A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
‘Ana Insan Madani’ can best be translated as ‘I am a citizen’. In this regular feature, we meet prominent Yemenis from various backgrounds and fields and hear their thoughts on matters related to Yemen, being a citizen and what ‘madaniya’ means to them.
Photo Courtsey of Sohila al-Bna’a
Sohila al-Bna’a is not your average college senior. The 23 year old International Relations and West Asian Studies student is an Internet sensation with Yemeni youth. Based in Seoul, where she is currently studying, al-Bna’a began using social media channels to document her participation in her university’s international activities. Her participation focused on highlighting the culture and heritage of Yemen, through fashion, music and talks. Being fluent in Korean, al-Bna’a was invited on national Korean television with other students to speak on health issues around the world. It was then that she shared information about her native country with millions of viewers. She spoke with grace and poise, informing viewers about the current conditions in Yemen.
These small initiatives led to her being given the title Seoul City International Student Ambassador, 2017, and gain much love and admiration from Yemeni youth around the world. Currently, al-Bna’a is the officer in charge of cultural affairs in the Yemen’s Students’ Union in South Korea. She has almost 50,000 followers on Instagram; this led to al-Bna’a launching her YouTube channel only a few months ago, with already 20,000 – and increasing – followers.
Al-Madaniya magazine looks at Sohila al-Bna’a as an important role model for Yemeni youth inside and outside Yemen. With passion, she promotes the culture and heritage of our country to the world and reminds them that this country is more than just a war zone. Al-Bna’a is an inspiration to the editorial team – and most certainly to thousands of others.
1. What does the word madaniya / مدنية mean to you?
Rule of law, equality and the right to dream and achieve.
2. What does homeland mean to you?
It is the place you still long for even when you travel hundreds of miles away. It is the unique feeling that arises inside, and can never be found in other lands. It is that place in which, when you leave it, simple things are never replaced.
3. What does it mean to be a citizen to you?
Being a citizen is being aware of your access to rights and performing duties. It is being loyal to one’s homeland by promoting its culture. And never being ashamed to talk about its hardships as well.
4. How would you describe the advantages and disadvantages of the rule of law?
The rule of law is a double-edged sword. It is a good when it is used to promote better living conditions for citizens. Without it a society would collapse and be more chaotic. On the other hand, the only disadvantage I can see here is sometimes the conservative nature of the law, which might impose limitations on people’s choices.
5. When you hear the word equality, what comes to your mind?
It is the equality among individuals regardless of their differences… with no partiality and more fairness!
6. Have you voted before?
7. If you had the power to make one change in Yemen, what would it be and when?
A lot! But one major thing is giving the chance for the youth to rule. They have the passion and potential to do so!
8. What should the world know about Yemen today?
The world should know both the sorrow and the beauty of this land. They should know that Yemenis are prisoners of a tragic, forgotten war, their land has a lot to give…
the 500–1000 year old architecture from the north to the south… the ancient folk tales and myths. They, moreover, should know Aden scents, Mocha coffee, Sidr honey, and the various and diverse authentic Yemeni cuisines and costumes.