..featured in the New York Times:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — 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.”
They also call her a “docile pupil of a monkey monk – and a non-tummyist”, proving that the Yemeni government may not be immune to the lure of khat…
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…
…Nor does she have any background in Middle East studies. One of her opponents in Yemen accused her of being a Zionist member of Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “I had to Google it,” Ms. Novak said with a chuckle. “I didn’t know what it was.”
It was after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that Ms. Novak, who used to work not far from the World Trade Center, first took an interest in the Arab world. “I thought it would be a good idea to write in the English-language Arabic press on subjects we could all agree on, freedom of the press, equality, stuff like that,” she said.
In 2004, she started her blog, www.armiesofliberation.com, adorned with a Stars and Stripes logo, and soon wrote an article defending Mr. Khaiwani, who was in prison. He wrote her a letter of thanks, addressing it to “Jane Novak, the American journalist and political analyst.”
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