"No longer just a year"

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Saudi Arabia's entrance into Yemen's war. The war takes different shapes in different parts of the country, and all parties to the conflict have committed horrible acts of violence against Yemeni civilians. For residents of the capital, San‘a, the past year has been defined by daily airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. This post was sent to us by a special guest contributor, Fatima Noman. Fatima is 17 years old, and in her fourth year of high school. 365 days are no longer just a year

Tell me how did you spend the last 365 days? Did you end up getting that job offer? Did you get that scholarship you were working so hard to get? Did you graduate high school/university or perhaps you just got your PhD! Whatever you achieved I congratulate you! Well I'd like to speak of my 365 days. You know how we always chant the phrase day by day it all seems the same but looking back it's so different. I aged a life time within 365 days. I have experienced so much from fleeing my home to running down a set of 70 stairs in fear of a jet blowing up our third floor. Crying for nights and nights feeling death encircling me to laughing to the sound of explosions. Yes, I have lived some of the worst days of my life but I wouldn't change them for the world. Only now have I realized what an enormous amount of pride comes with being Yemeni.

I am now in my senior year and I have broke down into fits of tears more times than I can count in school due to the sudden air raids but my friends support me with a jolt of strength I've never experienced before. This year everything is so different. once I was crying in class from a mix of fear and stress then suddenly the whole class surrounded me with a group hug and I don't remember feeling so loved in my entire life. This coalition has done and is still doing damage that seems irreparable at time but one thing that no one but them has managed to do is unite this country into one.

I feel so complete. Now I know I am capable of facing anything life throws at me, I know I am strong enough. I will always have a constant reminder of my strength the blood of the martyrs who sacrificed everything for me to be able to live a life, a life worth living. It's truly quite peculiar how even though death has the key to my back door I sleep safe and sound. I still do get grounded and I still am clumsy you'd think death would make me a bit more graceful but nope! I still am the same girl who runs around tables and makes weird faces at my mom to make her laugh cause oh boy does her laugh make me feel five again.

365 days are enough to change people's perspectives, their ideologies. 365 days of undeniable strength, of determination. 365 days are no longer just a year.

You can read more of Fatima's reflections on life during wartime on her blog, here.

#OurYemen: a letter from San‘a

This post was sent to us by a special guest contributor, Fatima Noman. Fatima is 16 years old, and lives in San‘a. She's in her third year of high school, or would be if the schools were open. 
Even after 3 months and a fortnight the sounds of war crafts still terrify me. My mother promised if I heard their utterance they are far away. Regardless, whenever I apprehend the sounds of them my heart beats rapidly and my stomach clenches. As soon as I hear the missile explode I taste death one more time. I remember when I conjectured that the tang of death is sweet. I was raised to be strong, heard headed and invincible this coalition made me question my strength, do I in sooth have any strength?

I always knew politics was dirty business and I know no one cared much for Yemen, including the UN, but seeing all the genocides and terror I can't even imagine how they sleep at night. Are they intact of their humanity?
Putting all my fears and all my worries aside; this country is something else. Every time I scramble out of the house crying of trepidation from those war crafts expecting everyone to feel as I do but I am bewildered by the reality. The fact people are on the streets, in the shops, chatting and humming as if nothing just happened. I used to believe & genuinely presume that I got my strength from my parents' unconditional love, but the coalition proved to me that I got my strength from my country. This country speaks a million languages that include; compassion, mercy, altruism, strength, authenticity & most importantly love. This country may not comprise modern architecture, but we were the first to build gravity defying skyscrapers. This country might not be filled with malls & 5-star hotels but I can assure you our guests never leave feeling anywhere less than home. This country might not be the richest - not because it's poor but rather no one has enhanced its 2300km worth of islands, our natural gas, our petrol, our agriculture or our harvest's- but I solemnly swear every Yemeni has a heart of gold. You will never feel alone here, this land embraces and captivates any one who speaks one of her million languages.
Heritage is one thing you'll find in Yemen more than any other country I'm not being prejudice or bias, our history goes back to 5000 BC. Our aging houses are filled with people, generations live in the same homes through out the decades. That's how exceptional our architecture is.
I believed this coalition would make me hate Yemen because I must admit before 2015 I wasn't much of a patriot. These air raids might have corrupted a small part of my 16 year old mind but I can assure you this country has given back and is continuously giving me back strength I never knew I had in me. Hope I never knew existed. Passion. Courage. Compassion. Pride.
If I do end up dying because of a missile from the Saudi led coalition I am honored to have died in my Mother's embrace. Surrounded by my heritage. My pride. My land.

#OurYemen: Mount Sabr, 2012

A hike up Mount Sabr in Ta‘iz is a wonderful way to start a day. The green mountain offers spectacular views of the city. Climbing up and down, we crossed the paths of several women and carrying baskets and pails full of freshly-picked green figs. Not one of them would let us continue until we had tasted one or two (or a handful) of their fruits. Sabr1

#OurYemen: Bukar, 2009

This post comes to us courtesy of our friend Alex, who studied in Yemen for a few months in 2009. "We were on a trip to Buker, a little west of Thula, and the kids who lived there were asking us to sing them a song. I couldn't think of anything...so I asked if they knew any songs. They did. And it was amazing."  

[video url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KWDndjqHwg&feature=youtu.be" /]

Alex understands the importance of our mission: "Frustratingly," he says, "I spend a lot of my day trying to tell people how great Yemen is, and dispel the 'everyone is high on qat' misconceptions....So I really appreciate the #OurYemen effort."

#OurYemen: Colors of Life

#OurYemen is a new recurring series featuring photos and stories about the human side of Yemen. Each post will highlight a person, place, or feeling that defines Yemen for us. Please share your own stories and images in the comments below, or email us at info@yemenpeaceproject.org. Taiz1

In June 2012 we met a group of young community activists working to bring art to the streets of the city of Ta‘iz. This city was the ideological heart of the 2011 uprising against 'Ali 'Abdullah Saleh's 33-year regime, and its residents faced some of the most brutal acts of repression Yemen saw during the revolution. Months of street fighting and artillery shelling left their mark on the city. So in 2012, Sadek Maktari and other local activists took it upon themselves to revitalize the scarred streets of Ta‘iz with dazzling colors. The "Colors of Life" volunteers painted murals on the brick walls of one street in particular, recreating the works of famed local artist Hashim 'Ali, for whom the street was renamed. Many of the volunteers involved are artists in their own rights; we were fortunate to have a chance to look through some of their own portfolios as well.