In ways both subtle and profound, your engagement, support, partnership, readership, and most importantly, your trust, have helped the Sana’a Center become what it is today. After eight years, I am writing to let you know that my days at the Center’s helm have come to a close. As of the New Year, I have stepped down as Chairperson and handed the torch to my exceptional colleagues under whose guidance the Sana’a Center will continue to thrive.
Moving forward, the executive management of the Sana’a Center will be as follows: Maged Al-Madhagi – Chairperson; Yasmeen Al-Eryani – Co-Executive Director for Knowledge Production; Osama Al-Rawhani – Co-Executive Director for Policy and Partnerships; Nuha Al-Saeedi – Head of Operations and responsible for the Center’s finances; and Waleed Al-Hariri – Director of the Yemen International Forum.
It is hard to believe that in 2014 the Sana’a Center was no more than a handful of people with an audacious idea. From the first day of the center’s inception, our dream was to build a locally led organization that would become a platform for Yemenis to hold domestic leaders to account and to shape the international agenda related to our country. That we have done, and so much more. Through the efforts and dedication of every single person in our team, the Sana’a Center is today Yemen’s leading research organization, with networks spanning all regions of the country, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, Europe, North America, and beyond.
Over the years, the Sana’a Center’s work has relentlessly challenged the two-dimensional narratives and exclusionary international frameworks that prevail in Western and regional capitals. It has done so by creating a hub for the country’s boldest and brightest to think and speak freely, and stand up for truth, transparency, and accountability in a manner few others have dared to do. The Center has become a model for those across the globe who struggle against authoritarian impulses, against those who use violence to win, and against unnuanced populism that divides people. No matter what, the future is ours. We know what is happening in and to our communities – if we stand any chance of achieving progress and peace, we are the generation who must drive the conversation.
For far too long, leaders in our region have attempted to hold on to power, a phenomenon that has tainted and bleeded our collective political history. We, as Yemenis, have first-hand experience of how this can blind policy and stifle progress. As both young and traditionally unprivileged individuals, we at the Sana’a Center have always felt an extra responsibility to chart a new course, lead by example, and stay cognizant of the legacy we leave behind. We, more than anyone else, know that the renewal of leadership makes way for new blood and new ideas. Such rejuvenation is necessary to meet the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow, lest the institution we have built stagnate in old mindsets and fade into insignificance, as so many other once-promising initiatives have done before us.
In part, this has meant building something novel for Yemen– a place where merit and ideas trump nepotism and connections. We took this responsibility seriously, fully aware that as a local organization and as young leaders we are doubly scrutinized and often doubted – regardless of how many times we have defied the odds or set new precedents. With this in mind, over the years we have diligently worked to create sound internal structures, policies, and processes that strengthen our commitment to good governance and organic growth within the Center. More importantly, we embraced inclusivity, recognizing that the more different and diverse our perspectives, the stronger and more sustainable we are. It is these commitments and values that have been the backbone of the Center’s steady growth for the past eight years.
This journey has been a rite of passage in both my personal and professional life. As a fresh graduate out of college, nothing could have been more rewarding than co-founding a platform to channel the potential and encourage the growth of both me and my peers, and collectively try to make a difference. I have had the rare privilege of working with a team of people smarter and wiser than I, but who nonetheless had faith in me steering the ship. My time with the Sana’a Center has taught me, among many things, that the most generous and prized support one can ever give to another human being is sharing one’s time, uncensored advice, and mentorship, all of which I have received in abundance from people who made the Center’s mission their own.
I will always be indebted to and humbled by the exceptional individuals who make up the Sana’a Center team – I am grateful for their trust and patience over the years, and for standing firm even when it felt like the sky was falling. A special thanks also goes to our advisory board members, including the many unofficial ones, for recognizing the Center’s potential from its earliest days, and for always providing a larger compass and perspective.
The Sana’a Center will always hold a special place in my heart and mind, and I will always be there to pass along any available wisdom. While I am embarking on other journeys that will keep me engaged on Yemen and the wider region, I leave the Center with my heart full, knowing that it will continue to draft history, hold power to account, and strive to put Yemenis in charge of their own destiny.
Until the next adventure,
Sana’a Center Co-Founder and Ex-Chairperson