War in a Thousand Pictures [Archives:1998/34/Reportage]

August 24 1998

Dr. Abdulmalik Al-Mutawakil, Deputy President of the Yemeni Organization for the Protection of Human Rights and Democratic Liberties (YOPHRDL), inaugurated a photographic exhibition in Aden with the theme of ‘Effects of Wars and Armed Conflicts on Women and Children.’ The exhibition is mainly dedicated to the human tragedies experienced during the 1994 civil war. The 100-picture exhibition is the brain child of Ms. Ilham Abdulwahab, who took more than 1,000 photo’s during that tragic war.
“The pictures speak eloquently for themselves,” says Dr. Al-Mutawakil, “by showing the warmongers and perpetrators the evil they have committed.”
Although Yemen is a signatory to the International Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions, violations still occur. “That’s why our organization is committed to uncovering, reporting, and documenting cases of human rights abuse,” says the prominent activist, “but one organization is just not enough.” Because, he indicated, in Third World countries, violations are the norm and respect for human rights is the exception.
Despite a chronic lack of resources, the YOPHRDL makes a lot of efforts through trade unions, NGOs and political parties, aiming “to lay the foundation for a society based in democratic institutions.”
“Taking support from the state is totally out of the question. Our independence is at stake here.”
Why a photographic exhibition of war victims?
“War, especially a armed civil conflict, is the worst fate that can befall a nation. Women, children and the elderly are the prime sufferers.” By drawing attention to man’s inhumanity to man during conflicts and civil strife, the YOPHRDL hopes to raise people’s awareness of the importance of establishing solid civil and democratic institutions. “This is very important as such institutions serve as a safety valve in a society laden with conflicts. People must be made to sit down to discuss and resolve their problems, instead of resorting to the gun.”
Ms. Ilham Abdulwahab, Assistant Secretary General of the Center for the Protection Against Violence and Torture, told Yemen Times: “This exhibition is held to mark the 50th anniversary for the International Declaration of Human Rights.”Ilham has personally financed this exhibition of 100 photo’s, spending more than YR 25,000 out of her personal funds. “We have an individual dossier for almost all the victims depicted at the exhibition,” she disclosed. “What is shown here is just a small part of what really happened then, which is a link in a long chain of bloody conflicts.”She added that “this exhibition will hopefully also serve as a rallying call for all political parties and organizations to work together for a better, democratic Yemen.” Ilham hopes to be able to publish the 1,000 photo’s in a book soon so that “all people, in Yemen and the rest of the world, can see for themselves the futility of war.”
Ridhwan Al-Saqqaf,
Yemen Times, Aden