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Winter 2018

Shireen Al-Adeimi

Jonathan Kozowyk

Study Skills: Shireen Al-Adeimi

It was no coincidence that the day civil war broke out in Yemen in March 2015, Shireen Al-Adeimi started using Twitter. The Yemeni-born doctoral student, living in the United States at the time, noticed that what friends and family back home were reporting was being virtually ignored in the media.

“They were saying, ‘We’re getting attacked!’ but there wasn’t anything in the news,” she says. She decided that she would do what she could, from Cambridge, to raise awareness. “Awareness is the number one reason I joined Twitter the day the war started,” she says. Al-Adeimi also wrote a letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren calling for an end to U.S. support for Saudi-led airstrikes in her country. She posted the letter and Warren’s reply on Twitter and eventually turned it into an online petition. Along with her husband, she held a fundraiser at MIT last year featuring Public Radio International producer Stephen Snyder to raise money for Doctors Without Borders. She continues to raise funds to help charities in the field.

Since then, she says an estimated 10,000 Yemenis have died in the war, including one of her family members, and millions more are struggling with limited food and clean water. The situation got worse this past summer when a massive cholera outbreak infected more than 600,000 in just a few months, double what the World Health Organization predicted. Thousands more have died.

“It’s the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and no one is talking about it,” says Al-Adeimi. Asked why, given the compassion people have had for other crises, she suspects there are several reasons, starting with the sense that Americans know little about Yemen.

“We know about the country because of drone wars and terrorists, yes, but it’s really not on anyone’s radar,” she says. And as a country, “acknowledging the crisis would mean we have to look deeper into our role and that would be uncomfortable. No one is talking about how the U.S. military is involved in training and refueling Saudi jets. Acknowledging that is really difficult.”

Although she says she’s sometimes at a loss for what more she can do, she knows that she can’t give up trying to raise awareness.

“A lot of people say, ‘You’re the first Yemeni I’ve ever met,’” she says. “I was never involved in politics, but now it feels like a huge responsibility.”