Yemeni blogger seeks Swedish asylum after threats

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 14, 2011 2:23 PM
Yemeni blogger seeks Swedish asylum after threats

By Mia Shanley and Ilze Filks

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Yemeni blogger said on Tuesday she has applied for political asylum in Sweden after receiving death threats for her criticism of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and fears growing violence in her homeland.

Afrah Nasser, 26, arrived in Sweden in May for a leadership seminar. She decided to stay due to growing violence in Yemen and after receiving the threats.

"It's about life or death," she told Reuters in an interview in the capital of Sweden, traditionally one of the most open countries in Europe for asylum seekers and refugees.

"I got messages from people that I don't know on Facebook ... that I should stop."

"The recent one I got, he wrote: 'We know where your house is. We will come and kill you'. Another one said, 'We know you are outside the country and we are waiting for you to come back and we will show you a lesson for all the disrespectful words you say about the president."

Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia where he is being treated for wounds sustained in an attack on his palace earlier in June, after months of protests against his three decades of rule.

"All the news I get is very negative," Nasser said. "That tells me that I should not go back right now."

Political paralysis and longstanding conflicts with Islamist insurgents, separatists and rebel tribesmen have fanned Western and regional fears of Yemen sliding into chaos and giving al Qaeda a stronghold alongside oil shipping routes.

Nasser, a journalist, has nearly 2,000 followers on Twitter. She said her family members, still in Yemen, have urged her to slow down and warned her not to draw attention to herself.

But she said she will continue blogging from Sweden with the hope of raising awareness of the struggles of people in Yemen.

"I cannot keep quiet when I see the corruption or the injustice in the country. Even the simple principle of letting people to have freedom of expression is not given, so I cannot just keep quiet."

She was uncertain as to the future of her country.

"I used to say that no civil war would happen, but because of all that has happened, I have no clue what is coming next."

(Editing by Diana Abdallah)