The news of Luke Somers’ death was tragic from the first moment I heard about it. Somers was able to convince us that he was not part of the imperial project of his country, but an ordinary man that adores the East, wants to learn Arabic, and came to Yemen to teach. He came at the same time as the Popular Youth Revolution that started on the 11th of February, 2011. He decided to use one of his skills, photography to witnesses the enormous sacrifices made by Yemenis throughout the two years of the revolution against the former regime.
I met Somers through Fakhri al-Arashi, the publisher and chief editor of National Yemen newspaper. This newspaper was Somers’s most important work during his life in Yemen. He spent a period of time working at the Yemen Times, but with the National Yemen newspaper he spent the greatest time and played an important role as a photographer and editor.
Because I was always meeting with al-Arashi, I formed a good relationship with Somers and learned details about his work as a journalist. He was given special treatment from al-Arashi, treatment he deserved, because he shared with the editor the achievement of the weekly newspaper through exceptional circumstances.
On the day that the Security Council decided to hold a special session on Yemen in Sana’a in the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, al-Arashi, Luke and I were invited to attend, but Luke had trouble entering with his camera. He was a professional photographer, and he came to take photos. Eventually, he was let in.
During a Qat chew, my friend Khalid al-Jabli, Head of the Knowledge Forum, discovered Somers’s skills in photography and invited him to be a guest at one of the weekly meetings of the Forum, which were usually held afternoon every Thursday. Somers accepted his invitation and gave a lecture about the art of photography that was closely linked to the events of the February Revolution.
Somers spent most of his life in Sana’a under very hard living conditions. He embraced all the difficulties in order to enrich his personal experience. He became emerged in Yemeni society and was an avid Qat chewer.
Somers continued his work with particular joy. He worked tirelessly, but his earnings remained less than his efforts. Al-Arashi was able to secure him a work opportunity with the Media Centre of the National Dialogue Conference as an English editor. Because of the cooperation of the Center Director Mohammad al-Asadi, Somers had a good job in Yemen.
Unfortunately, he was kidnapped by al-Qaeda shortly after starting. He rarely worried about security and perhaps forgot he was a US citizen, therefore vulnerable to security threats. I feel that Luke never knew why he was killed and why he was the victim in the absurd confrontations taking place in Yemen between his country and al-Qaeda.
Actually, he was an easy victim for those who engage in the kidnapping trade and tried to get money by receiving a ransom. Perhaps Washington’s reluctance to engage in bargaining helped lead to his death.
I feel very sad for Luke and I share with his family members the painful feeling of loss. I offer my condolences to his family, friends, and to his close friend Fakhri al-Arashi.