Afrah Nasser
Last updated: 27 March, 2015

Mentalizing Yemen’s chaos

Yemeni blogger Afrah Nasser continues to be a powerful voice and critic from exile in Sweden. But the violence that's plaguing her native country is difficult to bear from a distance. These are her most intimate reflections.

Hussein is 9 or 11 years old. His slim body holds a smiley face with glowing eyes. As he lays on his bed at the hospital, he finds joy in describing how he miraculously survived the the twin-bombing attacks in Sana’a, last Friday, 20 March. “As we just finished praying, I found myself thrown into the wall,” Hussein recalls to his uncle the moment the suicide bomber exploded, “as if a strong wind blew me away, ‘boom’. Then, I tried to get up and I saw my hands and legs full of blood.”

Hussein survived to be a witness of that day and to tell us with a big smile and despite the pain how he was given a second chance to live.


Death is no longer looming in Yemen; it is definite. Each Yemeni house has at least one who was killed, injured or at least knows of someone who was killed injured during the course of the latest violent upheavals. I lost a distant relative myself in this mosque bombing. It makes you realize how death is so close and God knows who’ll be the next victim of the next bomb? Or strike? Or…?

“Death is no longer looming in Yemen; it is definite.”

Maybe that explains why instead of talking to the press, I always prefer to spend my time vibering and talking to family and friends in Yemen – there is always that slight possibility that this might be the last time we’d be talking to each other.

Few weeks ago, it hit me so hard what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee; what it’s like to understand that you can never go home. Here I am, in Sweden; waiting since May, 2011, waiting to the time I can go home, to Al-Dairi Street in Sana’a, to walk again on my favorite pavement; trying to escape the men who would be always leaning against the parked cars whistling at the passing girls. I now understand you, Syrians – I know what it’s like to be displaced with no way to return home. It hurts so much that you feel so numb.

Why ponder on my Syrian fellows when I can turn to my Palestinian fellows! Then, I skype a Palestinian friend and I get very helpful tips.

* * *

My first and last war experience was during the Civil War 1994. I was nine. We were in Sana’a. I think that war was more merciful than this one; even though I’m only mentally at today’s war. In 94, there was no competitions in how many likes you get, how many shares you get, how many retweets you get and how many TV appearances you make, and so on… overall, I had no fucking blog. I was a kid; living the war with mom and my sister. My parents were separated at that time. I blamed my father for not protecting us. I still do, even though he passed away a year ago. That war lasted for a couple of months; thousands were killed – strangely, we survived and I didn’t really comprehend what we had gone through.

Who will survive this war? And how many civilians would pay the price? Should I keep blogging about the war? Does it make any difference? Would it help me clear my mind so I can focus on writing my thesis. No Yemeni can focus these days, inside and outside Yemen. Our eyes are glued onto our TVs, computers, mobiles, as if following the situation can make it get any better.

No, it’s not getting any better. Yemen is at war and it’s like hell. He who got us into this rotten war would shape its end as well. The father would present his son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh as the savior. Don’t tell me Houthis are the big boss today. No. He who laughs last, laughs longest.


This post originally appeared on Afrah’s blog, it was written just a few hours before the Saudi-led intervention.