« Ha! | Main | Operation Fresh Air I - 2008 »

May 20, 2008

A Candle Against the Darkness

Friend and fellow Cotillionite, Jane Novak in the NY Times:

Jane Novak, a 46-year-old stay-at-home mother of two in New Jersey, has never been to Yemen. She speaks no Arabic, and freely admits that until a few years ago, she knew nothing about that strife-torn south Arabian country.

And yet Ms. Novak has become so well known in Yemen that newspaper editors say they sell more copies if her photograph — blond and smiling — is on the cover. Her blog, an outspoken news bulletin on Yemeni affairs, is banned there. The government’s allies routinely vilify her in print as an American agent, a Shiite monarchist, a member of Al Qaeda, or “the Zionist Novak.”

The worst of her many offenses is her dogged campaign on behalf of a Yemeni journalist, Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani, who incurred his government’s wrath by writing about a bloody rebellion in the far north of the country. He is on trial on sedition charges that could bring the death penalty, with a verdict expected Wednesday.

Ms. Novak, working from a laptop in her Monmouth County living room “while the kids are at school,” has started an Internet petition to free Mr. Khaiwani. She has enlisted Yemeni politicians, journalists, human rights activists and others around the globe. Her blog goes well beyond the Khaiwani case and has become a crucial outlet for opposition journalists and political figures, who feed her tips on Yemeni political intrigue by e-mail or text message.

She says her campaign is a matter of basic principle. “This is a country that lets Al Qaeda people go free, and they’re putting a journalist on trial for doing his job?” she said. “It’s just completely crazy.”

But Ms. Novak does admit to a personal interest in the case. She and Mr. Khaiwani have become close friends, though they have never met, and neither speaks the other’s language. One of the charges against him is receiving a cellphone text message from her, as part of an alleged plot (which he denies) to aid the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen.

“The penalty for this crime is usually death,” Mr. Khaiwani said during an interview at his home in the Yemeni capital, Sana, in January. A lanky 42-year-old with large, piercing eyes and a dark sense of humor, he has already been jailed four times by the authorities in connection with his journalism. Last year he was kidnapped and beaten by men he says were plainclothes police officers.

Mr. Khaiwani added, with a broad smile: “If you add to this my relationship with Jane Novak, it means the death penalty for sure.”

And best of all, it's all twue!!! I am so proud of my friend, the Dread Zionist Novak. Go read the whole thing. Because your mother would want you to.

Previous post about Jane.

Posted by Cassandra at May 20, 2008 06:43 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


You've quite the habit of associating with ominously named indivuals, haven't you?
Dark Lord Sly
the Dread Zionist Novak


Bill T.

Posted by: DL Sly at May 20, 2008 12:07 PM

A noble crusade.

Hopefully, focusing media and world attention on it will help...

Posted by: camojack at May 21, 2008 01:35 AM