UPDATE: A fund has been set up for Almigdad’s family. Anyone who wants to please donate here
This morning I received the devastating news that Almigdad Mojalli, a Yemeni journalist who had written for a whole range of media – both Western and Yemeni – was killed, seemingly by a Saudi airstrike.
While I am no longer with IRIN, for over six months I had the pleasure of working with Almigdad as he wrote fantastic stories during Yemen’s brutal civil war.
He had the rarest of qualities of journalists in a civil war – total commitment to neutrality and objectivity. As journalists across the country were systematically squeezed to support either side, he maintained a healthy distain for all warring parties. His commitment was always to tell the suffering of the Yemeni people.
This dedication to facts, to truth and most of all to the Yemeni people made him unpopular with all those with weapons but loved by all those without. While we do not know the full circumstances of his death, on many occasions previously he had been both threatened by the Houthis and narrowly avoided Saudi airstrikes. In a war as brutal as Yemen’s, those genuinely committed to criticising all sides have been systematically under attack.
Almigdad wrote for IRIN freelance for nearly a year, along with other publications including VOA and The Telegraph. During that time, he systematically documented the suffering of his people amid one of the world’s most brutal civil wars. Among the topics he covered were the lack of aid arriving in the country, the remains of the country’s most famous orphanage and how people battled to feed their families.
He took the pain of his people and brought it to the world.
Multiple members of his family have been killed since the Saudi bombing campaign began in March 2015. We spoke many times about him leaving – fleeing to Jordan, or Malaysia or elsewhere. It often came back to the same point, he didn’t feel he could do it.
“I am a Yemeni, this is my home,” I remember him saying. He just wanted to live in peace with his family.
Almigdad Mojalli was a wonderful human being who did more for Yemen than all the country’s myriad political factions could ever hope to.
While journalism has suffered a great loss, his family’s pain is far sharper. His son, just six years old, will never know his wonderful father who sacrificed so much for him. Our thoughts are with them at this time.
Almigdad’s passing is a moment of sober realism for us all. Journalism, Yemen and the world will be far poorer without him.
I will leave you with a few of his words from this beautiful piece.
Over the past six months, I’ve been to dozens of bombsites. Even as a Yemeni, it is hard not to become desensitised. Every day I wake up to hear that 10 people were killed last night, or 20, or 40. It almost stops feeling real.
More than anything you focus on protecting those you care for. I am a journalist working in a war zone, but I am also a husband, a son and a father.
While I have stayed in Sana’a, I moved my family out to a village away from the airstrikes, so I don’t get to spend as much time with the children as I would like. “When will you take me to the park, Dad?” my five-year old son also asks me lovingly every week. The reply is always the same: “When the war stops.”