As I write this message to you, I am also responding to voicemail messages describing heavy aerial bombardments near my family’s home in Sana’a, Yemen. Alongside devastating blockades, this is the daily reality for 27 million Yemenis forced to live through the horrors of a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war. At the same time, these messages remind me of the inspiring possibilities of what solidarity looks like when we put their voices at the forefront.
About a month ago, I was thrilled to take part in the WRL event Hope and War in Yemen which featured the remarkable Yemeni journalist Afrah Nasser. As one of the few journalists lifting up independent voices on the ground in Yemen, she strives to bring attention to our stories as resilient and complex people, not just victims. At the event, I also shared films I produced with young artists from across Yemen, and strengthened connections with the Yemeni diaspora in the Bronx and Brooklyn, on which we continue to build.
The first step in supporting Yemenis is an honest recognition of long-standing U.S. military involvement in Yemen. With that recognition, we can better fight the billion-dollar arms deal the U.S. has with Saudi Arabia, along with its refueling of Saudi war jets and intelligence coordination. Not to mention the U.S. Counter-terrorism operations that include U.S. Drone strikes, which have nearly tripled since Trump came into office. With growing power on the streets, in U.S. congress, in the media, and around the world, the demands for an unconditional lifting of the blockade, which requires the withdrawal of U.S.-support, can no longer be ignored.
I dream of someday going back to Yemen, and dream of not having my family and friends stay up all night wondering if an airstrike will hit one of their homes or schools. I dream that they can run to safety. But until the war ends and Yemenis are not banned from coming to the U.S. that will remain a dream. As 2018 approaches, I am holding hope close to my heart and trust that collectively we can call for an end to the war and blockade - that we can demand accountability for all armed groups involved and create real solidarity for peace and justice in Yemen.
Rooj Alwazir is an independent Yemeni-American filmmaker and photographer based in New York. She is the co-founder of SupportYemen Media Co-op, where she directs and produces social-issue based films.