Omar Mashjari is a British-Yemeni lawyer and writer. He is the Executive Director of Adalah Yemen, the country’s first international law NGO. Omar holds a first-class Law degree, a distinction grade LL.M and is an admitted solicitor and accreditor mediator. He has experience of providing legal counsel and civil society capacity building in conflict zone.
1) Which place or city or country do you most feel at home in? Oh, that’s always difficult to answer. I’ve always loved Yemen, I’ve spent beautiful summers there growing up but definitely Liverpool. The streets, the football, how sociable the people are, it’s all so vivid in my mind. I am a Scouser at heart!
2) What are your proudest achievements?
Definitely forming Adalah. Only a few years ago, I would have never imagined myself working tirelessly day in, day out in order to raise up this organisation from its infancy. Also, leaving corporate law to pursue this, I work a lot more now but it’s so much more fulfilling.
3) What inspires you?
The strength of the Yemeni people. Throughout all that’s been happening, they are some of the most resilient, hospitable, and hopeful people out there. How can I be anything other than inspired?
4) What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
Coming from a family of first generation immigrants has always posed a challenge for me. I had always wanted to be lawyer from the age of six, but with no contacts or other lawyers, I had to figure it out on my own which was initially challenging to the complexity of the profession.
5) Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
It has to be my father. The man came to the UK with no formal education, no English and no family here to create a better life for his children. You have to have a certain type of determination, grit, and ambition to do that kind of thing. I’m privileged by comparison.
6) What is the best aspect about your current role?
The peace-making, being able to wake up and know that today I might be able to make a real, positive change. Also, the diversity of people and cultures that I work with, although that might be the Brit inside me.
7) And the worst?
The flip side of making a change is that you have to constantly be bombarded with what’s happening. All the sad news hits you first thing in the morning, and it’s not easy to wake up to, and it definitely doesn’t help you fall asleep.
8) What are your long term goals?
To develop Adalah into an NGO that’ll be here in 20-30 years’ time. An organization that can say it helped stabilize and develop Yemen. Real long-lasting positive change.
9) If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?
I would support the development of medium-sized business and make them the backbone of the UK, and increase regionalism whereby regional capitals are able to fully carve out a future for themselves where they would support businesses with subsidies, taxes, centers of excellence, and the like.
10) If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why?
Most definitely, George Orwell. I’d like to hear his thoughts on how 1984 panned out and what comparison can be drawn in 2017!