Yemen's shattered dreams

Yemen's shattered dreams
Blog: Writer Rooj Alwazir speaks to a Yemeni artist dedicated to transforming anger and violence into beautiful artworks symbolising hope for the future.
3 min read
24 Apr, 2015
Artist Bushra al-Fusail has turned broken glass from her home into artwork
Meet Bushra al-Fusail, a photographer and artist channelling her anger into creative non-violent resistance to the US-backed Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Three weeks ago, war broke out in Yemen against the Ansar Allah militia group, better known as the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia, along with other Sunni countries in the GCC, began its military operations throughout the country, worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis and turning what has been an internal Yemeni issue into a regional struggle.

The western media has focused on this being a proxy war between Saudi and Iran, or a sectarian fight between the Sunnis and Shia, rushing to get quotes from either side.

Little attention is given to the 26 million everyday Yemenis who are living under airstrikes and between gunfire.

These 26 million Yemenis are women, men, grandfathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandfathers and friends.

Beautiful and so passionate for life, Yemenis have now become the victim of greed and power.

If they are recognised as people, instead of numbers, maybe the international community will recognise the toll of military intervention.

Since Operation Decisive Storm began on March 26, the World Health Organisation has put the death toll at 1,080, with at least 4,352 wounded.

Every night, Bushra messages me with comforting Whatsapp messages: "Guess what? I am alive!" she says.

"I'll take back my camera that I left for you in my will" she adds.

But then, it's another night and another round of Saudi airstrikes and Houthi anti-aircraft missiles.

Death, fear, frustration and shattered dreams - Bushra highlights the current mood in Yemen.

"I know it's not safe to go outside but I try to go out everyday - because I want to show people there is still life," she tells me via Skype.

"There is still a whole other side to Yemen that people don't know.

"I love taking photos in the old city, but I stopped now because a lot of people are paranoid."

It's no wonder. Bushra is one of the people behind Everyday Yemen, a Facebook page dedicated to street photography.

It aims to confront stereotypes by sharing photographs and stories from daily life.

Everyday Yemen is an initiative grown out of Everyday Middle East.

Angered by the random killings and the destruction of homes, hospitals, schools, refugee centres and dairy factories by the Saudis and the Houthis, Bushra decided to take the shattered glass off her bedroom floor, paint them in Yemen's national flag colours - red, white, and black - and display it on the streets of Sanaa.

"They can destroy our homes, but they will never destroy our dreams," she said, assuredly.

"My father is depressed, my mother is scared and everyone tells me they are hopeless."

It is for this reason, Bushra and her friend, Nina Aqlan, decided to pick up a paintbrush and piece together broken glass to represent life in times of shattered dreams.

She calls her latest project "Frame".

"I like life and I like to have fun," Bushra says, cracking a smile as she slowly dips her paintbrush into a cup of mixed paint.  

She dreams of moving to New York or London to pursue photography.

But today, she knows that dream is far from reality.

"My Yemeni passport is a red flag, so I can’t get a visa easily."

However, Bushra's optimism, persistence and love for life makes me certain that, one day, I will see her on the streets of Brooklyn.

"I live in an awful reality," she adds, "but I will never give up my hope for life nor my attempts to make my dreams come true."