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Kamal Al-Solaylee (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Kamal Al-Solaylee (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Earlier discussion

From bikinis to burkas: An online discussion about Yemen Add to ...

12:07 [Comment From Natalia Cernei-MacLeanNatalia Cernei-MacLean]I loved your article 'From bikinis to burkas'. I would like to hear your opinion on what could improve the situation for Yemenis and Middle East in general. How can this radicalization be stopped? Do you believe that Muslims in Middle East are brainwashed? Is it the poverty that drives people into the arms of radicalism? this is not exactly what is your family experience as they weren't poor. Thank you for your article - just brilliant!

12:11 Kamal Al-Solaylee: I'm touched. Thanks, Natalie. In one of Patrick Martin's excellent reports from Sanaa, he quoted a Yemeni official saying something to the effect of "Give me 2 million jobs and I'll eradicate extremism." In my mind, declining living standards, huge discrepencies in earnings between rich and poor, crumbling infrastructure have left many people in the Arab world -- and I'd say a large majority -- with a sense of hopelessness. Hope is a powerful weapon, cliched as that may sound.

12:12 [Comment From Lamont Cranston]Kamal Al-Solaylee, thanks for joining us. I read your piece a few days ago, and it brought up memories of other op/ed articles in the Globe and Mail. The biggest issue I have is that these articles are appearing in the western liberal press. When do you think we can see articles like yours translated from the Arabic press about people living in Arab/Muslim countries. In other words, is there a publication in Yemen which has picked up your article, translated it, and printed it? Until that happens, do you not feel you are preaching to the converted, etc.?

12:16 Globe and Mail: Read Patrick's story that Kamal mentioned.

12:17 Kamal Al-Solaylee: I don't know if any publication in Yemen or the Arab world picked up my piece. But I would argue that not everyone who read it here in Canada or the US was already converted. Many couldn't even find Yemen on the map before Christmas Day. Again, my goal was not to condemn but to humanize. It was a difficult piece to write because of the emotional content. I hope that readers in North American now at least realize that the people in Yemen are namesless, faceless. There's a story there that they may want to read.

12:18 Kamal Al-Solaylee: Sorry, I meant to say NOT namesless, faceless.

12:18 Globe and Mail: Patrick, you've been in Yemen for more than one week. Can you give us a sense of what it's like there?

12:19 Globe and Mail: Patrick sent in his answer by e-mail:

I'm in Aden at the moment, one of the nicest months to visit, I'm told, and the hotels are empty. The place has a very depressed feeling about it. All a result of the current political tensions over al-Qaeda etc. It's also the case that the people of the South complain a lot about being marginalized. Unemployment is high, and people believe it's because of the capital Sanaa's preference for the northern people and tribes. In Sanaa, there's more activity, but people there feel put upon by the West and resent the idea that the United States has blamed them for its Christmas Day bombing attempt. Having said that, there is a feeling of unreality about this place. There's a lot that doesn't work here as it once did, and that's a recipe for tension between peoples and chaos that allows organizations such as al-Qaeda to take control of certain areas in the country (where journalists are forbidden to go.)

12:21 [Comment From Marion Richards]One question that sprang to mind when I read your article is, what prompted you to leave Yemen, and why were none of the rest of your family struck by the same idea? Especially for the women in your family, I wonder why they chose to stay in a country that would not allow them so many opportunities.

12:26 Kamal Al-Solaylee: Actually, my sisters do work for a living. But you also have to understand that, in that part of the world, men have options that women don't. I doubt it if any one of my sisters were to get up and say "I'm leaving for Canada." It's not an option. On a personal note, I didn't feel safe living there as a young gay man. I had a more urgent reason to move away from a culture that still punishes homosexual acts with 80 lashes. A number of readers commented on that, saying that I took the easy way out. Maybe, but I wanted to be who I am and live in dignity. Neither was possible in Yemen.

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