Kasinof gets news from Yemen out to the world


The Middle East is in chaos right now, with several governments the targets of protests. Former Greencastle resident Laura Kasinof is in the middle of one, reporting on activities in Yemen for The New York Times and Christian Science Monitor. Her articles appear both in print and online.

College students first began to challenge the authoritarian leadership of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and were joined by unemployed graduates. They were inspired by the January revolution in Tunisia, when its longtime president was ousted. Disenfranchised people in other countries followed suit, demonstrating in Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq and beyond, even into North Africa.

The Yemeni movement spread to citizens from all walks of life.

“Protesters across the country are calling for the president of 33 years to step down,” said Kasinof by telephone March 9. “The people are protesting his corruption.”

From her vantage point in the capital city of Sanaa, she daily sees the peaceful measures of the citizens, resulting violence, and attacks perpetrated by supporters of Saleh. The police, soldiers and plainclothes guards have attacked the protesters, and some retaliation has been vented against the media.

In a March 7 article for the NYT, Kasinof wrote of journalists being attacked through telephone harassment as well as physically. She herself has frequently been threatened that she would be thrown out of the country. Despite the dangers, she plans to stay put.

“I’m around flying bullets, so no, I’m not safe,” she said. “I hide while I'm at the demonstrations and there is violence. But journalists dont rush out of places when trouble hits.”

Kasinof, 25, moved to Yemen in 2009, then to Egypt, and back to Yemen last September. A Middle Eastern Studies/Politics graduate of New York University, she knows conversational Arabic and had established a network of sources before the latest trouble.

“Yemen is the easiest country for getting contacts,” she said.

Her workday is anything but typical as she submits material almost daily for the Times, and weekly for CSM. A stringer for the Times, she is its only local news source, since the company has not been able to get any other reporters into Yemen due to the government’s restrictions.

The previous day had been fairly quiet so Kasinof filed some stories. At 11:30 p.m. she received a telephone call that police had opened fire on the protesters, who have always staged an around the clock sit-in on one square mile within Sanaa. She went to the site, then wrote articles from 2:30 to 4 a.m. At daylight she went back to the area to conduct interviews, then called politicians and wrote for hours.

She expects the experiences to give her career a boost, but calls them both pressure and a blessing.

“Some days I wish I wasn’t here,” Kasinof reflected, “but it’s still amazing. It’s beautiful to witness since this is coming from the people. They want democracy and to be able to vote.”

She and her friends, both European and American, expect that in 10 years they will all be stateside, and will reflect on how they got through the turbulence.

“I’m at the right place at the right time,” she declared. “If all the employees at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa go or if I’m targeted, then I’ll know it’s time to leave.”