Yemen update – 22nd October 2015.

sudanese_pdf_jpg-550x0
Sudanese troops arrive in Yemen

My news from Yemen centres on five main areas this week: Taiz, Aden, Saada, the UN peace accords, and the health of King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Firstly, there has been a shift in Saudi policy this week, and I gather than officials from the UN are speaking to the Crown Price, now that King Salman is ill. There seems to be a slightly more conciliatory attitude from Saudi Arabia, who are “allowing” Hadi to attend peace talks at the end of the month.  Well, at least Hadi is going and he could not have done so unless Saudi had agreed. I also have heard rumour that the young Saudi man sentenced to death and crucifixion has been reprieved, so maybe they are starting to listen to outside opinions.

Saudi has also announced that some other armies are joining them in Yemen. This includes 300 from the Sudanese army already in Aden; eventually there will be 10,000 Sudanese. This is the very same army that was accused of genocide in Darfur.  They are mercenaries – paid by Saudi to fight.  More mercenaries are coming from Columbia – a further 800.  What is notable is that these mercenaries are from countries that are used to fighting in mountain terrain.  So now fighting with the Saudi coalition on the ground are the new 10,000 Yemeni troops trained in Saudi Arabia, the few regiments from the Yemen army that stayed loyal to Hadi, militias including Al Qaeda, Daesh, Islah, Salafist, and local militias such as Al Hirak in Aden, plus troops from UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, maybe others, and now Sudan and Columbia. It’s a bit like world armed forces attacking Yemen, especially when you include the other members of the coalition included in the bombing raids, and the assistance from US , Israel, UK and France, plus rumours that some of the militias associated with Daesh are from countries outside Yemen. I have been told that 3,000 militias who were at risk in Syria because of the recent Russian involvement have moved to Yemen. Of course, they might be returning Yemenis.

The reasons why these new troops are needed is because of the situation in Taiz and Aden.   Aden is meant to be under control of the Yemen government and the Saudi coalition, but in reality it not controlled by anyone. Instead, it has a mix of many militias stamping their authority, most of whom are extremist Sunni militias.  Some of them are fighting each other, or attacking the coalition forces.  Some very gloomy reports have come out of the port this week.  As armies of the coalition move from Aden into other areas to ‘liberate’ them, they are not able to control what is left behind.  The UAE is controlling the port area and ships are arriving, but Aden refuses to let any aid or goods move to the north. They also refuse to allow northerners to enter Aden, including those from Taiz who are suffering so terribly at the moment, and are trapped inside the city.

As Bab Al Mandab control has been wrested from the Houthi/Saleh alliance, the port of Mokha can now land vessels. It is a small port area, but it may be that many new troops from Sudan will be moving into Taiz area from this Red Sea port.

Taiz is at the frontline of the war. It is in the highlands in the southwest of Yemen, and has been under attack for many months, with control changing hands twice.  Currently the Houthis and the army loyal to Saleh control the areas around the city, and the central part of the city is controlled by local militias, mainly Salafist militias headed by Abu Alabbas, and Islah militias.  The Saudi coalition is still attacking from the air, and indeed this week dropped bombs on troops supporting the coalition, killing 40 or so it is said, and injuring more.  If you hear the news about Taiz, it sounds as if the Houthis alone are firing into populated areas only because they want to kill people, with no other fighters involved. The situation is of course much more complex than that – the Houthis and Yemen army are firing at militias inside the city, living amongst the population, whilst those militias are firing back; the people  are trapped in between. In addition to the conflict, the  Saudi led blockade and the ban on movement to the north by Aden is stopping food, petrol and other aid from arriving, and the Houthi/Saleh alliance have added a local siege of their own in an attempt to smoke out their opponents.

Life in Taiz must be the like hell. But this week there is report after report in the media about Taiz, whereas there has been a media silence. I think that means that the Saudis are preparing to go in, and justifying it by their negative portrayal of Houthi actions – incidentally, they never mention the Yemen army.  The ‘evil deeds’ are all attributed to the Houthis, which makes me think that when they win this war, Saudi will try to sanitise the army, and blame all on the Houthis – if the war ever finishes.  Asymmetrical wars are notably difficult to end.

Also from Taiz came the story of a little boy, Fareed Shawky aged six, who after being injured by shrapnel called out to his doctors “Don’t bury me!” as he was being tended in hospital. This little boy who longed to live so much died two days later of his wounds.  This sad story has widely circulated in the international media.   Let’s hope this heart-rending story helps to make the people of Yemen realise they must talk peace to prevent more tragic children’s deaths.

Saada in the northwest is as much without hope as ever – after 209 days of war, it has been reported that more than 38,000 bombs have been dropped on this governate. I mention it in comparison to Taiz, which now has relatively wide media coverage, whereas Saada still has none.  The Houthis originate from here, although initially not all from Saada initially followed the Houthis. But as the war has progressed, the local people see the Houthi militias and the Yemen army as the only ones who can protect them against the feared ravages of the invaders and aerial bombardment.  Far from the aerial bombardment reducing the support for the Houthis, it has strengthened it. Many children in Saada have not been to school since the 2009 wars, when many of their schools were destroyed in earlier wars.  Now literate and with little hope of a job, they join the militias – many of them under 18.  Sadly, it gives them status and a chance to be somebody as they see it; a fighter repelling an invading army. This does not bode well for the future, because there are so many schools destroyed all over Yemen, and this might be a pattern that emerges,  as the war drags on, and maybe after it ends.

The UN peace talks are at the end of the month. This asymmetrical war can only be ended by negotiations, and I am hoping that this might be the start of the long route to peace. Saleh and the leader of the Houthis have agreed to abide by 2216.  They can’t stop fighting unilaterally, because if they do, they will be annihilated by the extremist Sunni militias that oppose them. If a ceasefire cannot be negotiated, I fear for Sanaa and its people. The wars as in Taiz and Aden will arrive in Sanaa, with its more mixed and larger population, and there will be so much suffering and destruction.  And still, Yemen’s terrible war never reaches the top of our headlines.  It is a forgotten war, a secret war, where fighters of all sorts can act with impunity – and do.

Yemen update – 15th October 2015.

aaaaaden.demo
Aden celebrating independence day with South Yemen flags

The update this week has to include something about the royal family in Saudi Arabia, because that has been so much in the news. They have managed to stop an independent UN investigation, although significant groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have said that there is evidence of war crimes. There are also reports of other planned human rights abuses within the kingdom – the death by crucifixion of a peaceful demonstrator, the flogging of a British man aged 74 for brewing wine, and the British government pulling out of a deal to modernise the Saudi penal system – the government saying that those two news items have nothing in common.  Hmmm.

There have also been reports of Saudi selling off overseas assets to fund the war, Saudi princes’ protests against the King Salman and his favoured son, the reckless defence minister. There have been reports of King Salman developing a dementing illness, and Saudi princes leaving the kingdom – taking their money with them – so much that KSA is attempting to stop their wealth flight. Not good news for the Saudi monarchy.

I found two articles today that are directly related to this, well worth a read – partly because they coincide with my own views on the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia and the trap the Yemen war is posing for them. One is “The campaign to undermine Saudi Arabia and the US dollar” by Jeff Berwick, and “Saudi Palace intrigues” by Stig Stenslie. The links are at the bottom of this article.

There are further reported additions to the Saudi-Israeli alliance. As well as the meetings between Saudi and Israeli officials at the beginning of the war, and the visit earlier in the year of Prince Waleed to Jerusalem where when he was reported as saying nice things about Israel, and the Israeli weapons found in the Saudi embassy, there is now a story about an air corridor from Djibouti to Riyadh now used by Israel, reported as providing weapons to Saudi Arabia to help their war effort.  More amazingly, this week the Saudi foreign minister directly appealed to Israel to join the war, saying it was the only way of winning it.  Funny that, seeing that Israel has yet to win the war in Gaza after 67 years, and despite using some very nasty tactics against Palestinians.  All Palestinians have to do to win is to breathe, and the same is true of Yemenis.

So now, interesting posts about Yemen this week.

ADEN.

The government of Yemen (all 8 ministers) has been attacked, first we were told by Houthi missiles, and then it seems that it was suicide bomb attacks by Daesh. This has put the plans of a return of government to Aden on hold, and also the airport has been closed – there were a few foreign flights coming in, but they have now ceased.  I saw a video of Al Qaeda operatives passing through a security post in Aden without challenge.  I saw a celebration of 14th October, the liberation day for South Yemen, noting that in 1967 the British were finally thrown out and South Yemen became an independent country (PDRY).  There seemed to be a lot of South Yemen flags and not many Yemeni flags, and I think the message was that the South wants independence from the united Republic of Yemen.  Meanwhile, Hadi was in UAE agreeing that they can take over port management in Aden.  Just east of Aden in Abyan, reports say that Al Qaeda has taken control.  Al Qaeda have always been very active in Abyan, and they are taking advantage of the war to increase their scope and control.

BAB AL MANDAB.

This crucial point at the bottom of the Red Sea has been reported as falling to the coalition forces, and Saleh/Houthi forces driven out.  The attack was aided by warships in the Straights of Bab al Mandab, which included Saudi boats and according to one report, one Israeli warship (not confirmed). It was also reported that Houthi/Saleh forces attacked two Saudi warships in the area.

TAIZ.

