Interview

Students of Amsterdam: Sala

Written by Gilda Bruno

Sala Al-Noami was born in Egypt, although living most of her life in Yemen, Arabia. Driven by the willingness to pursue higher education in Europe, she has recently moved to Amsterdam. After spending a few years between Germany and Hungary, she is here to study the English track of Communication Science at the UvA.

It’s 11:30 a.m. when I meet Sala. She looks relaxed and welcoming whilst chatting with some friends at Roeterseiland Campus, despite the humid, gloomy weather of November she still has to get used to. That’s definitely not a perk of being an Arabian expat in the Netherlands.

However, besides a friendly, and natural look, there’s much more that makes me want to talk to her today. Giving the hint of a smile, she begins her story.

An endless amount of hatred
“Everything started off about two years ago, in 2015, when my country was suddenly occupied by the rebellion group of the Houthis, supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The main goal of the Houthis was to impose the Shia beliefs on the population, thus overthrowing the government in office at that time by force. Since then, Yemen went through a lot.

Sadly, as one of the poorest countries in the world, none of the leading international powers appears to be interested in defending my homeland, now threatened by the extremist movement, and Saudi Arabia, that bombs civilians in the controversial attempt of protecting them from the insurgents’ rise.”

If I ever had the possibility to say something to those involved in fighting, I would probably naively ask them to stop

An ‘endless amount of hatred’: that’s how the 18-year-old bachelor student likes to portray the so-called ‘forgotten’, or ‘hidden war’, damaging whole generations of Yemenis day after day since its outbreak on March 19, 2015. But let’s be clear: contrarily to what you might be thinking, Sala’s intention is not to discuss politics.

“I am not taking sides. I hate the rebellion group, and I hate Saudi Arabia, because it is bombing us to get rid of the Houthis. I know that the political situation will not change, and I know this is not going to end soon. All I want to do is heighten awareness, showing people that, still today, there are many conflicts that stay untold, though secretly and deeply affecting innocent lives.”

“If I ever had the possibility to say something to those involved in fighting, I would probably naively ask them to stop. Literally, stop. Forget about politics, forget about what they do to us: my aim is to help the people in there. Given I am not in the position to make a concrete difference, leastwise I want the others to know what is going on, opening their eyes on what can be considered the worst human crisis of the 21st century.”

Creating awareness
Sala, together with her sister, manages the Facebook page One Hope One Yemen to raise funds for this cause. She regards the opportunity to study in Amsterdam as an immeasurable privilege. Attending a university that has been internationally recognized for the bachelor in Communication Science, she waits for her moment to come.

The world has the right to be aware of its intrinsic brutality when it comes to defeat it

“Less than 1% of Yemenis has the lucky chance that I have. Most of my friends and their families are stuck there: it is clearly not something that everyone can get by simply wishing it. There are no words to describe how grateful I am to my father for what he has done in the past years, enabling me to continue my studies abroad for the sake of the future. I was home when the Yemeni Revolution broke out in 2011, but I haven’t experienced this new war directly. I only see it from far away.”

“Do you know how it feels when you are screaming, and nobody is listening to you? Well, all Yemenis are screaming right now, but nobody seems to be willing to pay attention. That’s why I have chosen Communication Science: people don’t even know there is a war in Yemen, which is the pure victim of the current state of affairs. I want to be the first one to witness these cruelties, and I want to do it especially for my fellow citizens who lost their loved ones in the struggle for survival. The world has the right to be aware of its intrinsic brutality when it comes to defeat it.”

Cover: Isabel Bonnet

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About the author

Gilda Bruno