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Kamal Al-Solaylee and family (Kamal Al-Solaylee)
Kamal Al-Solaylee and family (Kamal Al-Solaylee)

A Yemeni memoir

From bikinis to burkas Add to ...

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We held a discussion about this article, click on the replay button below to see transcripts

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Read a transcript of the discussion:

Thank you for joining us, Kamal and Patrick. This is Jill Mahoney, I'll be moderating our discussion today. Kamal, let me open by asking why you decided to write this article?

12:01 Kamal Al-Solaylee: I've been disturbed by the tone of coverage about Yemen since the Christmas Day failed airline bombing. Part of me wanted to put a human face on the country and part wanted to put its history in some context. I wanted to tell this story for a long time and the timing was right.

12:02 Globe and Mail: Patrick is experiencing some technical glitches at his hotel in Yemen and may join us a bit later.

12:03 Kamal Al-Solaylee: Interent access in Yemen can be erratic.

12:03 [Comment From Lilith]First, may I say Kamal, I am a huge BIG fan of your work. There is something that has always confused me - how does it happen that a liberal, educated family can (apparently so easily) become the apparent opposite of the values they had previously held? As someone privileged enough to live in Canada all my life, what am I missing, here?

12:07 Kamal Al-Solaylee: Thank you, Lilith. What happened was a gradual process. In the case of my family, there was the move from the more liberal Cairo to the very conservative Sana'a. You can't underestimate the impact of the dominant culture on individuals. Also, so many things happened that hardened previously soft lines: a civial war in 1994, increaing unemployment and poverty. We all live in such privileged and safe socities in Canada that we don't always understand the weight and impact of history on people.

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.

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