February 15, 2012
Felice Friedson talks with Nadia Al-Sakkaf, Editor-in-Chief of The Yemen Times [FULL TRANSCRIPT]
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TML: Are Yemenis talking about the Syrian situation; and what parallels do they see?
AL-SAKKAF: Syria is beyond my understanding. Russia’s position and the Arab League. I don’t know what they are waiting for. Having 100 people killed every day doesn’t seem a good enough reason for the world to act seriously towards it. Even the Security Council is reluctantly doing things. I just don’t know how something like this can exist without somebody putting an end to it. Yemenis are having protests every day in honor of the Syrians and they are, in different places, heading to the streets saying Syria is being burnt, where is the UN and where is the intentional justice? That’s all we can do ourselves as this point as people: condemn and head to the Streets and try to support the people in Syria. Politically speaking, it’s something I don’t understand.
TML: Among Middle Eastern countries, some align themselves with Iran, others don’t. Where do the Yemenis see themselves?
AL-SAKKAF: Yemen as a country, the official stance deals neutrally with Iran. There’s a political representation here and the political representation of Yemen in Tehran. But believe that there is a lot of tension. A lot of Iranians are feeling continuously unwelcome in the country [Yemen]. Some Iranian development projects or businesses have been closed down and people who have visited Iran are having a tough time with Yemeni security.
TML: I was in Yemen over a year ago with you, Nadia, and things have changed quite a bit since. At that point there was a coffee conference taking place. It was backed by USAID and many others that were looking toward the future of the coffee industry. Is there any discussion of economic development? Is it even on the radar?
AL-SAKKAF: Definitely. The discussion is there. There is supposedly a plan on paper. How much of that plan really gets implemented and how seriously that plan is taken depends on the people implementing it. So far, the economy has been the second priority in Yemen, not number one. The number one priority in Yemen has been politics. Until improving the economy becomes the No. 1 concern, I don’t think much will happen in terms of the country’s economic prosperity.
TML: You are a strong proponent of breaking the glass ceiling and moving women’s rights forward. Have you seen anything positive in the past year or has this, too, taken a back seat?
AL-SAKKAF: It has moved forward. If not for anything, it has moved forward because of evolution—because today is a better day than yesterday. People are learning more; more people are there in different positions—especially women. And so, it’s progress. Now, last year in 2011, how much has there been a difference in terms of women in decision-making positions? Well, Yemeni women have been more at liberty to participate in politics than women, for example, in the Gulf countries. However, the rise of Tawakkul Karman winning the Nobel Peace Prize was a big boost. Then, as political leaders recognized in the streets, it was also a big push. Beyond politics, if you look at businesses, a lot of women who owned their own businesses suffered a lot during the recession in 2011 and because of the uprising. A lot of women lost their jobs. If there was a family, and there was a choice to make for a boy or a girl, because of poverty and economic recession, they had to choose to educate the boy and not the girl. Still, society does not allow for women to rise in public when it comes ownership of money. That is the hardest glass ceiling we need to break, which is access to capital and becoming business owners. It is one thing to be a political leader because it doesn’t really pay much unless you are a corrupt politician. But otherwise, there is a gap between men and women that is based on economy.
TML: Nadia Al-Sakkaf, editor-in-chief of The Yemen Times, continued success. Thank you.
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