This city, which MSF described at one of the two worst places in Yemen at the moment, has been suffering a ferocious ground war , plus coalition air assaults, plus a cruel blockade and local siege, which has not been reported. This week I note that there are more reports in the mainstream media, which may mean that the coalition forces have their eye on the city as their next stop.

SANBAN.

An attack on a wedding party, killing at least 13 and injuring many more, on the 8th of October. This followed another wedding attack at the end of September, when it was reported that 130 died.

MARIB.

This city and surrounding area has been the site of ferocious warfare for some time, with both sides claiming to be gaining ground. Propaganda is certainly the name of the game.  But it seems as if during the last few days the coalition have definitely gained the upper hand.  Locals claim gas was used and have sent me photographs of victims, not confirmed in any mainstream media. Marib has a large percentage of the oil reserves in Yemen, and it was said this week that income generated from oil sales was no longer going to the Houthi government. Iwas surprised at this statement because I believed that oil was not being exported, due to the Saudi blockade.

JAWF governate.

On the border of Saudi Arabia, it has been announced that the coalition is planning to attackit next.

HODEIDA.

Still subject to air assaults, including one electricity plant destroyed, but nonetheless there was a report of one ship carrying humanitarian aid docking there, the first since the coalition destroyed all the cranes for unloading the ship. There have also been reports of the roads between Hodeida and Taiz being destroyed by coalition bombs, making distribution of aid very difficult.  The Saudi-led coalition has stated that they are aiming to take over this port from Houthi control. It seems to me that they can’t properly control Aden after 3 months there, so they are over extending if they are planning to enter Taiz, Jawf, Hodeida, and take control of Marib.

SAADA governate.

Still being heavily bombed; every day since the start of the war, this is now over 200 days. I saw one report this week of the current situation there – it is dire.  The air assaults have destroyed everything – homes, schools, hospitals, petrol stations, mosques, ancient antiquities, bridges, markets, displaced peoples’ camps, roads, lorries delivering food.  The whole area was declared a military zone in March, which means that everything is as far as the coalition is concerned, is a legitimate target.  This is the Houthi homeland and now they have lost everything and have nothing to lose, which makes them very dangerous – for Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.  It was reported this week that an F16 Saudi jet was shot down in Saada province. And an further sad story – the Jews of Yemen – only a handful left – have been told to convert or leave. They have lived in peace in Saada for centuries.

SANAA.

Sanaa, the capital, has a mixed Zaidi and Sunni population, which has not been significant historically, but it is now. The Houthis are in charge of the government based in Sanaa, which is being squeezed by financial restrictions imposed on Yemen by the Saudi-led blockade, which prevents exports and has caused most work activity to cease. It has been bombed fairly regularly throughout the war, and this increases when there is a military gain by the Houthi militias against the Saudi-led coalition. For example a scud missile fired at an army base in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday resulted in extensive air assaults in the early hours of Thursday morning.  It is suffering from the blockade like most other parts of west Yemen, made worse by the recent bombing of the road between Sanaa and the port of Hodeida, and has not had electricity supplies to homes for several months.  Ex-President made a speech on Lebanese television which went down well with his supporters and it was reported that fireworks were let off in Sanaa to celebrate.

To keep up to date with daily news of Yemen, please visit facebook page Yemen News Today at www.facebook.com/yemennewstodayenglish/   Postings come from all perspectives, including issues not related to the war.  I also post personal photos and videos sent to me direct from Yemen.

https://www.dollarvigilante.com/blog/2015/10/13/the-campaign-to-undermine-saudi-arabia-and-the-us-dollar.html

http://peacebuilding.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/25668cdddaf3ca8dd69213bdb2b0f684.pdf

Yemen – a dilemma for the Left.

yemen_demo

I have always been of the political Left. My politics drew me to work in humanitarian aid, sometimes in war zones. I hated the low-tech warfare of Rwanda and Burundi, where populations were both born into the hatred of ‘the Other’, culminating in a genocidal attack in Rwanda, where men, women and children were killed by machetes. I hated the high-tech warfare of the Israelis in South Lebanon; I saw the new graves at Qana, where 106 people sheltering in a UN compound were killed, over half of them children.   To me, the mother I met in Burundi, whose tiny baby’s head was slashed by a machete, and the mother I met in South Lebanon, whose small son was beheaded in front of her by shrapnel from a bomb, both suffered equally. Nothing justified such killing. Nothing justified war.

In 1998 I was offered a job in Yemen, and since then it has been the country of my soul. I fell in love with the country and its people, but more amazingly, Yemeni people also took me to their heart. I stayed until there 2001, but after this I travelled to Yemen most years for a few weeks or months, the last time in 2014. When I woke on the 25th March this year to hear that a Saudi-led coalition had started an air assault on Yemen to support one side in a civil war, I knew instinctively that Yemen would never be the same again. The next few days were spent trying to contact my friends there to find out what was happening. My best friend lived in Aden and the news was desperate. Eventually she became a refugee; her home damaged by Saudi bombs, she was forced to risk leaving the dangerous area she lived in due to the lack of drinking water, her car shot at by Houthi snipers as she escaped from a brutal war zone. Aden was ravaged by air assaults, a vicious ground war, and a cruel siege; from peace to all-out war in three days. My contacts in other parts of the country were also reporting bombs, food shortages, lack of medicines, fuel scarcity, lack of electricity, and most serious of all, a desperate shortage of water. The suddenness and ferocity of the war stunned me, and for the first few weeks, paralysed me. Most surprisingly of all, this dreadful war was being ignored by the media. Strangely, it also had a low profile in the anti-war movement. As I emerged from my stupor, I knew I would have to do something to publicise this war.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, those on the political Left have viewed the Western powers, particularly USA and its allies, as a major cause of conflict worldwide, but particularly in the Middle East. This accelerated after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, and led to the development of an international anti-war movement, at its peak just before the attacks on Iraq, when millions of people worldwide marched against war. This argument had the USA at its centre, and in UK, the relationship between the leaders of our government and the US president. I was undertaking research in media imagery at that time, and found that journalists and commentators had a position that they rarely changed whatever arguments they encountered, each ‘side’ finding Iraqis to support ‘their’ view. I interviewed Iraqis at that time; virtually all of them told me that the day the war began, the press lost interest in Iraq and they were rarely contacted for an opinion. Whether Western people were for or against the war, however compassionate and humble they were, their main focus was Western power. As the war progressed, it was the actions of Western politicians, Western military and Western arguments such as the presence or absence of weapons of mass destruction that dominated the media and conversations about Iraq.

Although the Stop the War movement reached its zenith in 2002/3 prior to the Iraq War, it did not go away. It became smaller but more organised, and the electorate in Western countries became increasingly tired of the wars that their governments were fighting, using up resources, raising taxes and causing death and injuries to soldiers. The countries that had wars inflicted on them remained unstable rather than becoming prosperous democracies as Western leaders had promised, and extremist militia movements increased in number, size and scope. The film “We Are Many” released in 2015 claimed that the anti-war movement had held Western governments to account, but I believe made Western politicians rethink not their policies but their way of conducting war. A new type of war; Yemen was the prototype.

Prior to, and at the beginning of the Yemen war, there was evidence of several meetings between Israel and Saudi governments, despite their lack of official government relations. The attack on Yemen shows many similarities with recent attacks on Gaza. Yemen was, and is, sealed; goods going in checked and restricted, no goods are allowed out, and movement of people is difficult thus reducing refugee flow. Air assaults are dramatic and widespread throughout the West of Yemen (the old North Yemen plus Aden and Lahj). Illegal weapons and experimental weapons are being used. The war on Yemen was obviously prepared for well in advance. From the day of the first bombs, a coalition of Arab and Muslim countries was formed and coordinated, 150 British military advisers were installed in Riyadh, the Saudi navy had warships in place to enforce an embargo with the French navy assisting, and the British and Americans observing. The US were refuelling Saudi warplanes in the air, and helping with rescue of military personnel as needed. Priority was given to the supply of weapons and munitions for the coalition partners.   A plan to manage the media was in place. Al Qaeda took over the port of Mukalla; in an interview with Al Jazeera a representative stated that this was at the request of Saudi Arabia who wanted the port secured against Houthi advances. This assault by the Saudi-led coalition may have been a surprise to Yemen and the world, but it was not a surprise to the countries that had obviously been plotting this for a long time, waiting for the right moment to intervene to crush Yemen and its people.

The hostilities began essentially as an internal conflict in the southwest of Yemen, with a complexity of groups involved in ground fighting, including the Houthis, oppressed in their homeland for many years, and the southerners, marginalised since the last 1994 civil war. Families are divided; I was sent a photo of a severely burned Yemeni teenager, put into an oven by her grandfather because of her view on the war. The Yemen army had split; the largest part of the army was from the tribes of the north and therefore aligned with the Houthis and ex-President Saleh. The rest of the Yemen army, mainly the brigades of the religiously conservative Brigadier Ali Muhsin supported President Hadi. Aden had a secessionist militia called Al Hirak (the movement) – inexperienced because after the 1994 civil war thousands of military from the South were forcibly retired. Alongside Al Hirak were the Islah militias (including Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood), Al Qaeda and Da’esh often together described as ‘loyalists’.   These extremist Sunni militias have a strong anti-Shia sentiment, which made them fight without mercy when attacking their Zaidi rivals. The Houthis were battle hardened after years of fighting in various arenas, and were equally ruthless. Although the Houthi leaders had put forward an agenda for positive change, their militias on the ground were largely uneducated, unpaid, and fighting for their existence against groups that they knew wanted to eradicate them.

The Saudis aligned themselves with Hadi describing him as the legitimate president, and stating that their aim was to restore him as the democratic leader. As soon as their aerial assaults began, all militias responded by behaving in an extremely brutal and aggressive manner. The ‘loyalists’ were given a sense of optimism and hope that enthused them for warfare; the Houthis respond in an equally fervent manner. Whilst damage in some parts of Aden, Lahj and Taiz was caused by militias brutally attacking each other, the Houthis controlled Crater and Khormiksar in Aden and all of the damage there was caused by Houthis in their attempts to control and intimidate the local population. The Houthi militias entered homes, robbed citizens of food and money, and killed anyone whom they believed to pose a danger to them. From day one the Saudis blocked all ports and airports cutting off Yemen from the outside world; the Houthis responded by adding a siege of Aden, not letting money, food, petrol and medical supplies in or out of the port city. There was ferocious militia fighting on routes leaving the city, trapping the population. Within two weeks, it was announced that people in Aden were already dying of starvation, dehydration, war injuries and illnesses, aggravated by a lack of medical care. Outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever broke out, and many died.

In UK there are many Yemenis who originate from the South because of the longstanding links between Aden and Britain. In the main, they were supportive of the Saudi-led campaign, particularly those with relatives trapped in Aden. Other British Yemenis were equally as strongly against the Saudi action. Realising that this was making it impossible to organise a campaign to bring awareness to the British public, in Liverpool a group of Yemenis tried to start a coordination network, hoping that if Yemenis could unite in UK, they could help spread the message to their countrymen and give a kick start to any peace process. The first meetings that bought the pro- and anti-Saudi camps together were very traumatic, and gradually, the meetings caused such stress that Yemenis stopped attending. The polarising of Yemen meant that many Yemenis believed that their ‘side’ was perfect, and the other ‘side’ was doing all the damage. Moreover, often in conversation polarised Yemenis denied the existence of Yemenis with any other view than their own.

This was a challenge to the anti-war and the Left. The initial response was to organise a demonstration in support of Yemen and against the Saudi interference in the Yemen war. This met with fierce criticism from parts of the Yemeni community, particularly those with relatives in Aden who were able to explain the horrendous circumstances of their relatives’ lives. Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition said that Yemen had been different to other conflicts, because others started more slowly and built up, and in the initial stages it was easy to see that Western interests were stoking the conflict. Only when the wars finally engulfed those countries did parties consistently behave brutally and illegally. The problem in Yemen was that within days all sides were behaving with impunity, causing civilian casualties that were hard to justify. Just as the Yemeni community has been divided, this has also caused tensions in the Left and made it more difficult to coordinate publicity about the terrible price of this conflict. Many who knew of the almost incomprehensibly shocking situation in Aden until the end of July, and in Taiz from June until the present, felt they had to speak out about it because the suffering was so extreme, whereas others believed it needed to be hidden as to speak out was to in effect to appear to justify the Saudi’s bombing campaign.

The extensive and horrifying Saudi bombing campaign was indeed the catalyst that had caused the all of the Yemen militias to increase their aggressiveness, and this had rapidly got out of hand. After visiting Yemen, Peter Maurer of the Red Cross stated that in 5 months there was as much damage in Yemen as after 5 years in Syria. The suffering in Yemen was described to the UNSC as ‘almost incomprehensible’. MSF, used to offering medical care in extreme conflicts, stated that the situation in Yemen was worse than in any other country where they had ever operated. HRW has criticised both militias and the Saudi-led coalition for war crimes. UNICEF, WHO, Oxfam and other organisations have stated that tens of thousands of Yemeni children suffer from severe malnutrition, and over a million are at severe risk; they have also warned of t the severe water insecurity as water is normally pumped from deep aquifers and diesel is not available, and that twenty million people are food insecure. ICRC , MSF and others have pointed to the number of medical facilities that have been forced to close down, due to damage, staff shortages, or lack of medical supplies. This is not a ‘normal’ war.

The other issue that complicates the Yemen conflict is the competing presidents. Ex-President Saleh left office in 2012 after demonstrations against him in the Yemeni ‘Arab Spring’ but is now supporting the Houthi coalition. President Hadi was elected as an interim president in 2012 and his term had already expired; he had resigned and then reinstated himself. Hence his legitimacy is disputed; additionally he left Yemen during the war for a safe haven in Riyadh after inviting Saudi Arabia to start bombing at his behest, which caused a further diminution of his popularity.   Additionally, the Houthis have their own leader, Abdulmalik Al Houthi, although there are varying accounts of what his leadership ambitions are. All of these leaders have their own baggage and the Houthi association with Saleh makes their case more difficult to support amongst sections of the Yemeni population.

There are those in the anti-war movement in the West who believe that the Houthis are a bulwark against extremist militias such as Al Qaeda and Da’esh; the Houthis have won battles against AQAP in Marib in the past. But it is naïve to believe that using one militia to attack another can survive as a long term peace strategy. For example, in Iraq with a majority Shia population and Iran as its neighbour, the Shiite Mahdi Army could not defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, but instead, reached a stalemate in which Baghdad – and much of the rest of Iraq – was divided on religious lines. In Yemen, the Zaidis are in a minority and Yemen is surrounded by Sunni countries, so their position is more precarious. Militias in Yemen are essentially extensions of tribal networks and both the Houthi militias and Al Qaeda have in various times in their history morphed from tribe to militia and back to tribe; the only permanent solution to stop such wars is to negotiate for peace. The role of the US drone programme has been much criticised by Yemenis because it has been a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, rather than reducing its capability.

The Western anti-war movements are also concerned with the alignment of power – the Israel/Europe/US axis versus Iran/China/Russia alliances. The links between Iran and the Houthis has been much exaggerated by Saudi Arabia and its allies. When the war started, Iran was at a critical time in its negotiations concerning its nuclear programme, and was heavily involved in the Syrian war. If Iran was interested in the Yemen war, it was only to use Yemen as a bargaining chip in its nuclear negotiations. Most experts agree Iran’s past contacts with the Houthis were limited. However, because of the challenging relationship between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, it is highly likely that had the Houthis controlled Yemen there would have been increased Iranian links and influence.

Meanwhile in Yemen itself, the attitudes of the Yemeni population trapped in a war not of their making have also gone through changes. The Houthis had a following amongst certain sections before the war, particularly the Zaidi tribes (about 30-45% of the population) and supporters of the GPC party, and some who thought they might change the corrupt political system. When the Houthis took over control of Sanaa in September 2014, the militias antagonised sections of the population by themselves acting corruptly, taking over locally owned businesses, jailing opponents, closing down newspapers, and kidnapping journalists.  However Sanaanis, used to political manoeuvrings, craved stability and accepted these encroachments without protest. So despite a long standing resentment towards their neighbour Saudi Arabia, many Yemenis initially welcomed the Saudi-led coalition air assaults as their stated aim at that time was to destroy Houthi arsenals. The southwest has largely remained supportive of the Saudi campaign, as trapped in a ground war it seems their only hope of salvation, and those who support conservative political parties such as Islah have also remained fervent supporters. People in the northwest, who have suffered extensive destruction their cities including most civilian homes by the Saudi-led alliance, see the Houthi militias as their only chance of survival; many GPC supporters also support the Houthis. But most other Yemenis now are war-weary and have less or no faith in all warring parties, and see the war as already having reached a stalemate in which all Yemenis are losers. Recent reports have indicated there are tensions arising both in the Saudi-led coalition and within the Houthi camp as their supporters waver. But they all are trapped on the treadmill of war, with the leaders unwilling to concede enough, or anything at all, for Yemen and for peace.

Even if all parties were willing partners in peace negotiations, there are now larger barriers to overcome. South Yemen, an independent country until 1990 and an unwilling partner in a united Yemen since 1994, is unlikely to accept anything but independence; even the hotel which Hadi used as a temporary home whilst visiting Yemen this week flies a South Yemen flag and not the Yemen flag. Extremist Sunni militias have gained strongholds and control in many parts of Yemen. The infrastructure is so damaged that it will take generations before Yemen has recovered even to its previously impoverished state. Hadi is expecting to be reinstated, but the majority of Yemenis do not want him back. The chance of ongoing war in Yemen, in a scenario such as in Afghanistan, is a very frightening possibility.

The ferocity of the war in Yemen has posed challenges to the Left, but it also raises important issues concerning where the future focus of anti-war movements should be.

  • There is a tension between persons who are pacifist and against all war, versus those who assign a moral right to one ‘side’ in a conflict and support one side in its military resistance. This tension needs to be resolved as unity is essential if the anti-war movement is not to be weakened.
  • Western anti-war movements initially started due to Western adventurism after the fall of the Soviet bloc, particularly in the build-up to the Iraq War. They focussed on Western and American world domination, and breaking that cycle. As the nature of war is changing, does the anti-war story also need to adapt?
  • Western anti-war movements have been focussed on stopping particular wars, or intervening at an early stage when it is possible for the target country to recover from war. As each war progresses, this strategy is less useful.   As countries are left in chaos, and the latest Yemen war began with such ferocity that is was impossible to stop, does this strategy need to be revised?
  • Any ‘side’ that is opposing Western domination will inevitably conduct its own atrocities. This is sometimes ignored, denied or condoned by anti-war groups. How far does this open the anti-war movements to criticism from its detractors, and impact on its effectiveness?
  • The citizens of a war torn country inevitably have different views to that of Western anti-war activists. I believe my views represent the opinions of Yemeni people, yet they have been described as ‘naïve’ and I am viewed to be too influenced by Yemeni colleagues. Another example: when I analysed the Iraq War news coverage for 4 months before and during the Iraq War for my PhD, I noted that journalists and activists had a certain view, and then chose an Iraqi at certain points to ‘prove’ his or her viewpoint. My analysis revealed that both pro- and anti-war activists were more interested in being pro- or anti-USA than in Iraq and Iraqis. Is ignoring local opinions the best way for anti-war groups to oppose Western power?
  • The war in Yemen shows many characteristics more in line with the Israeli attacks on Gaza. It is a new style of international warfare, characterised by: (1) using another country as a front (2) no warning and sudden onset of a ferocious war (3) cutting of all exports, and only allowing very limited imports (4) Disabling normal business functioning by restrictions of fuel and water (5) media silence (6) coordinated discourses and language by those controlling the war, eg., supporting democracy, legitimate leader, loyalists, rebels (7) the refugee outflow was hindered, thus helping to reduce the visibility of the war. The anti-war movement was not prepared for this new war and it has not been able to respond adequatelyIn a civil war, inevitably there are polarised viewpoints. This also hinders responses by the anti-war lobby, particularly in Yeme

Having worked in war zones, I do not believe there is such a thing as a moral way to conduct war. When people, militias, and armed forces fight, they fight to win at all costs. In my view, those who are pro-war, such as government representatives and people who are persuaded by the government view, tell the story of ‘their’ moral war, but also, those opposing Western adventurism also like to believe that their side is also conducting an ethical resistance. I see a value in anti-war movements moving towards describing the horror of war by all parties from the outset. At the moment, just as some Yemenis on each ‘side’ have turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by their ‘side’ convincing themselves that their ‘side’ is being framed, some on the Left also find it difficult to bring to the world’s attention all the facets of the disgusting nature of today’s wars. Whilst they are opposing the domination of the world by a single super power, and hence their selectiveness in what they highlight, there could be an alternative media strategy of revealing the pathways from Western domination and manipulation, to wars on the ground, the rise of militia activity, the increased extremist attitudes held by whole populations, and population movement. When the national army of Syria carries out illegal and life threatening actions or the Houthis in Yemen are attacking defenceless civilian populations, the Left and anti-war lobby has been largely silent, because of the fear that it will detract from their cause. But could it also be argued that this very silence damages their credibility? This is something that needs fundamental discussion and a media strategy to increase impact and effectiveness.

My own view is that if the anti-war lobby and the Left are to be most effective in these new styles of war, then it needs to move closer to the populations that are caught up in conflict. The research I did for my PhD, and my current experiences with Yemen show that the UK anti-war movement is mostly obsessed with the actions of the USA and UK governments, whereas Yemenis are obsessed with their hope for stability in Yemen. I am influenced by knowledge and my many daily personal contacts with persons of all political persuasions and none. I feel privileged and enabled to be in their confidence and to share conversations. I believe that I contribute to a debate within Yemen that is gradually, so slowly, moving the population towards realising that they can only find peace if they themselves are prepared to make painful compromises. But I can only do so if I am even handed – noting the pain not only of those who have had their house destroyed, their child killed, by a Saudi bomb, but also those who have suffered that same loss, but by the actions of a Houthi warrior, and genuinely seeing both as horrific.

The recent evidence reveals that Western powers leave the countries they target in chaos. The ‘migrant crisis’ may force them rethink that strategy. Even ‘posher’ refugee camps – the current option being discussed – are not going to make Syrians and Yemenis stay in a land where they cannot rely on stability, where they cannot own their home, build their future, and educate their children. If people are to stay put in their homeland, they need hope. If in a small way we can somehow build hope by listening, and by encouraging people at war to talk to their opponent – who after all was not so long ago their friendly neighbour – then is this a better way of opposing Western power and domination? Wars have changed since 2003. The Left needs to change to combat the new challenges; our work is crucial. We need unity, knowledge, local contacts in war zones, and a well thought out media strategy. Otherwise, we are failing all those millions of people whose lives were devastated yesterday, are being devasted today, and will be devastated in the future by the scourge of war.

Sana’a – a city in waiting.

Old City Sana'a; continuously inhabited for 2,500 years.
Old City Sana’a; continuously inhabited for 2,500 years.

Every day, I look for the latest news for my Facebook page, which does what it says – it provides the daily news headlines from various sources, showing a wide perspective on this catastrophic conflict in Yemen today. As the war intensifies, I’m finding more and more articles every day, most of them from Middle East sources; I am having to be selective. As someone who lived in Sana’a and felt it a privilege to be part of this ancient civilisation for a while, it is more and more depressing as I find articles showing me that Yemen is rapidly being destroyed by air strikes and militia activities, and Yemenis are suffering under a comprehensive blockade of food, petrol and aid, that even prevents them from running to safety. And now, as I read the news, I see this devastation is likely to move towards the capital, Sana’a.

Something else is happening. Every day, I have more and more Sana’ani people asking me to be their Facebook friend; people from all walks of life. University lecturers. An army officer. A few journalists. Some retired people. An unemployed engineer. Civil servants. An author. It is almost as if Sana’anis feel more secure if they have someone to contact from outside Sana’a; someone they think will pass on their story. They tell me about themselves and send me photos of their children. Some tell me of their financial problems accruing as the war goes on into its sixth month. They share their worries; the lack of education for their children, their insecurities concerning ongoing employment, the problems that arise when someone in their family needs health care. They tell me how they are managing their lives without electricity, and the challenges in providing food for their families – and most crucially, water. They share their thoughts on the war. Their views cross the spectrum of opinion, from those who still even now fully support the aerial bombardment in Sana’a, saying that whatever the cost, the Houthis must be dislodged. But most are tired of the non-stop assaults, the night and day explosions, the dust, the smell of war, the fear as bombs explode near their homes, the worry that they might be the next victim. Some are highly critical of Saudi Arabia or the Houthis; most are critical of all fighting forces; others make no comment. One said that he didn’t care who ruled Yemen as long as the war would stop; he wouldn’t even care if it was Israel. Very few tell me of their political leanings, although I can sometimes guess. Some tell me about the effects of the bombardment on their families, and on their own health. Most tell me of their fears for their future and their city. They are already weakened by six months of siege. I have been impressed with their courage and resilience.

Despite a prolonged aerial bombardment that has destroyed homes and infrastructure, Sana’a has not yet experienced fighting on the ground, but the inhabitants already know what happens elsewhere as militias and armies meet in conflict. They have heard so many stories of devastation. Fighting street by street means sniping, missile strikes, landmines, personal attacks, kidnapping, lynching, arson and looting – plus a continuation of the aerial attacks. One on hand, the Houthis and the Yemen army loyal to ex-President Saleh; on the other, militias including extremist Sunni militias – Islah, Al Qaeda and Da’esh, the army loyal to President Hadi, and the foreign troops of the Saudi-led coalition. In the modern context of war, cities have apparently had to be destroyed in order to save them, never mind that people have worked and saved for decades in order to create a home for their families. The losses have included many sites of historical importance, many of them bombed in air strikes that accompanied fighting on the ground. The Houthi alliance has been driven from Aden – the first city where the militias and armies met in combat – but weeks after the Houthi and Saleh alliance left it still has no governance; most of this port city is now ruled by militias, and some of them are fighting each other. Fifty percent of housing stock was destroyed in Aden; much of that remaining is also damaged. Landmines have been left behind everywhere. During the active fighting phase, food is inevitably in very short supply, people run out of money and cannot access banks, and those with cash in their homes often have it stolen by militias, many of whom are unpaid. Humanitarian agencies find working conditions extremely challenging and can only offer very limited assistance. Getting to a hospital if ill or injured is sometimes impossible, and always challenging due to lack of petrol, plus active warfare in the immediate vicinity. Phones and computers cannot be used. Illnesses such as malaria, dengue fever and water-borne diseases become endemic. This pattern of devastation in Aden followed in other cities as they one after another fell victim to ground war; the city of Lahj hardly has any building left standing; now Taiz, Hodeida and Marib are experiencing their share of this merciless conflict. Whilst the UN, the ICRC, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, MSF and others put out desperate warnings as cities are besieged, hospitals close and children starve, these stories rarely make front page news and Western politicians ignore what is happening as if Yemen doesn’t exist. These are the forerunners that Sana’ani people stare at in horror, as they wait to find their own fate.

Destruction in Aden
Destruction in Aden – will this be the fate of Sana’a?

As the war seems to creep ever closer go the capital city, I can’t help but reminisce about my happy times there; I lived in an old part of Sana’a called Al Qaa, 20 minutes’ walk from the Old City; a city constantly inhabited for over 2,500 years. Not just the buildings, but also the knowledge of a way of life is held within it; if Old Sana’a is destroyed, with it will be a loss of the accumulated knowing of ancient ways that will be a tragedy for all humankind. This is a world UNESCO site, already severely damaged by recent coalition bomb strikes, with some of its ancient multi-story homes pulverised to dust, its civilian inhabitants killed. But when I lived there it was perfection; each symmetrical building exactly in tune with its ancient neighbour, as if some master planner had set out to design a paradise that fitted exactly within its rugged mountain landscape. There are 6,500 buildings that originated before the eleventh century, with mosques, bathhouses, a souk, and vegetable gardens, the whole city surrounded by an ancient wall. The soft brown buildings have ornate white gypsum embellishments and alabaster windows. Above each window is a gomeria, a fanlight of coloured glass. We loved to go there after nightfall and it was like walking around fairyland; the soft coloured lights from the gomerias illuminated the quiet streets for us. The history seeped into our souls as we explored those narrow lanes, and as we passed between the tall ancient buildings we always felt at peace; man and nature in perfect harmony. This is a precious, unique jewel that the world should cherish.

old city at night
Old City of Sana’a at night – like fairyland.

Most of all I think about the people who are still there. My neighbour Saeda looked after me as if she was my mother; one day I accidentally left my front door open when I went to work, but she entered, bolted the door behind her, and climbed over the back wall to get into her home so that my house was secure. Mohammed and Hassan were two very reliable guards at my workplace who unfailingly went about their duties with dignity and patience, and never complained despite their long hours of duty. Aziza, my hardworking English teacher, whose hospitable family cooked the most delicious food; a meat stew called salta, and a soft pastry with honey called bint sahn. My friend Ibtesam only spoke Arabic, so forced me to practice my hesitant language skills whilst we went on outings to explore Sana’a’s many ancient attractions. Sofia, then a small toddler, now an intelligent nine years old, who climbed up to her open window to wait for me when I visited her family, calling out my name whenever I came into sight. Ali was a pharmacist, who took me to visit his home village, and whose wife insisted on giving me her wedding dress as a gift. A female journalist interviewee told me that her ambition was to become the president of Yemen. A colleague, Eman had dedicated her life to caring for children with learning difficulties, and then despite having no sports training experience, she was persuaded to take on the training the Yemeni para-Olympic team, that ended up winning far more medals than their non-disabled counterparts. And there are so many more to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for their friendship and gracious support. They all knew this was where they belonged; they had a sense of place, an awareness and confidence that came from being part of this ancient culture, this land that was not carved by invaders, but has existed with more or less the same boundaries for more than ten thousand years. I recognised their pride in being Yemeni. All of the time I lived in Sanaa, despite its poverty, I never met anyone who wanted to leave.

Now they all want to leave, but where can they go? Queues are five kilometres long outside petrol stations, and anyway, the petrol pumps are empty. It’s too hot and dry to walk. Villages nearby are safer but have no access to water or food. Most routes out of Sana’a are blocked by war; in Hadramaut to the East they have long been suspicious of their northern counterparts, but now with influences from the expanding extremist Sunni militias, Hadramautis have already decided that they will not allow displaced people from Sana’a to seek refuge; they are also blocking the refugee route through Hadramaut to Oman. Aden, having itself suffered an unimaginably cruel blockade and war, now bans all northerners from entering their city, and even bans southerners who have been living and working in Sana’a from going there. So Sana’anis are trapped, forced to stay in their homes whatever the danger, waiting to see what the worst will mean for them. Unlike most other Yemeni cities which have largely homogenous population, Sana’a has attracted people from all over Yemen to live and work there. The previously religiously tolerant and generous Yemeni population that lived, worked and prayed side by side in peace is already becoming polarised and suspicious – neighbours are learning not to trust each other. The government, now just about functioning, will have to cease – anarchy and militia rule is likely to be the outcome.

It is hard to see how things can be improved. The exiled Hadi, himself living in luxury in Riyadh far away from conflict, is stating that he will not attend UN brokered peace talks. This, despite the UN special envoy stating that a solution is very near; the Houthi/Saleh alliance have already conceded most of what Hadi demanded. It will be much better for Sanaa and its people – and Yemen – to have a peaceful passage of government from one ruling group to another, rather than a military battle and victory that will inevitably destroy the administrative processes leading to chaos.   As my friends in Sana’a keep saying, please pray for us. It is perhaps the only thing that we can do.

Letter from Yemeni citizen to Ban Ki-Moon

This letter needs to be widely circulated.  Please can you send a copy to newspapers – if enough copies are sent it will create a media storm and make editors think again of their policies of silence on the war on Yemen.

His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary-General of United Nations
United Nations Headquarters
760 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017, US

Re: Stop the Saudi aggression

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
Months have passed since the beginning of the coalition aggression on the Yemenis people led by the Saudi government and its allies with complete disregard to the lives of Yemenis and their wellbeing. The fatalities has passed the thousands mark, uncountable casualties, disastrous cities and towns with no sign for this aggression to halt.
The military alliance lead by the Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia has vowed to directly punish the Yemenis people by targeting their public sector such as Airports, sea ports, highways, food factories, schools and even hospitals. The so called collateral damages has become a common tone used by the coalition whenever a human loss was a direct result of their actions.
Al-Sabeen Maternity and Children’s Hospital, a key Yemeni hospital was on the brink of closure as airstrikes intensify on Sana’a according to Save the Children report on the 31 August 2015 (https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/…/key-yemen-hospital-bri…’), was once again directly hit few days later after that report on Saturday the 5th of September 2015 and buildings nearby had been leveled as explosions rang through the night and morning. At least 27 members of two families were killed and tens of casualties in critical conditions. The manager of Al-Sabeen Maternity and Children’s Hospital said it had been severely damaged and on the verge of collapse with its neonatal intensive care unit suffering the most from shortages of medical supplies and staff. The hospital has also appealed to the international organization to help evacuate the remaining patients as its Deputy Manager, Halel Al-Bahri, said three infant aged less than 10 days old and two aged three weeks old were among the fatalities as a result of the coalition aggression and that an urgent intervention is needed to stop this aggression.

The deafening silence of the international communities is unprecedented and the complete absence of regards to Yemenis lives by the wider community is unreal. Here in Yemen, babies are robbed from the warmth of their parents, the sound of human voice whispering, singing, and humming softly as they laid down to sleep. The happiness these babies have once brought to this nation are now converted to grieving parents and shocked country as they daily lying down their beloved ones on their final journey.
While human lives are equally valued, whether it is in Asia, Africa or Europe, a boy drowned off the shores of Europe or a baby aged three days old dying in his incubators in Yemen, many Yemenis around the world are deeply concerned about their beloved home and all have great concern about this unjust world.
Many Yemenis have come together to urge you and request an urgent involvement to lend a helping hand to the hospitals and medical staff and to stop the deterioration of living conditions in Yemen and to bring to justices the parties and individual responsible for all types of hostilities aggressions
Thank you so much for your precious time and for allowing us to bring to your attention our deep desire to see Yemen as a free nation, respected and uphold its values of human rights and dignity.

(from a Yemeni citizen).

How’s Yemen doing?

The war in Yemen has reached a new stage; a massive ground force has entered via Aden and the city and port itself is now said to be under the control of Hadi loyalists – but Hadi is still in residing in Riyadh, promising to return to Yemen in the next few months and then developing Aden into the capital city of Yemen. This city has suffered massive damage; half of its housing stock and buildings have been destroyed – but worse than that, the Adeni people, for so long tolerant and more educated than those in the rest of Yemen, have learned how to hate. Reading messages on Facebook and Twitter, not only are northerners no longer welcome in this port city, but those southerners who were living in the north have also been told that they are tainted and cannot hope to return to their home town.

The anti-Houthi alliances that fought together are a mixed bag; the mutual hatred of the Saleh and Houthi fighters keeping them together. As stated by Yemeni analyst Will Pickard: “While the Hadi administration in exile claims that the city is under the control of its ‘loyalists,’ the truth is that there is no state in Aden, just a number of unaccountable militias that operate with impunity. Fighting the Houthi-Saleh alliance has kept them all quite busy, but with the external enemy defeated, they are very likely to turn on each other. Without a doubt, they’ll also do what armed groups everywhere have always done: endanger and exploit local people”.

aden post war
War damage in Aden

The secessionists also face a quandary; if Aden becomes the new capital city, should they still insist on independence for South Yemen? They may all form a united viewpoint, but more likely they will bicker amongst themselves. Reconstruction will also prove challenging; like all of Yemen, Aden will need vast amounts of money to rebuild, but it is not clear who will want to invest there whilst militias are roaming free, especially if the rest of Yemen remains unstable and without a popular government and no agreed route to peace. If investment stalls, lack of homes and jobs will create discontent with different interest groups blaming each other for the deteriorating situation; the only way any government will be able to keep control is by adopting brutal tactics against any dissent.

Another question for the whole of Yemen is how long will the overseas armies stay? Moving into a war zone is relatively easy; finding the right time to get out is more difficult. At the moment it seems as if the majority of overseas troops are from UAE; this is already creating debate in the Emirates, as many of the soldiers are conscripts, a small number of whom have been killed or maimed and hence the need for an Emirati presence in Yemen is already being questioned. As time passes, just like in every other country that conduct wars in overseas territories, the protests at home will get louder and UAE will be looking for an exit. The international coalition partners have to stay in agreement, which will become challenging as costs rise, both in terms of financial implications and human costs.   At the moment, amongst Yemenis in the southwest there seems to be a general consensus that the overseas troops are doing a valuable job, but as in all conflicts it is likely that along the way sections of the local communities will want the overseas troops to leave and may take up an armed struggle to achieve it. When they do eventually leave it is likely that militias will fill the power vacuum and in-fighting between groups will become a norm. The Yemeni army will at some point become re-united, but is deprived of its weapons and munitions that have been destroyed in this war by coalition bombing; it will be too weak to hold the militias apart or control them. Instead, it is more likely that militias will control the population after the overseas troops leave. It is likely that the parts of the Yemeni army that fought on the losing side will be disbanded, leaving resentful and unpaid ex-soldiers who can easily be recruited to swell extremist militia ranks.

foreign troops in Aden
When will the overseas armies leave Yemen?

