Our friend Ibrahim

New Yorker writes about Ibrahim

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By Natalia Antelava 

“Excuse me, ma’am, you have to follow me,” a voice behind me said, polite but threatening, as I grabbed my bag off the luggage carousel. I froze. The last time I’d flown into Sana’a International Airport to cover the uprising in Yemen for the BBC, security services had held and deported a colleague who arrived with me. Now, I thought, it was my turn.

A second later, I heard a familiar chuckle, and I turned around to see a delighted grin on the face of Ibrahim Mothana. “You are not even supposed to be in Yemen!” I said. He had returned from his trip early, he said, and used an expired student I.D. card to bluff his way through the heavy airport security into the grubby Sana’a arrivals hall, where he stood looking extremely pleased. “I thought I’d surprise you,” he said.

Ibrahim, a Yemeni political activist and writer, surprised endlessly—with his brilliance, encyclopedic knowledge, eloquent arguments, generous spirit, tirelessness, and elaborate pranks. But the biggest surprise came on September 5th, when, at the age of twenty-four, he died, from what his family said were natural causes, at his home in Sana’a.



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