Shafaqna Exclusive Interview with Dr Riaz Karim, Director of the Mona Relief Organization

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SHAFAQNA – If Yemen has hugged several headlines over the devastation the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has carried against the impoverished nation, Yemen’s tales of bravery and resistance much less so … A country at war against many great nations, Yemen has resisted the impossible, stubbornly refusing to bow to tyranny.

A broken land scarred by war and one inhuman humanitarian blockade Yemen is not without friends.

Dr Riaz Karim, the Director and co-founder of the Mona Relief Organization is one those friends Yemen has been relying on to win this war of attrition against its land and its people. Armed with only compassion, and a sense of duty for those less fortunate, Dr Karim has made it possible for Yemenis to run the Saudi-made blockade, and ensure that rain or shine food would be made available to those most in need.

Dr Karim’s fundraising efforts allowed for the distribution of 2 million meals across North Yemen, an area blocked off by Riyadh on account its population is majority-Zaidi (Shia Islam).

Dr Karim opened up to Shafaqna in an exclusive interview this March:

SHAFAQNA – Dr Karim, the Mona Relief if I understand it correctly is one of the very few truly independent charitable organizations operating in Yemen at the moment? Can you explain what obstacles, if any you have faced in trying to assist Yemen’s poorest communities in such times of war?

DR RIAZ KARIM – Yes indeed, the Mona Relief Organization is somewhat of a rarity in terms of its funding independence. From the very beginning we chose to stir free from politics, to ensure that our approach to humanitarian assistance will remain true to its goals: helping those in needs regardless of their background, their ethnicities, their faiths … all we care about is assistance, all we want to offer is aid, compassion and of course hope. Yemen has already been fractured by war, we need now to help Yemen heal and survive the horrors its people were put through.

Our road has been a difficult one … independence comes at a price. We have solely relied on private donors, and of course this has meant that our means have been limited. But we believe that in time we will manage to rise a powerful organization. Our work is a work of collaboration and social cooperation. We help communities help themselves, we use communities to assist us in our efforts, allowing for our network of local volunteers to grow … this of course means that all our funds are used for supplies, freeing precious resources. In time we intend to develop medical and educational programs at a local level, employing people from within the community.

Yemen needs to be reconstructed, it doesn’t need perpetual assistance. Yemenis are perfectly capable of rebuilding their communities if only they are given the tools.

Of course we have many hardships and difficulties, but our determination always prevailed. We are now looking to secure regular donations from ours sponsors to plan our aid distribution more efficiently. We need an average of £10 000 per month to meet people’s immediate food need.

SHAFAQNA – Saudi Arabia it was reported has targeted food convoys in Yemen, were you directly affected by the violence?

DR RIAZ KARIM – Yes we were. Our team has been shot at, bombed and altogether targeted by pro-Saudi militias and al-Qaeda terrorists. Yemen is a dangerous place to be! It is very difficult for people to comprehend just how violent Yemen has become under Saudi Arabia’s influence. Communities have been torn apart, set against their neighbours on account of faith and/or politics.

Regions have been denied humanitarian aid on account of their allegiance to the Resistance or their religion.

Millions of people have been left to starve on account they refused to bend a knee to Saudi Arabia. We are fighting against this reality by offering generosity, compassion, and tolerance. Our team of volunteers is like Yemen: multi-coloured. All we ask is a true heart … the rest we leave for God!

SHAFAQNA – How desperate is the situation in Yemen? How are people coping with depravation?

DR RIAZ KARIM – That’s the problem they are no longer coping. People sold all their possessions to feed their families … people have stopped purchasing medicine to buy their children bread … the situation is quite heart-breaking. It is the sight of starving children which I find most upsetting as we owe them protection.

Yemenis have been outstanding in their resistance and their resilience, but there is a point when too much is simply too much! I’m running out of words when it comes to describe Yemen’s suffering. People face death every day … it hovers over Yemen like a vulture stealing hope away … It needs to stop. We need to bring life back to this land. We cannot possibly look on and do nothing as a people is being annihilated.

Yemen is one of the world oldest civilizations, soon it could be no more. I pray for people to make room in their heart for Yemen. Yemen needs all of our help, and all of our prayers.

Yemen had the courage to stand up to tyranny, it would be criminal to allow for History to remember that the world stood by and did nothing by way of assistance. How many times will children be shot at by drones as they pick strawberries before we wake up?

How many more times will the world allow for innocent women and children to be buried under the rubbles of their homes before we say: “enough”?

SHAFAQNA – How can people help?

DR RIAZ KARIM – People can donate directly through the website on our GoFundMe page. We are currently running a special coffee challenge where we are asking people to donate £2 – less than a cup of coffee – and help Yemen beat the blockade.

We are also working on a marketing campaign to raise our social media profile. This cost money of course and we are hoping donations will help cover such cost. Visibility is absolutely necessary if we are to reach more potential donors and succeed in building our network.

Luckily because our overheads are kept to a minimum, 90% of all our funds are utilized to buy food and other essentials.

I’m very grateful to Shafaqna for its coverage and journalistic integrity. Without your generosity our media coverage would not have been what it is today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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