Augusta native talks about time in Yemen

 

More than 50 people sat in silence in a small room inside the Augusta Library Headquarters on Sunday as a film showing images of the 2011 Yemeni revolution was projected on a large screen.

The silence was a stark contrast from the chaos on the screen. The sight of bloodied protesters and children blinded by drone strikes brought a few in the crowd to tears.

When the film stopped, the lights came on and Jeb Boone, a freelance journalist and Augusta native, began to speak about his experience in the Yemeni revolution.

The talk was important because many don’t get a chance to see Yemenis for who they really are, Boone said. Most Americans living in the South would identify with Yemenis right away, he said.

“Southerners and Yemenis are kind of the same,” he said. “Our cultures are similar, so when I went there to study Arabic, I felt like I fit right in. I said right then that this is my opportunity to tell their story.”

The 26-year-old graduate of John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School spent two years in Yemen as the managing editor of the Yemen Times, the nation’s most widely read English-language newspaper, and as a freelance journalist covering the revolution. He had studied the Middle East and Arabic in college, making his task much easier.

“All the reporters from the big news organizations didn’t speak Arabic, so I had a big advantage,” he explained.

At a time when journalists were singled out by Yemeni military, Boone told the audience that he would have to hide his camera and note pad to avoid being spotted at protests. He got crafty.

“I bought this little camera that fit into a pack of cigarettes,” he said. “I would put (the camera) in an empty pack of cigarettes, put it in my front pocket and just go right through the security lines.”

After Boone, the audience heard a presentation by CODEPINK founder Medea Benjamin, who reminded them that while they might live thousands of miles from Yemen, there is still reason to care.

“We should care about what our government is doing in our name,” she said. “The least we could do is show support for (Yemen’s) peaceful resistance.”

Benjamin applauded Boone for his dedication for reporting the protests, then turned her attention to the many Yemenis who lost their lives during the revolution.

“When you look at the young people in the film, your heart goes out to them,” she said. “For them to have the bravery to face the bullets and power of the government, it’s incredible.”

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