A Lens on the Waves of Political Change in Yemen
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London, 21/01/2016

MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series: ‘A Lens on the Waves of Political Change in Yemen’ by Nawal Al Maghafi

Nawal Al Maghafi - A Lens on the Waves of Political Change in Yemen
Nawal Al Maghafi - A Lens on the Waves of Political Change in Yemen

Nawal Al-Maghafi, an award winning film journalist who has worked as both producer and reporter for BBC Newsnight and BBC World, as well as a world news producer for Reuters, presented “A Lens on the Waves of Political Change in Yemen”, at the third lecture of the 2015-16 MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series. Nawal discussed her journey from just before the beginning of the Arab spring in Yemen, retracing her steps to 2011 and her first meeting with Ali Al Imad and the Houthi leaders in Sa’adah. Bravely, she travelled incognito with a 13-year old Houthi guide, complete with AK47, her filming equipment hidden beneath her traditional Yemeni clothing, gathering the testimonies of many families who had lost their relatives

Nawal, the first journalist to interview Ali Abdullah Saleh when he was ousted from the presidency in Yemen, reported that after the Arab spring, the Houthis remained unhappy even though President Saleh had resigned and they were offered the opportunity to take part in the 2013 National Dialogue. Although this was, as Nawal stated, a time of ‘hopeful transition’ in Yemen, the Houthis could not see change on the horizon that might work in their favour and, therefore, used the Yemeni people’s discontent with new President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Yemeni government’s removal of fuel subsidies to their advantage. She reported that Yemenis came out and stood with the Houthis, that Hadi’s government gave way, and in so doing, gave credence to the belief that the Houthis were effective proponents of change – that they could actually ‘get things done’.

Nawal continued her ‘journey’ into 2014 with the completion of the National Dialogue. It was about this time that ex-President Saleh and the Houthis formed their alliance. She believes that they could not have achieved the success they have had so far without this alliance (Saleh’s army is very well equipped and trained), or without the mistakes made by President Hadi and his government. By September 2014, the Houthis and ex-President Saleh were completely in control of Sana’a.

During her interesting and thought-provoking presentation, Nawal used still photographs from her films taken in Yemen to demonstrate the ‘waves of political change’ that have occurred in this trauma-stricken country, and how they have affected the Yemeni people, who continue to suffer to this day

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