Posted in Behind the News

Arabic-speaking AP team documents Yemen horrors

, by Lauren Easton

AP’s dedicated Yemen reporting team, comprising two Egyptians and a Yemeni journalist, is working diligently to break news and expose atrocities committed inside the war-torn country.

Correspondent Maggie Michael, photographer Nariman El-Mofty and video journalist Maad al-Zikry, all fluent in Arabic, have investigated food aid stolen from the starving masses, revealed the recruitment and deployment of child soldiers as young as 10 and exposed the torture of Yemenis held in secret prisons.

Their reporting caused a top Houthi rebel leader to order an investigation into torture. The United Nations went public with a threat to cut off help to Houthi-controlled areas unless the rebels stopped diverting food aid.

On Wednesday, the work of Michael, El-Mofty and al-Zikry was announced as a finalist for the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics.

“It’s dangerous but worth every moment,” said Michael, an Egyptian who has covered Yemen since 2016. “The appreciation we receive from people for every story gives us more motivation to continue documenting this war, as the deeper we dig, the more we feel we get closer to the truth. We aim to find real answers to why this war is happening in the first place.”

The cross-format AP coverage is supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Hagar Yahia holds her 5-year-old daughter Awsaf, who is malnourished from living mainly off of bread and tea, in Abyan, Yemen, Feb. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

“Documenting the war in Yemen visually is like standing in the face of a storm,” added al-Zikry, who is Yemeni.

He said: “Every party in the conflict perceives my camera as the most dangerous weapon and they see the holder of the camera as a legitimate target. Sometimes it’s hard for outsiders to see the level of danger in being a journalist in Yemen because it’s a daily pattern of intimidation. I have colleagues who lost their lives for a picture.”

Kahlan, a 12-year-old former child soldier, demonstrates how to use a weapon, in Marib, Yemen, July 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

El-Mofty described what it is like to be a woman journalist working inside the country.

“Being an Arab woman really helps with access and people’s comfort. When people ask Maggie and I where we’re from and we say we are Egyptian, people become extremely warm and friendly on both sides of the conflict, actually, which helped a lot working from the south all the way up to the north,” she said.

“We understand unspoken gestures, speak the same language and are extremely close culturally. That combination helps people have more trust in us," said El-Mofty.

All of the stories from the series Yemen’s Dirty War can be found here.

Michael describes covering the civil war in this Pulitzer Center video: