‘Shahad Ayan’ serial stops due to misunderstanding [Archives:2007/1092/Reportage]

October 8 2007

By: Fatima Al-Ajel
[email protected]

Qasem was always treating his pregnant wife badly especially when she complained about pains and the difficulties she faces during the pregnancy. One day, he saw in his sleep that he became pregnant as a woman. During the dream, Qasem faced all difficulties and felt all the pains that his wife faces. Suddenly Qasem woke up and thanked Allah that it was only a dream and he is not a woman who would face such difficulties.

In the next day, his wife was crying that she is about to deliver a baby. Immediately Qasem took her to the hospital and was kind to her.

His wife was surprised about the new treatment of her husband toward her. In the hospital while the wife was shouting from the illness, some one came to Qasem and said to him: “Don't believe your wife. She only pretends to be tired. She is only delivering a baby and doesn't need all this shouting or noise.”

At this point, Qasem remembered his dream and immediately and without saying a word, he slapped the man and cried “Shut up, you don't face such pains to judge. If you were a woman, you would not say so.”

Such was a brief review on an episode called “The Mother” in the Yemeni serial ” Shahad Ayan”, meaning an eyewitness, which was showed during the first days of Ramadan. After this episode, the serial was stopped without knowing the real reasons behind such reaction from Yemen Satellite Channel. One day later, local media reported that the Minister of Information ordered to stop the serial and make an investigation with the serial staff about how they produced the episode that is against Islamic instructions and Yemeni culture.

However, last Ramadan, the same topic was showed on the Yemeni channel but the roles were different: women acted in the role of men. There was no criticism on that episode, and the serial continued.

The Yemeni audience was excited after stopping Shahad Ayan serial. They also had different views regarding this issue.

Some people, especially women, think that the episode was good and there was no problem in broadcasting it. Others, however, had different views and think the episode was not appropriate to be broadcasted.

A pregnant woman who suffers from her pregnancy says: “It is a good idea to let a man feel the pain of pregnant women. The aim of the episode is to help men understand how women suffer during pregnancy.”

A lot of men as well as a few women didn't like the episode, claiming that men and women are not allowed to mimic each other.

“The actors persisted in imitating women. There are better ways to express the message to the audiences with appreciation and respect,” says Ali Nasser, a local citizn of Sana'a.

Yahya Al-Sanhani , the author of the ” Shahad Ayan” explains that he aimed to present a message to the audiences especially men to be more merciful and kind to their wives. “However there is misunderstanding of the theme of this episode especially on the part of media outlets that know exactly what a drama is. I apologize to all the audiences for such a misunderstanding,” he says.

The media officials played a big role in arousing the audience's views due to lack of understanding. “We are humans and it is normal to make mistakes and I made a mistake, it was better if they blamed me and did their process to make me aware without stopping the serial.”

Basically that episode focused on the human part between women and the society around them, either at home or work. Unfortunately, women in Yemen in many cases are treated badly and some men consider women as a tool

“Woman is the other part of man. I conveyed a message and the audiences can evaluate which is right or wrong,” Al-Sanhani adds.

The author was surprised at the local media's reaction to the episode. “I was surprised with the reaction of the media as it is supposed to be professional and know what drama serials are and what they stand for.”

He further notes that if the last six series were shown, the serial would be a normal show and the audiences will not be confused with different critics and viewpoints.

The role of the censorship

It is normal that before showing and producing a serial or program, the Television sector forms a censorship committee to evaluate and follow the process of the production and then either accept the serial or delete some parts of it. However, in the case of “Shahad Ayan” serial, the matter was different. As a kind of trust between the committee and the author, the censorship committee was satisfied with talking to the author and watching some episodes.

“Frankly, the committee didn't think that I will put forth the topic in a very strong way. They thought it will be a superficial presentation,” Al-Sanhani says.

Weak performance

Other problems the serials faced is the shortage of professional actors and actresses. There is no academic institute for acting in Yemen.

“We can not blame the actors or actresses for their weak performance. It is rare to find local people who want to act and appear on television especially women. We encourage the people who have talent and then through acting and experiences, they can become actors,” Al-Sanhani adds.

Al-Sanhani has been working in the acting department at Yemen Television Sector for more than twenty years. He admitts that he is still in the beginning and needs to learn more and more in order to be professional. “I didn't present anything to the media and audiences right now and I still hope that the future will be better especially for young actors and actresses.”

Weakness of Yemeni Drama

Almost all the Yemeni serials are shown during Ramadan although they were recorded a few days before Ramadan. “We started making ” Shahad Ayan” serial exactly 15 days before Ramadan. We worked under stress with shortage of time and staff. If we had enough time over the year, it would be a chance to search for talented people around Yemen and and had them in the serial,” Al-Sanhani said.

According to Al-Sanhani, there is no strategy for planning professionally to create good programs to the audiences. The actors and actresses and other staff are only employees, he says. “They follow the orders of the Ministry of Information. This increases the mistakes and weakness of the Yemeni serials in general. We feel that we have a duty.”

Al-Sanhani calls on the official at Yemen Television Sector to produce at least two or three serials a year which discuss different themes in different ways.