How Four Strangers on Facebook Rescued a Man from Death in Yemen


Four Strangers on Facebook Pulled Off Man’s Escape From War Half a World Away in Yemen

Mohammed Al Samawi, a Muslim who, in 2015, was targeted with death threats from extremists in Yemen for his interfaith peace work with Jews and Christians. As civil war erupted in the streets, Al Samawi hid in the small bathroom of his apartment in the coastal city of Aden, waiting to die.

“In that bathroom, as I worshipped Allah, I prayed he would save me,” Al Samawi, now 31, tells PEOPLE in an interview for this week’s issue issue. With dwindling food and water, no electricity and a dying cell-phone battery, and Al Qaeda fighters at his door, prayer—and Facebook—were his only hopes.

He tapped out a desperate appeal to everyone he knew on Facebook: “Can you help me at all?”

Half a world away, New York City bioengineer Daniel Pincus, 39; San Francisco social entrepreneur Justin Hefter, 29; and humanitarian activists Megan Hallahan, 38 and Natasha Westheimer, 27, then based in Israel, separately hit “reply.”

“And just like that, my own personal Justice League came together,” Al Samawi writes in his new memoir of the ordeal, The Fox Hunt (which is already being made into a movie by La La Land producer Marc Platt).

The four strangers spent the next 13 days working every contact and friend-of-a-friend they had around the world, eventually coordinating as team over Skype and improbably shepherding Al Samawi through a harrowing escape to the United States.

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Paul Gordon is the publisher and editor of iState.TV. He has published and edited newspapers, poetry magazines and online weekly magazines. He is the director of Social Cognito, an SEO/Web Marketing Company. You can reach Paul at