Reham Al-Badr: A Yemeni symbol of bravery in a city devastated by war

Hundreds attended the funeral of Reham Al-Badr who was killed by a Houthi mortar on Thursday. (Supplied by Al-Badr family)
Updated 11 February 2018

Reham Al-Badr: A Yemeni symbol of bravery in a city devastated by war

ADEN: Dalia Mohammed is unable to hold back her tears when she talks about the last day she spent working with her friend and colleague Reham Al-Badr.
The Yemeni human-rights activist was killed on Thursday, along with another volunteer, by a Houthi mortar as they delivered food aid to families trapped near the front lines in Taiz city.
The 32-year-old was widely known for her bravery in helping those worst effected by the conflict and friends, family and colleagues paid tribute to her work in one of the cities worst affected by the conflict.
Taiz has been decimated by a siege and relentless shelling of civilian areas by the rebels since they attacked the city after trying to overthrow the country’s government in 2014.
“Reham was like a bee, you could find her everywhere in Taiz giving goods to people,” Dalia told Arab News. “Those who know Reham, they know the loss for Taiz.”
Dalia said they had been distributing food in the east of the city on the day Reham was killed .
“We were in a civilian car and there were no military vehicles near to us but there were fierce battles going on,” Dalia said.
“Fighters of the Yemeni army told us that the Houthis were heavily targeting the area and that we should not stay together because the Houthi snipers were shooting at anyone.”
Dalia, Reham and the other volunteers with them finally found a safe place where they could distribute the aid they had with them.
As Dalia divided up the water, milk, cakes and fruits into small baskets, Reham and two others carried the parcels to distribute them near the front line.
“At 12pm we heard fierce shelling and shooting targeting the road which Reham and her friends had gone through.”
Worried for their situation, some of the volunteers decided to leave, but Dalia remained with one colleague to wait for her friend.
Reham and Momen Al-Sharabi, were killed when a mortar fired by the Houthis landed near them, family members said. reham suffered severe abdomen wounds.
Government fighters recovered their bodies and broke the news to Dalia. She is numb with grief, but she believes Reham died doing incredible work to help ease the suffering of people in the city.
“She did not care about shelling, threats or anyone trying to stop her. When we worked in the front lines, she always was the first to go and encouraged others to do so,” Dalia said.
Hundreds of people attended Reham’s funeral in Taiz on Friday. Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, praised her work and offered his condolences on Twitter.
Reham came from Al-Turba, 70km south of Taiz city. She graduated from Taiz University in 2007 with a degree in English and started her voluntary work in Taiz, and in 2011 joined the protests against the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In 2013, Reham founded the Nofoodh organization, which aimed to educate people about the outcomes of the “National Dialogue” — a transitional process put in place after Saleh was forced to step down.
Angered that they were not getting what they wanted from the National Dialogue, the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 before attacking provinces to the south. In response Reham helped organize protests in Taiz calling for peace.
When the rebels attacked Taiz, her brothers all chose to resist the Houthis in different ways. One brother, Ahmed was killed in the same area as Reham in March 2017, while fighting the Houthis.
In 2015, at the height of a Houthi siege on the city which left hospitals desperately short of supplies, Reham tried to bring medicines to the Al-Hawban area. She was caught by the rebel forces and detained inside a school, which had been converted into a prison, Dalia said.
An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in support of the Yemen government, targeted the Houthis at the school and Reham fled.
“But the Houthis arrested her again and put her in the Air Defense military camp,” Dalia said. Again, Reham was able to flee after coalition jets targeted the camp.
Reham’s family said they were in shock at her death and directed their anger at the Houthis.
“The Houthis are fully responsible for Reham’s death,” her cousin, Awad Abdulbaset, a journalist and activist, told Arab News. “They do not distinguish between fighters and civilians — they commit daily crimes because they are fond of killing.”
“Reham’s mother was worried about Reham because of her work, and she collapsed when she knew the news, her father is blind and he was deeply affected when he knew about Reham’s death.”
Taiz has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the conflict which has killed more than 5,000 civilians.


Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

Updated 24 August 2019

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

  • Egyptian social startups are taking alternative approaches to fostering awareness and reducing waste

CAIRO: Global plastics production reached 348 million tons in 2017, rising from 335 million tons in 2016, according to Plastics Europe. 

Critically, most plastic waste is not properly managed: Around 55 percent of it was landfilled or discarded in 2015. These numbers are extremely concerning because plastic products take anything from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose, and the effects on the environment, especially on marine and human life, are catastrophic.

While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively.

“We’re the first website in the Middle East and North Africa that trades waste,” said Alaa Afifi, founder and CEO of Bekia. “People can get rid of any waste at their disposal — plastic, paper and cooking oil — and exchange it for over 65 products on our website.”

Products for trading include rice, tea, pasta, cooking oil, subway tickets and school supplies.

Bekia was launched in Cairo in 2017. Initially, the business model did not prove successful.

“We used to rent a car and go to certain locations every 40 days to collect waste from people,” Afifi, 26, explained. “We then created a website and started encouraging people to use it.”

After the website was launched, people could wait at home for someone to collect the waste. “Instead of 40 days, we now could visit people within a week.”

To use Bekia’s services, people need to log onto the website and specify what they want to discard. They are assigned points based on the waste they are offering, and these points can be used in one of three ways: Donated to people in need, saved for later, or exchanged for products. As for the collected waste, it is given to specialized recycling companies for processing.

“We want to have 50,000 customers over the next two years who regularly use our service to get rid of their waste,” Afifi said.  

Trying to spread environmental awareness has not been easy. “We had a lot of trouble with initial investment at first, and we got through with an investment that was far from enough. The second problem we faced was spreading this culture among people — in the first couple of months, we received no orders,” Afifi said.

The team soldiered on and slowly built a client base, currently serving 7,000 customers. In terms of what lies ahead for Bekia, he said: “We’re expanding from 22 to 30 areas in Cairo this year. We’re launching an app very soon and a new website with better features.”

Go Clean, another Egyptian recycling startup dedicated to raising environmental awareness, works under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment. “We started in 2017 by recycling waste from factories, and then by February 2019 we started expanding,” said founder and CEO Mohammed Hamdy, 30.

The Cairo-based company collects recyclables from virtually all places, including households, schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, companies and embassies. The customers separate the items into categories and then fill out a registration form. Alternatively, they can make contact through WhatsApp or Facebook. A driver is then dispatched to collect the waste, carrying a scale to weigh it. 

“The client can be paid in cash for the weight of their recyclables, or they can make a donation to a special needs school in Cairo,” Hamdy explained. There is also the option of trading the waste for dishwashing soap, with more household products to be added in the future.

Trying to cover a country with 100 million people was never going to be easy, and Go Clean faced some logistical problems. It overcame them by hiring more drivers and getting more trucks. There was another challenge along the way: “We had to figure out a way to train the drivers, from showing them how to use GPS and deal with clients,” said Hamdy.

“We want to spread awareness about the environment everywhere. We go to schools, universities, companies and even factories to give sessions about the importance of recycling and how dangerous plastic is. We’re currently covering 20 locations across Cairo and all of Alexandria. We want to cover all of Egypt in the future,” he added.

With a new app on the way, Hamdy said things are looking positive for the social startup, and people are becoming invested in the initiative. “We started out with seven orders per day, and now we get over 100.”