Almigdad Mojalli, 1980-2016

Almigdad Mojalli was a dedicated and talented Yemeni journalist who wrote for international outlets including Voice of America and IRIN. He was killed by a Saudi airstrike on January 17 while reporting on the civilian toll of a previous strike outside of San‘a. He leaves behind a wife and a young son. Two of Almigdad's colleagues, Shuaib Almosawa and Kareem Fahim, wrote about Almigdad for The New York Times this week.

Mr. Mojalli...wrote about the dilemmas Yemeni journalists faced, working and living in a war zone and juggling the job with worries for family and friends. In September,writing for IRIN, an international news service that focuses on humanitarian issues, he chronicled yet another strike. This time, the victims included relatives.

Before that attack, he had become desensitized, he said. "I’ve been to dozens of bomb sites," he wrote. "Every day, I wake up to hear that 10 people were killed last night, or 20, or 40. It almost stops feeling real."

An online donation page has been created to raise money for Almigdad's widow and child.

Luke Somers, 1981-2014

Luke Somers, an American photojournalist, was killed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula early last Saturday, December 6. Luke had been held captive by AQAP for fourteen months. Along with another captive, South African teacher Pierre Korkie, Luke was apparently executed in haste as American Special Operations Forces commandos stormed the compound in Shabwah where the two were being held. Though Luke’s long captivity was something of an open secret in San‘a, it had received almost no coverage in the international press. This was deliberate; Luke’s family asked, from the beginning, for an embargo on coverage. The idea, as I understood it, was that minimizing Luke’s publicity would make negotiations for his release easier. Like many in San‘a, I learned about Luke’s kidnapping very soon after it occurred; like his friends among the press corps in Yemen, I refrained from writing anything about Luke, and urged others not to mention his name online. We all held on to the hope that he would eventually be freed.

On November 25, US commandos raided an AQAP location in hopes of rescuing Luke. The raid freed several other hostages, but Luke had been moved ahead of the operation. During the second raid, on the 6th, a number of AQAP fighters were killed by US forces. The Pentagon reported no casualties among the US assault team. Some sources reported that the Americans killed several civilians as well as Luke’s captors. According to Yemeni government spokesman Mohammed Albasha, four Yemeni soldiers participating in the operation were wounded. The South African charity for which Pierre Korkie worked said that they had previously reached an agreement with AQAP for Korkie’s release, which would have taken place on the 7th. Korkie’s wife Yolande, who was kidnapped with him, was released by AQAP in January.

Luke’s family has told press that they were not informed of plans for either raid ahead of time, and suggest that they would have objected if given the chance.

Luke was well-liked and respected by those who knew him. He had worked hard as a journalist to bring under-reported stories to light, and he cared deeply about Yemen and its people.

Tom Finn wrote a touching piece about Luke for Middle East Eye, and the BBC published this profile, which includes links to some of Luke’s work. Some of Luke’s friends have established a fund to help Luke’s family pay for funeral arrangements; if you feel so inclined, you can make a donation here.

There are only a handful of foreign journalists working in Yemen today. They risk a great deal to cover a country that is badly misunderstood in the wider world. Yemeni journalists risk even more. We are extremely grateful for their efforts in the face of many dangers and obstacles. Perhaps the best way to honor their sacrifice is to make sure we bear witness to the stories they tell.

You can view an archive of Luke’s photographs here.

Ibrahim Mothana, 10/23/1988 - 9/5/2013

Yemeni activist Ibrahim Mothana passed away in San‘a today. He was 24 years old. In those 24 years he accomplished more than most of us ever will. He was a prominent voice in Yemen's youth-led uprising, which began in 2011. He was a co-founder of the Watan Party, one of a few new political organizations to emerge from the revolution. He was also a prolific writer, who opined on Yemen's political and social challenges with insight, humor, and optimism.

A recital of his resumé does not do Ibrahim justice, though. He was 24 years old, and as someone of that age should, he defined himself by what he hoped and planned to do, rather than what he had already done. Ibrahim was devoted to his country, and he saw in Yemen as much potential as we all saw in him. Though a harsh and realistic critic of Yemen's flaws, Ibrahim believed in the idea of a New Yemen, which he and so many other revolutionaries struggled for. His hopefulness for his country was pragmatic; he understood better than most what it would take to build the Yemen he imagined.

For everyone who knew him, it is hard to imagine the New Yemen without Ibrahim. But just as surely as he will be missed, his work and his example will continue to inspire his colleagues, friends, and compatriots through the difficult years to come.

Ibrahim Mothana


Ibrahim appeared on episode two of the YPP's Mafraj Radio podcast.