Dr. Al-Saqqaf’s Wife, Aziza: “I believe that there are still many Yemenis who stand by the truth without fearing anyone and at anytime” [Archives:1999/24/Interview]

June 14 1999

The whole country was shocked and saddened by the loss of Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, the publisher of Yemen Times. Not only Yemenis, but also Arabs and foreigners were depressed by this horrible development. But among all of these people there was one person who was saddened the most. She is his life companion, Mrs. Aziza Al-Saqqaf. Aziza is the mother of two boys and two girls.
Namely, Walid, Raydan, Nadia, and Haifa. She is 45 years old and was born in the Al-Hadharem village in the governorate of Taiz, in Al-Hugariya. Mrs. Aziza is the person who joined Dr. Abdulaziz in building his life brick by brick. She is the person who witnessed his good and bad times, his prosperous and needy times, and most important of all, his successes and failures. Aziza looks like any common Yemeni middle aged lady who comes from a good family. Yet all you need is to talk to her once to realize what a remarkable person she is. It’s enough for her that she is the late Dr. Alsaqqaf’s wife. Nadia Al-Saqqaf of the Yemen Times talked to Mrs. Aziza and filed the following interview:
Q: First of all, we offer our condolence for the death of your husband, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf. Could you give us a brief of how this happened?
A: On Wednesday evening, the 2nd of July 1999, I was waiting for my husband to come back from a lunch meeting with a few of his friends. He promised to come back from lunch before going back to work in the afternoon. When I noticed that he is late, I began to feel disturbed and worried that something might have happened to him. I told my elder son Walid to call the office and ask whether he is there or not. He called and couldn’t find him. So I waited for one more hour before demanded that Walid send a person from the Yemen Times office to go and ask the restaurant about him. At 3:50 Walid went to the office as usual. Then I received a telephone call from one of my husband’s friends saying that he was in the hospital because of an accident. I then fell unconscious. After sometime, I woke up to find my son Walid saying ” Dad is alive and will stay alive in our hearts. Don’t worry mom, I am here beside you, and I always stay there.” I then realized that everything was all over, I had lost my husband. Later I found out that he was hit by a speeding car while crossing the street. The accident was fatal, and he died. May God have mercy upon his soul.
Q: What do you think of the accident?
A: As I understood from the Traffic Police report, the accident was not intentional but the investigations are still underway. I just want the driver to be punished severely for he killed my beloved husband,and nothing in the whole world can be substituted for him. All we can do now is pray for him, that God will let his soul rest in heaven.
Q: We pray for him too. Let us now go back in time. When and how did you marry Dr. Alsaqqaf?
A: Dr. Abdulaziz is my cousin. We lived in the same village. I was quite young then, around 19 years old. After he finished high school in Taiz, he proposed for me, and my father and I accepted him, and we got married and moved to Sana’a. It was merely a coincidence that our names are similar, but it was our destiny to get married and live a happy life together.
Q: What about your life after marriage, how was it affected?
A: After staying a while in Sana’a with my husband, my husband was granted a scholarship from the Washington-based Fulbright Associations. We then traveled to the USA and my husband enrolled in a Ph.D. program there. After returning to Yemen, I obtained my high school diploma. However, that was not enough for my husband, for he encouraged me to go for higher studies. And so I did. Although I had three children by then, I studied hard and succeeded in getting my bachelors degree from the Faculty of Education of Sana’a University in English Literature. When we went to the USA for the second time, I obtained another diploma in teaching English as a second language.
Q: Are you a housewife?
A: No, I do have a job. After returning to Yemen the second time in 1985, I started teaching English at Khowla School. I am still a teacher there today, and I will try to continue teaching even after my husband’s death.
Q: Do you think you are a career woman?
A: Not really. I have my priorities. Especially now that my husband is dead, I believe I should give more attention to my home and children. Taking care of them is my first duty. As for my job, I work for my own pleasure. I did some research in education at Jordan University for the Faculty of Education when we were there in 1990.
Q: You seem to have visited many countries with your husband, did that effect your attitude generally?
A: Very much. Anyone who travels out of Yemen and sees the world around him/her, he/she realizes the true dimensions of his country’s ranking in the world. Unfortunately, whenever I am away, I feel sorry for my country.
Q: So, what have you done for your country so far?
A: I haven’t done much. But I believe I raised my children to become very beneficial for their country, just like their father. I assure you that time will tell how well they have been raised. I also do my job as a teacher honestly. I am a member of many charities. I helped my husband a lot in improving our village. One of my most influential contributions to my rural area in Al-Hadharem was the establishing and running of the Al-Hadharem Women Vocational Training Center.
Q: Can you tell us more about this center?
