Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Yemeni Revolution from a Young Journalist's Perspective

Nawal Al-Maghafi worked with BBC Arabic to present a look inside the Yemeni revolution from the perspective of two men from the same family; the Deputy Minister of Information, Abdou Al Janadi, whom she dubbs the "President's Man" and his son who was opposed to Saleh's regime. While the video provides a straight forward story of these two men, it is also symbolic of the divisions that the Yemeni people are facing. Here is The President's Man and his Opposing Son:



Question: During the Yemeni Revolution, you were in London, what inspired you to go to Yemen? Once you were in Yemen, did you participate in any of the demonstrations? are there any specific stories that you want to share? 

Nawal: As the Arab Spring spread across the Middle East, I watched the news religiously. Wondering wether it would spread to Yemen, my home country. Although I was raised in London, Yemen is my home and remains close to my heart. I was already working as a documentary producer for pressTV and so when the protests did finally erupt in Yemen it seemed only natural for me to be the one to document it, I couldn't miss out on this, and had to be apart of the change!

I went to the change square daily, it became one of my favourite places in Yemen, it was a place where people finally dared to fight for their rights, and voice their opinions freely, something that wasn't common in a conservative country such as Yemen. When I look back at the months I was in Yemen when the revolution was in full swing, I will never forget the passion and bravery of the youth, who were willing to lose their lives for Yemen. I will never forget the tears of the mothers in the field hospital that lost their sons in the fight for change in Yemen.

Question: Why did you choose to do a story about the deputy minister of information and his son? why not focus on other individuals?

Nawal: One of the qualities of the Yemeni revolution that made it unique in comparison to the other revolutions in the Arab Spring, was that there was a great divide in the country. Whilst the Tahreer Squares in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were overflowing with protesters demanding the fall of their dictators, Yemens Tahreer Square was full of Saleh supporters. On the other hand, there were millions of people protesting against Saleh and his regime across the country.

Abdu Al-Janadi, the Deputy Minister of Information and his Son Dr Abuther Al-Janadi, represented this divide.
Abdu Al-Janadi kept the regime surviving after all the main people in the regime were either killed or injured in the Nahdain mosque bombing. And his son Abuthar was leading the protest in Taiz, calling for the fall of the regime his father played such a strong part in.

There was no specific reason as to why I picked the Al-Janadi's, but they represented the divide in Yemen that I was trying to show in the film.


Question: Are there any stories that you were not capable of sharing with us on Camera? 

Nawal: There is plenty!! Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to film Al-Janadi's wife in the film, and what a shame that was. She has such a strong character, and when you meet her you realise how much of a part she plays in his life and in the decisions he has made. Also, had I had more time, I wish I could have told the stories of Al-Janadis history, he was one of the main people opposing Saleh, and was wanted to be executed for trying to plan a coup against Saleh, and now he is now one of Saleh's most loyal supporters!

Question: Why do you think it was in the documentary's narrative to bring together the president's man and his son? was it symbolic of anything else? what do you hope the audience take away from this story?

Nawal: In the time I spent in Yemen, I realised that one of the biggest obstacles the new transitional government is facing in progressing is because most of the political sides are not cooperating. This divide that is between all these groups will continue to halt the progress of the country, it is important for all political sides to unite and do what is best for the nation.

Al-Janadi and Abuthar meeting in the end was to portray that it is possible for all the political sides to unite and to discuss and to work on rebuilding our nation, together.


Question: During the documentary, the ex-president Saleh appeared for a few minutes, the narrator explained him as "humble" while he tested a "new" antique car. Why is his presence in the documentary significant? why do you think he chose to share that moment with the crew of BBC? any other "off-camera" conversations?

Nawal: Firstly, the narrator does not explain Ali Abdullah Saleh as humble, it was Al-Janadi who says this. I was very nervous about our meeting with him, I had been making calls trying to organise it for weeks, and now was finally the time. It was important to have him in the film with Al-Janadi, because I thought I had to show the audience what type of relationship they had. Is it a formal one or a friendly one, but from what I noticed it seems it is very formal.

I think the ex-president was very uncomfortable when his new gift arrived whilst we were there, he tried to sensor that part of the footage too for the DVD we were given, but I was able to get it from another source. I was able to interview him too, but unfortunately the whole of the interview was cut as well from the footage, and all I have left are my notes.


Question: What are you planning to do in the near future? Is Yemen involved in your plans? What do you predict for Yemen?

Nawal: Im already in the development stages of my next film, I have 3 new films that are a work in progress. Hopefully, if all goes to plan, the next one will be broadcast in November, but you will have to wait and see what its about!



Biography from Nawal's Website

Nawal Al-Maghafi is a freelance journalist of Yemeni heritage. Raised in London, she was awarded her undergraduate degree in Economics with Politics from the University of Nottingham, where she was the Founder and President of the Arabic Society; as well as the Political Officer for the Black and Ethnic Minority Network. This is where her interest in the Middle East sparked. She began her pursuit in Journalism at only 19 years of age, where she was trained at Al-Jazeerah London. Focusing on the Middle East and with the objective to uncover the untold stories of the Arab World. She was one of the few journalists that followed the uprisings in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. She then completed 3 documentaries focusing on the Yemeni Revolution and one on Saudi oppression, and was nominated for two awards for her film, Saadah: The Untold Story. She is now based in Yemen, and has begun her career in print journalism as well as film making. She is fluent in both Arabic and English.
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