founder, Co-Sponsor and President: Elections Monitoring Committee – 1996.
– Co-Founder, Co-Sponsor and Honorary Chairman: Association for Protection of Child Rights – 1997.
– Co-Founder and Co-Sponsor: Amnesty International – Yemen Chapter – 1997.
– Founder, Co-Sponsor and Executive Director: National Committee to Combat Torture – 1998.
B: Examples of Achievements include:
– Arranged release of 2,017 prisoners during November 1997 through April 1998 from jails in Sanaa, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Taiz, Aden, Lahej, Dhamar and Ibb who were imprisoned without due process of law or without regard to their rights.
– Arranged release of Yemen’s most famous political prisoner, Mr. Mansoor Rajih.
– Arranged release of 27 underage prisoners and their transfer to orphanages in Taiz and Aden.
– Arranged release of 44 mentally disturbed prisoners and their transfer to asylums in Taiz and Sanaa
– Promotion of women’s rights through lectures and television talk shows.
– Worked to protect Rights of Muwalladeen (Yemenis born of African mothers) who suffer from racism and other forms of discrimination.
– As Chairman of the Human Rights Committee at the Consultative Council (Upper House) organized and prompted hearings regarding many aspects of protecting human rights.
– As Chairman of the Human Rights Committee at the Consultative Council (Upper House) proposed law drafts and action regarding many aspects of protecting human rights.
Published 8 books.
Published 42 articles published in different parts of the world.
Many articles in Yemen Times, other local media and international newspapers/magazines.
Highly computer-literate.
Can speak, read and write Arabic, English and French.
Well-travelled, having participated in many international gatherings of different sorts.
Recipient of International Freedom of the Press Award: 1995; Washington DC.
Recipient of The Queen of Sheba Title for Services to the Nation: Yemen; 1996
Ranking Professor of Economics in the Republic of Yemen.
  Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf and the UNESCO Prize
At the end of last November, 1998, I found two nomination forms on my office desk sent by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), asking me to nominate two candidates from the Arab World for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The prize is  announced every year in Paris on May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day. 
This is possibly the first time that this prestigious award, estimated at $25,000, has gone to an Arab journalist. Therefore I was filled  with joy and happiness, and I was thankful for the chance of not only being a spectator but also a participant in the Arab presence in the World of Press. As far as I know, this estimable prize has been exclusively conferred on journalists from Latin America and Africa in the past. The UNESCO prize for last year, 1998, went to Ms. Christina Annyanew, a well-known journalist and pro-democracy activist from Nigeria, Africa. 
I must confess that I wanted to represent my country, Yemen, in this international event without overlooking the broader lines or the prerequisites demanded for this nomination. I also found myself in unfamiliar territory, as I felt I should strike a delicate balance between my local  and pan-Arab national sentiments. 
However, the nomination form states that the candidate should have had a brilliant record in the defense of freedom of expression, through his press work. The nominee should have dedicated his entire career either inside his small community or across the borders of the Arab World to this goal. 
On the first nomination form, I unhesitatingly wrote down the name of Professor Salahuddin Hafez, a well-known journalist in Egypt who has been an outstanding activist in the field of press freedom. Mr. Hafez has also left impressive fingerprints on the International level through his membership in a number of international associations and organizations concerned with the defense of human rights, primarily freedom of opinion and expression. Professor Hafez recently became the Secretary General of the Arab Journalists Union and the Managing Editor of the Cairo based Al-Ahram International Newspaper. 
On the second form I put down the name of Professor Abdlulaziz Al-Saqqaf, the founder of the first English Yemeni Newspaper, the Yemen Times, which has  become a true portrait of the Yemeni experience in Democracy and Freedom of the Press. Moreover, Professor Al-Saqqaf has contributed significantly to the defense of civil liberties, not only through his excellent newspaper the Yemen Times, but also through his important post as the Chairman of Human rights, civil liberties & NGO Committees, in the Consultative Council. 
On November 12th 1998, Mr. Alain Modoux, Secretary of the Jury, UNESCO/Guillermo Cano, World Press Freedom Prize, sent me a reply in which he acknowledge the receipt of the nomination form for Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf and informed me that the Jury will be meeting before the end of the year to deliberate on the nominations. The chosen candidates, Mr. Modoux said, will be  made known on 3 May 1999, World Press Freedom Day. 
So far, nothing has been reported as to  the winner of this year’s prize, nor the relevant resolutions of the Jury in which Mr. Modoux works as a Secretary. However, I remember that Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf asked for my permission to publish something about the nomination letter that I received from the  UNESCO. I told him that it was better that we should wait till the Jury reached its final decision so that we can  give the occasion its becoming  celebration. Thus this piece of news has remained a sort of secret until now, after the passing away of its subject Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf. 
Now I know that Mr. Alain Modoux is closely acquainted with both Professor Al-Saqqaf and Professor Hafez, as the  two of them are his intimate friends and have been always respected by the UNESCO at large. Nevertheless, I cannot tell whether the sad news has reached Mr. Modoux of the tragic death of his friend just a few days ago. Nor can I tell whether he is also aware of the fact that Professor Salahuddin Hafez has recently returned from New York after having been hospitalized for four months. Unfortunately, it is said that he is having trouble with a serious disease. Let us pray for his quick recovery. 
Ms. Christina Annyanew, the Nigerian Journalist, received the news of her winning of the UNESCO World Prize in jail, where she is locked behind bars to spend a 15 year sentence. The great message of the UNESCO has been felt in Nigeria as well as in whole Africa. Now the question is, will the same great message reach us here in Yemen, even after the passing away of its subject, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf? 
By: Mahboub Ali
Chairman of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate