Editor’s note: Here is another in-person report from Yemen.
Sana’a, Yemen, May 15, 2015—Everything is being destroyed horribly: humans, the fabric of society, national unity, the infrastructure including public services systems etc. The destroyers are the rebels (internal war–the Houthi armed religious movement and its allies) who lead violent street battles in an attempt to take full control of the country. The destroyers are as well the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes (external war), which began on March 26. The Saudi leaders claim the strikes are to protect the legitimate power in Yemen.
This is not the first conflict in Yemen but it is the worst. It comes in a period when Yemen is suffering a severe economic crisis that has sectarian dimensions and it has led to a complete disruption of public life.
LIFE CRUELLY DISRUPTED FOR ORDINARY CITIZENS
In the two past weeks while I was walking in Sana’a streets I saw terrifying scenes, repeated in many streets: crowds of men, children and women were standing in rows waiting for house gas, long lines of cars, buses, taxis and trucks around all the gas stations where the price of gasoline is 25,000 YR (more than $100) for 20 liters, or about $22 a gallon. There are now heaps of rubbish scattered in all the streets of the capital city, and the hygiene sector employees are not working, which brings dangers of deadly epidemics. Sanitation services have completely stopped and sanitation workers have not been paid for two months. There were crowds of men, women, children and elders walking on foot up and down the streets; others had to ride trucks because there are no buses now.
Many factories, shops, markets, restaurants, and bakeries were closed because of insecurity, electricity outages, and lack of fuel. Most commodities and services are now overpriced. Hospitals all over the country don’t have enough fuel or medicine. Ambulances and all devices using electricity and fuel were stopped in many hospitals throughout the country. What can the humanitarian organizations do in a truce of five days that started May 12? The aid couldn’t get to all the people in need in such a very short period.
WAR WORSENS AN ALREADY BAD SITUATION
Yemen is the poorest country in the region and it has a fragmented army with divided loyalties. The political system is unstable. In 2011 the rate of poverty was 54.5% of the total population of more than 22 million and the unemployment rate among the youth was 60%, according to a report issued by the World Bank office in Sana’a in 2011.
The UN reported on May 5 that over 1,400 Yemeni civilians have been killed, about 6,000 injured since March 19 and about 20 million (80%) are threatened with hunger. Another report shows that more than 300,000 are homeless. According to Mohammed Al-Mekhlafi of Yemen Airways, there are almost 5,000 Yemeni travelers stranded in airports all over the world since the Saudi-led airstrikes began on March 26 and declared Yemen a no-fly zone.
On May 8, UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac warned that the continued restrictions on commercial imports of food and fuel could lead to more children’s deaths than those killed by bullets and bombs. He added that 2.5 million children in Yemen are at risk of diarrheal diseases as a result of the collapse of sewage systems. The UN and many international organizations have already warned that ongoing street battles by Houthis, as well as the sea and air blockade that was imposed by the Saudi-led coalition, could lead to humanitarian disaster.
THE MASSES VS. RULERS ONLY OUT FOR POWER
Houthis and some army forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh took control of the capital Sana’a, and put the transitional president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, as well as all members of his cabinet, under house arrest in January. All political parties in Yemen condemn this illegal action, considering it a coup d’etat. Huge demonstrations took place in Yemen’s main cities against the Houthis and their allies and were met with repression.
Hadi is now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with most of the government. He had fled to Aden, Yemen, on Feb. 21. When the Houthis advanced to Aden, he fled to Riyadh and called on Saudi Arabia for an urgent intervention.
Throughout the past 50 years the main factors that affect Yemen negatively—including internal conflicts, aborting the revolution, and then trying to control our future—have been the reactionary regimes in the region, religious groups inside the country, and the world capitalist system. Because of Yemen’s strategic location, foreign intervention in Yemen’s affairs is not new. The Saudi-led intervention has another goal: maintaining Saudi hegemony and power in the region, which is related to the confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
That conflict is capable of strengthening terrorist and extremist groups which could become deeply entrenched in the society and polarize a lot of unemployed youth, including students whose study was suspended as well as those who are displaced and don’t have enough to eat.
On the other side, after the Houthis had taken control of the arms depots they started arming anyone willing to join them and fight.
With the aim of fighting the country’s socialist movement as a part of the confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, President Ali Abdullah Saleh established religious organizations in Yemen three decades ago. Saleh’s regime of 33 years was toppled as the uprising demonstrations took place in 2011.
YEMEN’S PAST AND FUTURE ARE BEING DESTROYED
Massive attacks by Houthis, such as in the Tawahi district of Aden, left more than 40 dead. Displaced Yemeni civilians who were on a boat headed to another district on May 6 and in al-Mazraq camp of refugees were bombed by Saudi-led airstrikes, which left about 50 dead. These deaths are obvious evidence that the Saudi-led coalition and Houthis are both in violation of the laws of war and that they never care about civilians’ safety. Furthermore, missiles and arms were stored in cities and when the Saudi-led coalition’s warplanes target them they don’t make sure that nearby residents have been evacuated! Many families have no money to travel or to move, they have no alternative places to go, especially in Aden, Taiz, Al-Dhalea and Lahj, where the street battles led by rebels broke out after President Hadi had fled to Aden.
Dalia Hizam, a resident in Aden Governorate who was forced to move instantly when the Houthis attacked her neighborhood, said on facebook: “Psychological, mental and emotional disorders experienced by someone are not the same as the moment he/she was forced to leave their home, where he/she had lived all of their childhood and go to an unknown destination. ‘You have to get out of your houses!’ Houthi fighters warned in most cowardly and villainy ways. They drove a tank under the windows of our homes and raided the block in the middle of night.”
In Aden, Taiz, Ibb, Lahj and Al-Dhalea, known as the cities of civilized society, the youth were forced to join the armed conflict against the Houthis instead of continuing peaceful demonstrations.
If street battles in the cities continue, the society will no longer be civilized. The peaceful political activities will turn violent and it would be difficult to normalize the authority of law or to establish a civilized state system in the future. In other words, like the present of Yemen, its future is being destroyed.