No Life in Yemen

Give Peace a Chance – a film by Fahd Ganam

More than a year ago, 33-year-old Fahd Ganam left Yemen with a 200 GB hard drive. Stored on it, material he filmed in his homeland and during his 6-month-long journey through Djibouti, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Hungary before he finally found a safe place to stay in Styria. Fahd had to flee from his homeland, which has been completely destroyed by a war that hit the country seven years ago and is not bound to end anytime soon. It was the documentary about the situation there he is working on, that ultimately made him leave Yemen. His filmed material about the war’s atrocities put him into danger in a country controlled by strict censorship. As part of our “New Directions for Classical Music” project, Fahd has now released parts of his overwhelming material in a video and is one step closer to his biggest goal: making people aware of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. 

Sein Job als Filmemacher und Journalist zwang den 33-jährigen Fahd Ganam, aus dem Jemen zu fliehen. Scharfe Zensuren und die vorherrschende Miliz brachten sein Leben, das er filmisch festgehalten hat, in Gefahr. Im Zuge unseres Projekts „Neue Wege für die Klassik“ hat er nun erste Mitschnitte davon in einem Video veröffentlicht. Im Interview erzählt er von seiner Odyssee nach Österreich und der humanitären Krise im Jemen. 

Ein Interview von Katharina Milchrahm

“I said to myself, I have to become a filmmaker. To send a message to all the people in my society, especially those who can’t read.” 

Fahd started his career as a journalist and writer of short stories before dedicating his life to becoming a filmmaker and capturing the suffering in Yemen. In 2011, when the Arab spring had started to cause revolutions in parts of the Arabic world, life seemed to slowly lighten up in Yemen for a short time. In 2015, however, everything changed. The Islamist political movement of the Houthis, among other parties, was pushing for a war, which quickly turned into a proxy war and made life in Yemen unbearable. “We lost everything. Our plan was deserted, we just cared for how we could manage to stay alive”, Fahd recounts. “Not just my life, but everyone’s - the last eight years were very, very bad. Everything is difficult. You can’t get water or food. The war made everyone have guns. There’s a lot of militias. You don’t feel safe at home. You just care about what your family can eat today. You don’t know if you will be alive in a month. The war started to be very big because Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and other governments and groups became involved. No one can stop it.” 

“I focused on humanitarian stories about the war, criminality, what happens to children. And this actually made me leave Yemen.” 

Becoming a filmmaker involved a lot of hard work, danger and good luck for Fahd Ganam. Everything he knew about making a film he learned from watching videos on the internet. He did not know where to get equipment from, when one day a company from the United Arab Emirates offered its support. “This was the chance for me to start learning how to become a filmmaker”, the 33-year-old explains. Making a documentary about the war in Yemen is Fahd’s contribution to helping the Yemeni people, by making aware of the long ongoing humanitarian crisis, which seems to get no attention in the rest of the world. Attention, however, is one thing the leaders of the war do not want. “The militias there do not want anybody to speak to anyone about what is happening in Yemen. But what happens in Yemen now is horror. This makes me fight for the chance to speak about those people and this is what I try to do with my video. I took videos of people who don’t have anything, no clothes, nothing. They don’t know anything about life or food. And this made me be in danger in Yemen. To share videos is very dangerous”, Fahd says. Because of the militia checking the phones of civilians for pictures and videos, he was very scared to stay in Yemen. He was afraid, he would get caught, working on his film. “I didn’t care if they killed me, but if you go to prison, they use a lot of torture. That’s what I am scared of.”  

“It’s not like I said to myself, ‘I am going to Europe’. It’s not that easy.” 

When Fahd left home, his family did not know where he was going. His options were limited: Without visa, he could either go to Egypt, or to Djibouti. In the hope to find work there, he went to Djibouti. “I was fighting to get work there, but it is not easy. Finally, somebody helped me to get a visa for Turkey. And I said to myself, maybe I can get work there and start a new life.” That was the beginning of a 5-month-long journey that would take the filmmaker to Austria, always on the lookout for a job, for food, for a new life. He recalls: “In Greece I was for a month, just walking. In the rain, the weather was very cold. I stayed on the road for 5 months before I arrived in Styria.” During his journey, Fahd has filmed everything. He calls his hard drive his “everything”, containing material that tells the stories of so many lives he has encountered on the road. “I hope to share not only my story, but the story of everyone on the road. Stories about migration, about what happened to us. It was really, really horrible. I have lost some friends. When I remember everything, I am thinking, ‘Wow, we don’t deserve this.’”  

“The most important thing is, please, when you write about all this, say thank you to Petra, Heinz, David and Peter. They have fought for me from the very first day I arrived in Styria. I have a chance now.” 

During a 10-day-long stay outside an airport in Serbia, a journalist talked to Fahd and the other refugees. It was the connection to this journalist, that would eventually direct Fahd to the people who took him in once he arrived in Styria. “I have been in Styria for 5 months now. I am starting to feel safe, but not entirely, actually. I am still waiting for my interviews and I don’t know what will happen to me. If they will accept me or not? If I can live in Austria or not?” In the meantime, Fahd has started working on a long documentary about his life in Yemen, why he left and how he left. “I have a lot of videos, and one day I want to tell everyone what happened to us before we arrived.” 



Der 33-jährige Filmemacher, Autor und Journalist Fahd Ganam stammt aus dem Jemen und lebt seit einigen Monaten in der Steiermark. Scharfe Zensuren und die humanitäre Krise zwangen den Jemeniten, aus seiner Heimat zu fliehen. Seit dem Ausbruch des Krieges im Jemen hat es sich der Filmemacher zur Aufgabe gemacht, eine Dokumentation über die Zustände im Jemen und seine Flucht zu drehen. 

Ein Projekt im Rahmen von Neue Wege für die Klassik.
Das Projekt wird unterstützt vom Bundesministerium für Kunst, Kultur, Öffentlichen Dienst und Sport

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