Ramdan Kareem Ya Khaiwani [Archives:2008/1186/Viewpoint]

September 1 2008

Nadia Al-Saqqaf
Now that today is the first day of the holy month of Ramdan, automatically the hearts and behaviors of most Muslims soften. Today as I think of my friends and family and congratulate them on the Holy Month, my heart goes out to my collogue Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani who will be keeping fast (if his health permits) and spending Eid behind bars for no legitimate reason.

Al-Khaiwani is probably the most famous Yemeni journalist of today who has been continuously harassed and taken to prison more than once. He has become a legend and a hero to many Yemeni journalists.

Some of us don't dare to write about the things he had written, and some don't agree with his ideas. Some even think he was mad to have put himself out there as a brave and perhaps rash journalist considering he knew the consequences.

But he still did it, and has no regrets, or so he says.

When he was out of prison last year we had a talk and I asked him why he was doing this, making an enemy of the government. He said someone has to do it, someone has to stand up and say no.

I was impressed and sad in the same time. It meant that he would continue on this path regardless.

The sentence he received was not fair at all. It was not even legally valid. He was accused of being a terrorist because he had photos of the war in Sa'ada.

In the security's eyes, AL-Khaiwani was a terrorist because he had good contacts with people involved in the war. It is similar to Sami Al-Haj Al-Jazeerah correspondent who was jailed in Spain for so many years because of his connections.

Is there freedom of press in Yemen? I used to say there is to an extent. Today now that my friend is still behind bars I am not sure this will still be my answer. I guess now I would say there is no press freedom in Yemen, not while Al-Khaiwani and other journalists like him are behind bars.

I also want to ask where the presidential instructions that no journalists should be imprisoned are? If the president can simply say the war in Sa'ada is over and the war stops, why can't he say release Al-Khaiwani and get return him home to his family? It is either the president doesn't have enough power or does not want Al-Khaiwani out and both are not acceptable, at least not to me.

So here goes a prayer and a salute to Al-Khaiwani who is imprisoned without adequate medication or health services and who will most probably not only spend Ramdan and Eid Al-Fitr in prison, but also will not be with us when a 2008 folds and a new year begins.