Those dilemmas in the southwest must seem a luxury to those in the north of Yemen, who are still anticipating that things could get worse as ground forces approach their areas; there has been little fighting on the ground in Sanaa and the northern cities, but this is something they are expecting after Taiz has been calmed and the armies move north. Whilst in the southwest these invading armies were able to make relatively quick progress, they are more likely to overextend themselves as they move into the northern mountains. The Houthi militias and the army units loyal to Saleh will be at a military advantage in mountainous terrain, although they have been weakened by the blockade that has prevented petrol, food and other commodities from reaching the northern governates. Whilst the population in the southwest has largely supported the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, and in Saada area the population is united against the pro-Saudi coalition assaults, in many parts of central and north Yemen the population is divided with some in pro-Houthi and pro-Saudi camps, but also with sections of the population disliking all fighting forces and just wanting peace in any form. Thus there is the spectre of suspicion and lack of trust within neighbourhoods as the threat of ground attacks becomes more imminent. In cities like Sanaa the situation could become at least as desperate as that in Aden a few weeks ago, with total breakdown of food supply chains, and street by street fighting and property destruction in some areas, whilst air assaults will continue to wreak destruction.

Sanaa bombs
Ground forces will create more suffering in Sana’a.

Meanwhile, in the only stable part of Yemen, the Eastern Hadramaut and Maharah provinces, the extremist Sunni militias are taking control, and more internally displaced escaping from northern cities will put an intolerable strain on the infrastructure and on relationships between the local population and the displaced.

Is there a way out? I am not sure if there are any negotiations taking place now, but I hope so. In the end, however many people are killed, however much property is destroyed, at some point there will have to be a negotiated settlement. The longer it takes to reach a settlement, the more people will be killed, the more property will be destroyed and the more entrenched the polarised positions will become. Yemenis have lived together in relative peace and with lots of tolerance over centuries; one day they will have to learn to do so again. This means they will first have to sit down with people they hate and make painful concessions. One ‘side’ in this war cannot be wiped out, however much some may want that to happen – it is a hopeless delusion to see that outcome as a possibility. And if any side has a solution forced on them by military means, resentment will fester and it will only be a matter of time until war breaks out again. Whether Yemen adopts a one-state or two-state solution, the only way for peace is for all parts of Yemen to have at least tolerant relationships with each other. All Yemenis have to be courageous enough to acknowledge their own responsibilities in shaping the conflict and be prepared to apologise and not merely blame the other ‘side’; they need to be generous enough to forgive fellow Yemenis for inflicting terrible losses and suffering on them and their families. Only then can peace be possible.

Foreign interference has turned a tense and challenging political situation in Yemen into a catastrophe beyond imagination. But now that these international actors are part of the Yemen scene, things have been so stirred that whether they leave or stay, most choices open to Yemeni politicians and fighters have little to recommend them; but although peace is elusive, it cannot be impossible. As one friend said, the only thing that we can do now is pray.

The Strange Relationship between Saudi Arabia and Yemeni tribes.

Yemen News Today

Saudi is the only country in the world named after a family – the Sauds, from the Nejd region in the middle of Arabia.  They were motivated by religious Wahhabi zeal and from 1902 the Saudi tribes started to capture much of the Arabian peninsula, which Abdulaziz Al-Saud declared to be a kingdom in 1932; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  After the discovery of oil, the tribes were rapidly pulled into the modern day. A comfortable life afforded by wealth from its large oil reserves softened the tribes who became used to a very different way of life.  Instead of fighting for power, for over 80 years Saudi maintained its position by use of its wealth to buy friends and influence, and relied on a pact with USA to defend the kingdom against any dangers.

king abdulaziz al saud King Abdulaziz Al Saud

Historically, the wealth in Arabia had been generated in the south…

View original post 1,829 more words

The polarising effects of Saudi and Houthi propaganda

I woke on 26th March this year to hear on the news that a coalition under Saudi Arabian control had started to bomb Yemen. I live in Somerset; few local people could understand what was going through my mind, as my best friend is Yemeni and she is a single mother with four children, with no family or tribal connections to protect her. I also have a lot of other dear friends in different parts of Yemen, where I worked for several years. My heart was broken, and I thought of Yemen every moment, when I went to bed, when I woke in the night which I frequently do, when I woke in the morning, and all day. I still do.

At the start of the bombing campaign, I immediately sent messages to ask if my Yemeni friends were alright after the onslaught, and got different responses. From one friend in Sana’a; “They (Saudi Arabia) are trying to destroy us, they hate us, they always have,” and from another young friend in Aden “You don’t understand aunty, they (the Houthis) are trying to kill us. Saudi is on our side.” That has been the dilemma in Yemen; Yemenis have become polarised and do not properly listen to anyone who has an opposite view. Those that criticise the Houthis become “Saudi spies” and those that criticise Saudi bombs become “traitors”. For those that favour Saudi actions, in the face of compelling and widespread evidence they will not accept that the coalition bombs have targeted civilians time and time again, as bombs have fallen on displaced people’s camps, schools, markets, homes, and hospitals. For those who support the Houthis, they deny that they have caused any harm “No, it is not the Houthis who have damaged Aden; it is Islah who are trying to make people hate the Houthis”. This again was in the face of photographs and testimony from areas like Crater that were under Houthi control. For those from the old North, there is a complete denial that Southerners have good reason to feel resentful towards the Yemeni government that has humiliated them, dominated them and strips their assets; they in turn state that the more educated Southerners come to the North and take their jobs, and resent the way that Southerners make fun of Northern characters on popular television programmes. When Yemen’s amazing antiquities were destroyed, invariably everyone blames the other ‘side’. It is not a Saudi bomb but a Houthi missile; it is not the Houthis that destroy but another militia that is culpable. Or one side was forced to destroy a historical site because of the actions of their enemy.

Sensing this chasm between Yemenis, I joined a group of British Yemenis whose aim was to unite British Yemenis; The Yemen Coordination Network. The reasoning of the founder Taher Qassim was that if British Yemenis could start to understand opposing viewpoints, then they would spread messages to their families in Yemen, pouring oil on troubled water which might go some way to resolving issues underlying the conflict. The first meeting that I went to in Liverpool shocked me. Yemenis were openly critical of each other’s perspective; one woman whose husband was trapped in Yemen was very distressed by those who opposed the Saudi bombs. Those present told me that this was an improvement on the last meeting, where Liverpool Yemenis were almost at war.   So far, feelings run so high that this group has not been able to take off.

I also considered joining a Facebook site which claimed to be aiming to unite Yemenis. When I investigated further, the purpose was to unite all Yemenis so that they could exterminate the Houthis. When I went to the Stop the War conference, the British Yemeni speaker only criticised the Saudi-led bombing campaign. I pointed out that one of the problems was that Yemenis themselves were disunited, and the Houthis were harming their cause by attacking Yemenis in the South, and supressing Yemenis in other cities. She would not hold any discussion, stating that ALL Yemenis are united against the Saudi bombs, and the reports of damage by the Houthis was propaganda. When examining the photo gallery, I pointed to one photograph that I knew came from Crater, depicting houses that the Houthis had burned down, which was described as damage from Saudi bombs. There are indeed enough genuine photographs of people killed by the coalition’s bombing raid to not need to place false images amongst them.

What made it more difficult for me was the anti-war lobby in UK, which opposes the West’s military domination of the Middle East, as I do. With good reason they see wars such as Yemen as a manifestation of the West’s intention to dominate the region. USA and UK were very active in supporting the Saudi-led coalition attacks against Yemen in everything but directly taking part in air assaults. Saudi Arabia and the British media wrongly asserted that Iranian influence was dominating Yemen hence the need for the attacks; in truth the Houthis had some links with Iran, but these were not significant. This was a civil war in which Saudi Arabia had decided to attack Yemen, under the pretext of supporting a President who is not popular, elected in a one candidate ballot and his term had already expired. This decision by Saudi Arabia had made a tense civil war situation much worse, and probably caused more aggression and damage on the part of all militias in Yemen.

Generally, the anti-war lobby in UK tends to take the side of those opposing the West and its allies. For example, I know the Stop the War had a large contingent of Yemenis who contacted them to say that they supported the Saudi bombing campaign, but the only Yemeni speakers at the Stop the War conference were those against the Saudi attacks because it met with StopThe War’s agenda.  For those who care about ending the conflict in Yemen, it is important to recognise the genuine grievances of two particular groups that had been oppressed under the past government; the Houthis that had suffered appalling attacks from the government of Yemen and Saudi Arabia between 2004-2009, and the Southerners that had been humiliated in a brutal civil war in 1994 and had genuine grievances concerning the inequality of power. Both had been misrepresented in the media in Yemen over decades, hence creating a lack of understanding in the general public, and their issues had not been addressed in the National Dialogue Conference that was designed to overcome obstacles to peace in Yemen after the Yemeni Arab Spring. Ironically, the South and the Houthis formed a voting bloc in the NDC, but these two groups ended up fighting a terrible war in the southwest corner of Yemen. The Houthis, more used to battle, were able to brutally suppress those in Aden and Lahj, and also their war extended to Taiz. Unless the suffering of those in the southwest was acknowledged, then there could be no way of bringing the warring factions together to find peace. I saw the uniting of Yemenis with different perspectives as being not only the most important issue in ending the civil war, but also the most important way of uniting Yemen against outside all outside domination. If the Houthis are forced to surrender through the coalition’s military might, they will have grievances – and a real fear of extermination – that will fester and infect future generations with yet more war.