A: The center was established in 1994. It had three sections: stitching, literacy and household. Registration and enrollment in the center was absolutely free of charge. The lessons provided were in two shifts five days a week. We had many students coming from all over the region. I was the principal and tried hard to make the center as organized and influential as possible. The center distributed authorized certificates. I am happy to tell you that many of our students found jobs because of the training they obtained at our center. Some of them even have designed and produced their own goods, which were sold fairly cheaply. We also used to offer the students of the center monthly supplies of flour, sugar, milk, oil, cheese, peas and other goods all for free. It was a great hassle trying to manage all that as well as discipline but with God’s support and hard work it was a clear success.
Q: Did you face any difficulties being Dr. Alsaqqaf’s wife?
A: Yes and no. He was a very busy man. He was so busy that his children would sometimes not see him in the house the whole day. I remember that my youngest child, Ray, once asked me if his father was out of Sana’a because he hadn’t seen him for three consecutive days. I had to do everything myself. Taking care of the children, going to work, managing the house, and receiving my husband’s guests were all part of my duty. Nevertheless, all of that gave me pleasure. I felt that the hectic life I led gave my world a colorful meaning. I knew my time was spent on something useful instead of nothing. Many Yemeni wives use their leisure in spending long hours in useless chatting with other women. But I am a person who isn’t used to doing that because our life style forced us to find more useful things to do. Having my husband, the late Dr. Al-Saqqafs as our idol, we built an ideal kind of life, which we should always thank him for.
Q: Do you face any difficulty now that your husband has passed away?
A: Of course! Our loss is not small. We are now trying to cope with our life without my husband. But it is certainly not easy. As Dr. Al-Saqqaf’s family, we are doing all we can to try and be strong and stick together all the time. We will do it, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of making my beloved husband feel proud that he raised us so well that we could depend on ourselves and carry on life without weakening or giving up. He taught us how to be strong and survive in any circumstance. We cherish his memories and the least we can do now is to keep his spirit among us and to carry on life without him, but with all the lessons he taught us.
Q: What does Yemen Times mean to you?
A: In the beginning, I was annoyed at the idea of establishing a newspaper in English. I knew that it would be a difficult task to accomplish, and I thought of the possibility of the state shutting it down for his courageous and frank articles that might not please the leaders. But later on I began to get used to it. I remember I used to cry about his leaving us early in the morning and coming at night! Most of the time he wouldn’t even have his meals at home as if home had turned to a hotel or something. Whenever he released a dangerous article in the front page of the paper, we used to feel worried that trouble might result from it. My husband liked Yemen Times so much that sometimes I got jealous of it. I even had a thought of it as his second wife! After years and years of hard work, my husband started to be heard, and I would feel the pride in his eyes when he discovered that his messages reached millions of readers in the world. I began to like everything he does and started to appreciate his efforts. In fact, I felt equally responsible for continuing the Yemen Times and strengthening it. He used to say that it’s his third daughter, and I used to get irritated. Now I agree, and we will never give it up.
Q: Are there any regrets?
A: I do regret the whole situation of my country. I love Yemen and it hurts to see what it is like today. I keep wishing everything would be right and that Yemen would catch up with the first world countries and become ” Alyamen Alsaidah” happy Yemen. I do regret the situation of the unimplemented laws in the country. If traffic laws were implemented, would my husband still be beside me? I do not want other people to suffer because of the corruption in the country and the ineffectiveness in implementing the laws in this country. I lost my husband and don’t want other women to lose theirs. The government and leadership must stand up to what is happening and try to implement the rules, for the sake of our children’s future.
Q: How do you think could rules in Yemen be respected and implemented?
A: If everybody does his/her job promptly and honestly, I think that should be enough. Yemen doesn’t lack resources. I’m also sorry that deforestation has become more apparent day after day. I do my share as I have planted trees around my house and hope everybody does that too. If only Yemenis would work instead of chewing qat, we could do something good for the country. I met many Yemenis abroad who were successful people and respected in their fields. They all think that qat is the reason behind Yemenis’ troubles. I wish all those Yemeni talents were to be utilized by the government in their own country instead of somewhere else.
Q: Any closing statement?
A: The whole of Yemen was saddened by the loss of Dr. Al-Saqqaf. I want you to all to try and fight for his goals, fight for his principles, and try to be courageous and never fear death. For the only thing one can get out of this world is one’s work. As the late stated ” the basic source of wealth should be one’s work”. Take care of yourselves by taking care of your country. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Stay clean mentally as well as physically. Stop wasting your time and get going. Do something fruitful, you will eventually gain the fruit. I believe that there still are many Yemenis who stand for the truth without fearing anyone anytime. As long as these people exist, I know that Dr. Abdulaziz is still alive and will never die.