Celebrating 8 years of Alf Ba Civilization and Coexistence Foundation27 July 2020
In June 2020, our Yemeni partner Alf Ba Civilization and Coexistence Foundation celebrated its 8th year in action, working for peace and cohesion for communities in Aden. Below are exerts from statements by those working with Alf Ba who look back on how it all first started and the larger role of civil society. You can read their full statements in Arabic on their Facebook page.
“From an initiative, to an institution, towards a regional presence…” - Afra’a Khaled Al-Hariri
Alf Ba Civilization and Coexistence Foundation is a civil society organisation based in Aden that works with the community to promote cohesion and collaboration through public participation. Saferworld has worked with Alf Ba on a range of projects responding to everyday safety issues, such as renovating disused public spaces and repairing damaged infrastructure networks. Alf Ba have also been leading several COVID-19 response projects, including refurbishing an unused hospital, sanitising communal areas and leading virus awareness campaigns.
Founding member and president of the organisation Ashgan Shuraih explains, “Alf Ba started as an idea that emerged from a feminist trio. We wanted to create a platform for peace and freedom that has no limits and no restrictions, to be a starting point for spreading democratic thought and principles of justice, equality, and acceptance of others. This was Alf Ba’s main path on which it faced and transcended many difficulties and dangers, armed with a team of employees who share these ideas and principles. We also grew with the support of partners who held the same approach and values, including international and local organisations, governmental, different communities, prominent community figures, and all the beneficiaries of our activities who are the most important supporters in measuring the organisation’s performance and development”.
Afra’a Khaled Al-Hariri, a human rights lawyer from the Yemeni Women’s Technical Advisory Group to the UN Special Envoy to Yemen’s office, who works with Alf Ba shares her reflections.
“Civil society organisations are a necessity for a society, as an indicator of the rise and progress of peoples.”
“The birth of Alf Ba was not a natural or easy process. Alf Ba emerged out of the rage of the youth’s revolutionary sites that were stolen by rising attitudes that saw others* as ‘intruders on Aden’ and that refused to accept and coexist with one another. Alf Ba was born out of Crater Square [the site where major protests took place], with what it represents from the old Aden that embraced everyone and accepted them all despite the differences between them!”
“Although it’s been eight years since its establishment, Alf Ba does not hide that it still has much experience to gain in the work of civil society. But during these eight years, we have accumulated a good deal of knowledge, from the initial ABCs, doing trainings and gaining qualification, and finally refining our practice and conduct. But our principles have not changed throughout the years… Alf Ba has not given in to the circumstances that have forced many to direct their activities towards humanitarian and food relief. It chose to stop its activities for a period of time after the liberation of Aden, a rare decision taken by such organisations in order to respect its mission and goal.”
“Of course, one cannot deny the large role played by other international, regional and local organisations that worked and continue to work in Yemen … [They] provide the opportunity for many young men and women to encourage members of their communities towards achieving sustainable development, and providing through training to establish a legal awareness that seeks to emphasise the principles of social justice and contribution in building a modern state, respecting human rights and political and social empowerment in line with its goals.”
Finally, Alf Ba head of programmes Ali Abdul-Ilah Salam notes, “In war, Alf Ba was one of the first to call for an end to the conflict and for restoring civil life, as it has been and still is trying to work with all parties to create a space for building the desired peace.”
“We are an institution that has opened its doors to all, where many young people have trained and learnt a lot. This commitment continues to be renewed in activities that bring people together with their different mentalities, gender, race, and beliefs, and strengthens a common factor between them. That factor is humanity, manifested in different forms, that creates opportunities for each person according to their vision, purpose and speciality.
Now, despite the spread of civil society institutions, there exists a painful gap. Our lives are not the same. Harmful ideas and attitudes surround us. But I see our current situation as suitable to revisit the concept of civil society, to regain the role of civil and communal work, and to bring back constructive and unifying activities away from profit-led and competitive civil society.”
* Aden has historically been a place of diverse populations as a result of trade and migration, and more recently displacement due to the war.