Letter from Yemen: artist speaks out about his country’s ‘forgotten war’

By The Art Newspaper

Ahmed Jahaf describes what it is like to live through catastrophic conflict


My name is Ahmed Jahaf. I am a graphic designer and artist living in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. My work is inspired by the Saudi Arabia-led war on my country. I live under constant bombardment and blockade. We have all been living like this since 26 March 2015. It has been more than 900 days since the “forgotten war” started in Yemen.
We are facing the world’s biggest food-security crisis, with more than 17 million starving civilians. We hear the sounds of jets flying and bombs destroying buildings and killing civilians. We are also now dealing with a spiralling cholera crisis.
In 2015, a coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia began bombing and imposing a blockade on Yemen with the support of the US and UK governments. So I decided to speak out and try to break the media blackout. I’m angry because the US and the UK are supporting the Saudi-led coalition and are still selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

I’m just trying to show the ugliness of war—what happens during a conflict while the world watches in silence. This is my way of protesting against the injustice of this forgotten war—and of asking for peace.
I spend my days watching the news and recording events such as air raids on social media. I make works at night, using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I’m using my artistic talent to garner publicity and to draw the world’s attention to the situation here. My work is starting to break through; I recently had an exhibition here in Sana’a and my prints were shown at the Art the Arms Fair in London.

Ahmed Jahaf, In Trump We Trust Ahmed Jahaf

Among my works, the image that has had the most impact depicts the globe, showing Yemen as a blood-red area with a plume of smoke. Another shows the Statue of Liberty standing among the rubble of a destroyed Yemeni building. I also depicted a young child, Buthaina—the sole survivor of a recent air strike that killed her parents, five siblings and an uncle.
Last year, on 8 October, 145 people were killed and there were mass casualties after an attack on a funeral in Sana’a. Many people were blown to pieces. The funeral hall massacre was not reported or covered like other foreign massacres—after all, they’re only Yemenis, and this is the forgotten war.

2 thoughts on “Letter from Yemen: artist speaks out about his country’s ‘forgotten war’

  1. My dear Ahmed:
    Thanks to your work, I have known the suffering of the yemeni people. I met your history thanks to a program of the national radio of Spain called 5 continents. I felt really impacted by the reality of your situation that seems to me completely unacceptable and intolerable. I’ve shared by social networks and personal contacts your magnificent work. What more could I do to help you?

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