Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Tue, Jan 19th, 2016

The Voice of which America?

One of the ways in which the United States presents itself to the world is VOA, the Voice of America, the media wing of the government’s official outreach. While not pure propaganda, it nevertheless tends to echo the policies of the U.S. Still, there are quite a few voices present in VOA, but in the past few days one of those voices has been absent. It has been silenced.

Locals help villagers that lost their homes recover their belongs that were scattered during the bombing of Hajar Aukaish, Yemen, April 2015. (VOA/A. Mojalli)

Locals help villagers that lost their homes recover their belongs that were scattered during the bombing of Hajar Aukaish, Yemen, April 2015. (VOA/A. Mojalli)

This was the voice of Almigdad Mojalli, a free-lance Yemeni journalist for VOA, the U.N. news agency and other sources. His was a voice documenting the humanitarian crisis that the world outside Yemen has largely ignored. His was a voice that could be heard after the booming bombs had broken the silence of the night, leaving only the cries of mourning for more bodies of loved ones blown to bits. His voice was that of humanity, reporting on the insanity that had plunged his country into a bitter killing field.

“He writes humanitarian stories because he doesn’t believe in fighting,” said his brother Abdullah Mojalli. “He never in his life held a weapon.”  Now he is a victim himself, his family joining those who mourn. What was his crime that he deserved to be severely wounded by shrapnel exploding from a Saudi coalition strike? As a journalist he was looking for witnesses to an earlier air strike. Visiting the scene of an earlier killing spree, a bomb was dropped near him. A bomb hit at the same exact site that had been bombed and taken lives a week before. Before his companions could return him to Sanaa he was dead, his gaping wounds untreated. Was his crime to try at all costs to alert the world to the horrific humanitarian crisis in his country? Was his crime to hate the fighting, all the fighting? Was his crime to date to think that Yemen could have a future, even after being bombed back to the Stone Age and burst apart with internal strife?

The voices in America are all over the airwaves these days, mostly spewing hate for political gain. The Republican political candidates try to outdo each other in demonizing enemies, from Mexican laborers to Muslim refugees. Almigdad was not an illegal alien, a refugee from his country, nor a terrorist. It seems that his crime was not being a criminal, not deserving death. The silencing of his voice, and so many Yemeni civilians, is not collateral damage, not a stray missile due to technical error. He has been silenced deliberately, because war is a deliberate business; in war all killing is intentional. The thousands of bombing raids in Yemen, as is true of the mortars lofted by the Huthi/Salih alliance or the Daesh suicide bombs, are intentional killing. Pushing the button from a sophisticated aircraft or drawing the string on a suicide vest or pulling the trigger of an automatic rifle; these are all intentional acts. The intent is meant to kill, no matter what the target. Bombs are not dropped on empty spaces but where there is life or the means necessary for life. In this way the human body becomes a military target, because Yemenis are not seen as human, not seen as deserving to live.

Almigdad is not the first Yemeni journalist to die; he is among those who are silenced by all of the warring factions. He will not be the last. His voice has been lost, but what he had to say about the wanton destruction of his country can not be silenced, nor should we allow it to be forgotten. Even if only a whisper comes out of Yemen, the message must be heard. The cries of anguish he archived in the media are his legacy. He died bringing the voices of suffering to the world, a world where so few want to listen. It is this voice that Americans need to hear. It is his voice, a lonely calling out in the wilderness, that is true to the ideals America claims to stand for. Which voice of America are you listening to?

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.

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