However, raising the issue of Houthi damage caused me to be alienated from many in the British anti-war group; for example, one person saw fit to repeatedly swear at me, the first time anyone had done so for many decades. Some of these comments were very personal and without truth; for example my Yemeni friend who was so vulnerable managed to escape to Malaysia with her children, when I announced this, comments were made that the only persons who could get out of Yemen were cronies of the government, and she was going to leave the others to be killed by Saudi bombs. This was very upsetting to me. I have good friends in UK where I now sense a feeling of alienation; I am hoping time will heal those differences. However, there are many others, some of them new friends, who do understand that I am not just against Saudi Arabia, not just against the Houthis, not just against other militias fighting in Yemen; I am against all fighting, destruction, war, blockades, sieges, injuries, and killings. I am for Yemen. And fortunately, some Yemenis are amongst my new friends who see things the same way.

The people in Yemen, like those in UK, are the products of the discourses that surround them in their everyday life. They believe what they do because they have been surrounded by one perspective. Their genuine grievances of ‘the Other’ has been hidden from them. As an outsider, strangely it is easier to get a wider perspective. But it is hard to explain that to people who passionately believe that they are right, and are surrounded by people who think like they do.

Almost every day I am approached by someone from Yemen who says I am taking ‘sides’ – Yemenis who want to ‘educate’ me to support only their viewpoint. Each ‘side’ tells me that ALL Yemenis believe the same as they do, and I am mistaken. On my Facebook page “Yemen News Today” I publish as many articles as I can find each day; the site does what it says, it collects articles from a variety of sources. The perspective at any time depends on the news that is being published; I look at news agencies from UK, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, USA, Iran, Yemen and others. This week, within a few hours, two Yemenis who looked at the same material on the same Facebook page – one accused me of not criticising Houthis enough, and another of not criticising Saudi enough. I am becoming less tolerant too, and no longer engage in long debates as from experience few can be persuaded to change their viewpoint, whatever evidence is offered.

And therein lies the problem. Outsiders such as anti-war groups who want to end Western domination are also polarised, reflecting the exact situation in Yemen. In all the conflicts in the Middle East, the differences between groups are the main problem; it is the system of keeping countries, their people and their assets subordinated and under Western control. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Yemen, they all have internal conflicts that consume their communities, weakening them when they need to stand together. The only chance they have is to unite the conflicting parties, so that they can make a united front against Western domination. Only in Palestine is that properly understood by Western anti-war lobbies, where the unity of Fatah and Hamas is understood as a key to peace. Unifying is not an easy option; Arab philosophers have long written about the way that Western colonisation and oppression have caused Arabs to divide; into those who think the best way to resist Western domination is to become more like them, and others who think the best way to resist is to become less like them. This divide still continues today. There have been historical exceptions. In recent history, the rise of Nasserism created a pan-Arab movement that attracted Arabs from a range of nationalities, ethnicities, and religions. Unfortunately it made leaders of other states outside Egypt fearful of their own position; that disunity weakened their military prowess and many say it led to the Arabs’ defeat in the Six Day War against Israel, which ended Nasser’s movement. More recent efforts by Gadaffi to unite Arabs were not welcomed in the Arab world.  In the past, a Kurd called Salah Ad-Din (Saladin) united Arabs who fought off the invading European crusaders. There are some young Yemenis who have charisma and vision, but whether they will be allowed to lead Yemen to a better future is questionable. Let’s hope they can have their chance one day.

What now for Yemen?

Al anad air base
Saudi coalition ground forces and southern militias have captured Al Anad airbase.

Today it has been reported that the Saudi-led coalition has managed to take a military base near Lahj in southwest Yemen, and the few flights that were landing in Sana’a airport have been diverted to Aden. All ships heading for Hodeida port have been diverted to Aden port, now under the control of the Saudi-led coalition and local militias. Meanwhile, the Yemeni economy has collapsed under the effect of a Saudi-led blockade that has also caused severe life-threatening shortages of food, fuel, medicines and water. The Houthis have called for peace negotiations, and although the Houthi militias still are present in the southwest area, they have been placed on the back foot by the anti-Houthi coalition that appears to be gaining ground.

As we hear of these significant changes, reactions from Yemenis seem to vary from elation from those who were under siege in the southwest and also those who supported the Saudi coalition’s air strikes, to denial by those who support the Houthis. Those in the northwest, especially the Zaidis, will be feeling very apprehensive if they hear the news that the Houthis are losing ground in the southwest. But the majority, who desperately suffered under multiple wars and a devastating blockade, are hoping that this news means that peace is a little bit nearer. But during this war, many have witnessed deaths of family and friends, and lost homes, jobs, savings, and health; it has heightened the differences between Yemenis and caused many to develop a deep hatred of ‘the Other’.

Although the Houthis are calling for peace negotiations and asking for internationals to act as mediators, the Saudis are only likely to accept a full surrender. The Yemen government, now beholden to Riyadh and still in Saudi Arabia, has always demanded full compliance with UNSC resolution 2216, which calls on the Houthis to leave all the areas it now controls in Yemen. Hadi, the disputed President of Yemen, remains very unpopular, particularly amongst the groups that suffered most in the Saudi-led air assaults, widely reported to be at Hadi’s behest. It is unlikely that Yemenis could all unite around him.

Additionally, new militias have formed during the four months of war, and others have strengthened their position, both in terms of recruitment and control of territory. Al Qaeda, Da’esh and Islah all fought the Houthis, linked by a common bond of anti-Shiism. These militias were also fighting alongside the secessionist militias from Aden and the south, who do not share their religious intolerance, but have a strong anti-North Yemen sentiment. This group of disparate ‘victors’ already had significant differences before the war; it is hard to imagine these will have faded and they will now live in peace together.

Over a million people have been displaced in Yemen during the war; many of these have had their homes destroyed, making it impossible for them to return. But there is also likely to be forced displacement caused by heightened intolerances, based on religious differences or the North/South divide. Many people from the old North Yemen lived and worked in Aden; they may find this impossible in the post-war situation. In large cities like Sana’a, Shia and Sunni lived, worked and worshipped alongside each other; but the effect of war will make them now view their former neighbours with suspicion.

The destruction of the economy and infrastructure will have serious impact on work opportunities, already limited in Yemen prior to war. With no work and little to do, more men will be drawn to militias for employment. There have already been a number of bombs and other attacks by militias in Yemen in the last few months. Unless there is a comprehensive negotiated peace agreement that addresses the real grievances of all Yemenis, but especially addressing the Southern question and the Houthis concerns, and also tackles the reasons behind the growth of extremist Sunni militias, then these sporadic attacks are likely to continue. The Houthis homeland, the area around Saada, has been decimated; if they are forced to retreat, they have nothing to lose. That will make them extremely dangerous as guerrilla fighters, hiding in the mountain areas that they are familiar with, able to make sporadic attacks on those that they believe to be their enemy.

The South, meanwhile, wants an independent homeland. That is the area that contains most of the oil and gas reserves in Yemen. It is unlikely that the North will willingly agree to give them up. And it is even less likely that Saudi Arabia would agree to a tolerant, democratic society developing on its southern border, but perhaps a democratic system is the only thing that could hold Yemen together. It is too early to celebrate victory; the path to peace still has a long way to go.  But at least the first stage of the war is over.

 

Under-reporting of war deaths – or genocide?

Yemen starving child4

The estimates of numbers killed in this terrible war have varied from website to website. On the 31st July FARS news agency reported the number killed as 5313 people, most of them women and children. Al Jazeera quoted UN statistics on 27th July, stating that 3,640 have died altogether, about half of them civilians deaths. I believe both of these numbers hide the truth, and the number of those who have died is much, much higher.

Systems of recording deaths in Yemen during the war are not straightforward, hence the differences in death counts. Some agencies count deaths that have been reported in the media, but this is a multi-focal war, with both militia activity and air assaults by the coalition happening in all of the areas except Hadramaut, and journalists cannot access all areas where people are being attacked. As the war progresses, deaths in Yemen have become less newsworthy as it has become so commonplace and the Western media have not seriously tried to give the war in Yemen the coverage it deserves.  Furthermore, militias and fighting forces have an interest in under-reporting any of their own fighters killed by the other ‘side’ as militia and military deaths have a propaganda purpose; these deaths can only be estimated.

