Shaima Bin Othman and Mareike Transfeld
YEMENI FILMMAKERS REFLECT ON ROLE OF POLICE IN COMMUNITY
October 1, 2019
Two short film clips shedding light on the role of the police within Yemeni communities are named the winners of a video competition part of YPC’s “Rebuilding Peace and Security in Yemen” project funded by the European Union. Jalal al-Daeri and Taher al-Zuhairi, who placed first and second in the competition, criticize police performance, while at the same time point to the potential the police holds to bring security.
It is a familiar scene to Yemenis: checkpoints all over the cities, suicide attacks, shootouts in public places. The factors for insecurity are ample in Yemeni cities after a civil war devastated the country for over four years. Al-Daeri and al-Zuhairi show in their films the importance of security men to protect citizens in communities. But this role is overshadowed by endemic corruption, and police officers who use their power to exploit citizens during these troubled times.
Jalal Ahmed al-Daeri, a 30-years-old actor and director from Ibb governorate, was the winner of the film competition. Jalal’s film “Ahyanan,” which translates to “Sometimes,” sheds light on the difficult living conditions of policemen in light of the current situation: They too suffer from poor economic conditions; many do not regularly receive salaries. This increases corruption, as police men ask for bribes to overlook a crime or to cover one up.
According to a 2012 YPC survey, 15% of Yemenis said they had no confidence in the police; most of them lack trust because of nepotism and corruption among the police. 60% of Yemenis said the level of corruption in the police is high to very high because they are being paid unfair salaries.
The police officer of the film is shown to take a bribe by a community member; of course, the audience is initially led to believe the police officer takes the bride for purely immoral reasons. This impression is changed once it became clear that he uses the money to support his family. Later, in civilian clothing, the same police officer resolves a violent situation in the street, demonstrating the potential of the police to provide security.
The film shows the positive and negative aspects of the security sector. Clearly, there are many areas in which police work and the working conditions of officers needs to improve, this includes the regular payment of salaries, the provision of operational funds and anti-corruption measures within institutions. But nevertheless, the film shows that the police hold the potential to improve security in the communities. Jalal al-Daeri said, “I am very thankful for this opportunity to use my filmmaking talent to advocate for a safer community.”
A similar angle is taken by Taher Murshid al-Zuhairi, a 27-years-old actor, writer, and director, who is also from Ibb governorate. He was the runner-up in the competition with his film “Lau”, Arabic for “If”. The film exposes the reality of locals’ discontent with policemen and the extensive military presence in cities.
According to a survey conducted by YPC between May and June 2019, one quarter of Yemenis said they have experienced harassment at checkpoints while travelling outside of the city. Checkpoints are the places residents experience security men up close; for the community to trust the police it is important for them to have positive experiences at checkpoints. But despite the harassment, the checkpoints also increase security in communities. This is often forgotten. The number of Yemenis who support an increase of checkpoints is greater than the number of Yemenis that want to decrease their number.
Taher Al-Zuhairi commented: “the country’s situation necessitates the large presence of military checkpoints, and perhaps not many realize their importance, that’s why I made this film”. He added, “the film was actually videoed at a site where an explosion occurred.”
Yemenis need to understand the important role of the security sector in maintaining public order and safety and enforcing the law. At the same time, the conditions for the police need to improve so that the police can do their job: provide security to communities.
These films are part of the project “Re-Building Peace and Security” funded by the European Union.
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YPC nationwide representative survey, April–July 2019. Data cited in this paper is drawn from this survey unless otherwise indicated.
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