Yemen’s Nadia Abdullah is an unlikely chronicler of history. A young Sana’a resident who wears the full veil, or niqab, she watched from her window overlooking Change Square as demonstrations against the government began a year ago.
“My father gave me a camera and told me, ‘This is in case there is any attack on youths’,” she said. ” ‘You film it and then we can send it to the media channels.’ ”
Abdullah is part of a new breed of citizen journalists who have helped to overcome government restrictions to get news out from the Arab Spring.
Documenting the unrest from her apartment was a big step for Abdullah, who was raised by a father whom she describes as a conservative man from the even more conservative Hashid tribe.
“I didn’t imagine that my father, brother or the family would accept that I go out and do an interview on camera” Abdullah said. “This was almost impossible to do because of the norms and traditions. They are closed and conservative traditions. It is not proper for a woman to appear in public.”
Inspired by revolution
But inspired by the revolution below, Abdullah did go out, eventually even with her father’s blessing. She believes the revolution changed everything.
Abdullah took her amateur camera out on the streets, following the news as it unfolded across Sana’a. She documented the crackdown by government troops, from water cannon to bullets. She took video of the bodies in the streets, of the make-shift clinics filled with the wounded, of a man cradling the body of a loved one in the morgue.
Most affecting to her was the death she filmed of a young protester. “The bullet went through his head and he became a martyr. This was a very difficult situation, when one of the youths dies in front of my eyes.”
She also captured quieter, more peaceful images. In a photograph of women praying at night during Ramadan, there is a little girl, exhausted by her tears, taking comfort in her mother’s arms: solace amid faith.
Other pictures show protesters flashing peace or victory signs at government soldiers, or sleeping soundly in their protest camps as flood waters swirl beneath them.
Abdullah says she was determined to show the “true face” of protesters the government labeled thugs. “With a camera and a picture,” she said, “you can silence anyone.”
Ultimately, the protesters and the citizen journalists who told their story helped to topple the nation’s long-time ruler. For Abdullah, now pursuing a journalism career, they brought down barriers for Yemeni women as well.
Report by Elizabeth Arrott, VOANews.com
Middle East Voices is a unique social journalism project powered by Voice of America. The site, as a supplement to VOANews.com, is designed to present news, views and conversation to stimulate dialogue and understanding within, without and across man-made borders. On our platform, among other content, you will finds expert insights and community-submitted viewpoints on pressing political, economic, social and religious issues reshaping the Middle East and our world.