Another way of collecting information about those killed is from hospitals and medical sources. However, many hospitals have themselves been out of action, either because of destruction caused by war activity, because of loss of personnel due to the conflict, or because they have run out of medical equipment and may have disruption of water and electricity supplies making it impossible to function. Additionally, many who died at the site of an attack will not be included in hospital statistics

Then there is the nature of Yemen itself. In rural mountainous areas Yemeni families bury the deceased in their own villages, and with the ongoing conflict there is no system for these deaths to be immediately recorded. In some areas, especially the north-west, villages are inside conflict zones and not excluded from serious effects of warfare. The lack of fuel also means that moving injured to hospital is a challenge, for example, a recent report from journalist Mathieu Aikins “Yemen’s Hidden War” published by Rollingstone, stated that whilst he was in Yemen injured people were bought into a hospital in Saada from a village – he pointed to the difficulties in getting the casualties to hospital, with little petrol available, and for many the cost prohibits access to petrol. Apart from the blockade by Saudi Arabia, 180 petrol stations have been bombed in Saada area. For those few who manage to get their injured loved ones to hospital, inevitably many others will have failed and the injured may have died from lack of medical care.

saada destruction 1
Saada has been subject to daily extensive aerial bombardment by Saudi Arabia throughout the war, causing extensive displacement of families

Aikins also points out that in the areas he passed through in the Sana’a and northwest areas almost all bridges have been bombed, making communication and movement extremely difficult. In a radio report on Radio 4 on 27th July, MSF British doctor Natalie Roberts confirmed this and also stated that it is extremely dangerous to drive along roads, because so many cars and trucks – even those with no military use – are regularly targeted.  No-one will use roads for routine issues such as reporting deaths, and with severe electricity shortages there may be no means for some villages to communicate with the outside world.

natalie roberts msf
Dr. Natalie Roberts saw food trucks that were recently bombed in Amran district, destroying desperately needed food.

The siege has also made it impossible to obtain medicines and medical equipment. This has particularly affected those with chronic illnesses. At times, medicines have been in very limited supply and even the black market has been unable to provide them. This has meant that those with chronic diseases have been at risk, and many have died. Friends have reported that most people on dialysis have died in Sana’a, and also people who need medicines such as insulin have found it difficult to obtain essential medication. Sometimes this has meant that they have had to lower their dosage or change to an alternative medication, often without access to medical advice. Because of the war, non-emergency medical treatment is restricted in many areas; it is hard to imagine that this has not resulted in deaths. These early deaths would have been recorded as due to natural causes, whereas they were due to unnatural warfare and siege conditions under which most Yemeni people are now forced to live.

Examples include a 24 year old man in Aden I know, previously very healthy, who died of malaria because he was not able to obtain medical supplies. In the Guardian newspaper it was reported that an obstetrician stated that two women had died from complications during childbirth, who would not have died but for the war. Some women will no doubt be giving birth at home because it is impossible to get to hospital, increasing risk to mothers and babies. These deaths are hidden from war statistics.

Sources reporting the humanitarian situation in Yemen point to the precarious water supply. Yemen, already short of water, has now moved into an era of critical water shortage since the beginning of war. On 26th May Oxfam reported that two thirds of people in Yemen no longer had access to clean water, and expected that this would cause deaths fromwater borne diseases. The situation has worsened since then, as some water tanks have suffered bomb damage, and the petrol needed to pump water from deep wells is in even shorter supply.   Another problem is a lack of baby milk. It was reported from Yemen sources recently that only 11.9% of Yemeni women are able to exclusively breast feed, a significant fall since last year. The shortage of water, shortage of food and ongoing stress will make it more difficult for women to produce sufficient milk for their babies. The reduction in breast feeding is life threatening for Yemeni babies, especially when it is combined with low availability of milk powders, unclean water supplies, and shortage of fuel to boil water for sterilisation purposes.

yemen 29.6.15 003
Precarious water supply – benefactors in Yemen have supplied water tankers: people are allowed 5 litres every 3 days each. In some areas the supply is less secure due to lack of diesel for water pumps.

Food is also becoming a severe problem as normally 90% of food is imported into Yemen, and the country is under siege making imports impossible. Humanitarian aid delivery is restricted by a Saudi led blockade. Tariq Riebl of Oxfam pointed out that “People are resorting to extreme measures, principally begging. You’ll see this especially with the 1.5 million displaced people…many that have fled suddenly when airstrikes or ground combat erupted. They are leaving behind all their belongings and having no revenue source or income.” Riebl stated that it is difficult to know how many people are dying from the effects of food deprivation because many parts of the country are not accessible and he continued: “The airstrikes have covered the entire country…so it’s difficult to give you an exact figure. In terms of classification, right now 10 out of 22 governorates are classified as Level 4. Level 5 would be famine. Level 4 is critical emergency level. And the rest of the country is in Level 3, which also would be already considered past the emergency threshold. Yemen is one of the most food insecure countries in the world, if not the most.”

Yemen starting child1
UNICEF: 1.3 million children on verge of severe malnution, 16,000 currently being treated, 30.7.2015

As the blockade has reached its fourth month, the effects of the blockade are now causing severe disruption to the food supply and much suffering, and inevitably deaths.  Humanitarian aid is said to be arriving in Aden but people there are telling me, and many others tweeting, that they have not yet received help.  Food is increasingly expensive in the capital Sana’a, and most residents there are without employment or income, relying on savings.  Those who still draw government salaries are mostly not working, and fear their salary will stop as the Houthi led administration is running out of money due to the blockade.  Food trucks moving in Amran province have been regularly bombed, according to Natalie Roberts of MSF, creating a disastrous food situation there.  The only area which is not under strict blockade is in Hadramaut, where food is entering via Mukalla.  The east has a low population as it is a largely a desert region. Although many internally displaced have moved there, this area is not receiving any humanitarian aid.  Displaced people in Hadramaut are mostly living on limited savings, rents are extremely high, and food is very expensive, so even in the most stable area in Yemen food security is an important issue.

The ongoing Saudi air bombardment is also causing many deaths, most of them civilian.  No area is spared except for Hadramaut in the east, which has had minimal bombing raids so far. For example, in Mocha on the Red Sea coast on 24th July a bombing raid killed between 60-120 civilians, and injured many more, some of whom are seriously ill and with the shortage of medical care it is likely that the death toll will rise.   This was not an area where Houthi militias were found; the persons living there worked in an electricity power plant.

Does this amount to genocide?  According to the UN:

Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part1; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

The Saudis are particularly targeting the Zaidi population in the northwest of Yemen, destroying homes, schools, petrol stations, hospitals, roads, factories, shops, mosques, historical artefacts, a refugee camp and vehicles. Although it was reported that those in Saada were given notice that their homes were about to be destroyed by leafleting prior to main bombing raids, the people living there had few choices. Some organisations claim that the bomb damage in the northwest amounts to war crimes. The majority of people in targeted areas lost their homes, belongings, sources of employment, and income. The destruction of their homes destroyed shelter for families in a hot desert region in midsummer; in winter, high mountainous areas can also experience cold conditions and night frosts, making life without shelter challenging all year round. With the loss of their homes, families also lost access to water, electricity, and cooking facilities. Whilst some of the displaced have moved to the capital Sana’a and other cities, they would not be able to escape to the more stable area of Hadramaut due to their tribal and religious identity, as that area is controlled by extremist Sunni militias with strong anti-Shia sentiments and a fear of Zaidi spies. A large proportion of the displaced from Saada area have remained in the northwest, finding or building temporary shelter with limited resources. Some have formed camps near to the Saudi border, as many have relatives in Jizan and Najran who might offer them sanctuary, but currently I understand they are denied entry into Saudi Arabia, and a wall prevents them from crossing the border.

idp2
IDPs are living in tents and home made shelters, with very little protection from the elements.

Many that remain in the northwest are now trapped, as the severe shortage of petrol, the high cost of travel by bus, and the targeting of vehicles for air attacks on all local roads means that escape is challenging even if living conditions are life threatening. The low numbers of refugees crossing borders only reflects severe travel restrictions, and does not imply that the conditions in Yemen are better than in other war-torn countries such as Syria. The northwest of Yemen is suffering severe problems with food and water supplies, not only because of the Saudi led blockade that is affecting all of west Yemen, but also because of damage to roads, and targeting of food trucks. Despite the extensive damage here, the bombing raids continue and like those living all over Yemen the Zaidis are suffering severe stress as they listen to the warplanes circling overhead on a daily, even hourly, basis.

It is difficult to argue that these conditions are compatible with life, and desperate appeals have been put out by a number of organisations, including Oxfam, UN, and WFP, ensuring that Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, including US and UK, must be aware of the seriousness of this man-made crisis. Particularly the lives of the very young, the very old, and disabled have been and are seriously at risk.   Additionally, with many hospitals and clinics destroyed, there is little medical input to help the vulnerable overcome these threats, and as the siege proceeds more of the population will become vulnerable.   It is hard to argue that continued military strikes and ongoing siege in the face of this evidence can be anything other than intentional, as described in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948).

There is impelling evidence that members of the Zaidi population have been killed, and most have suffered serious bodily and mental harm by the destruction of their homes and the on-going blockade, and continued bombing attacks. It is hard to understand the purpose of the air attacks unless it was calculated to inflict on the Zaidi conditions of life that would bring about their physical destruction, in whole or in part.  Additionally, the nearest border is the Saudi border, and the desperate and displaced are not allowed to cross it.

There are also many reported civilian deaths at the hands of the various militias, including the Houthis, in areas of conflict. This has resulted in damage to a significant numbers of homes and other buildings, reduced access to fuel, food, water, and medical assistance, and some civilians have been killed by militias, as well as militias killed whilst fighting each other. Also, many families in the southwest are displaced because of militia activity, and found it difficult to escape horrendous living conditions because of the conflict and siege, as to escape they had to pass through dangerous areas where militias were fighting each other. All of these factors have resulted in Yemeni deaths and suffering, particularly in Aden, Lahj and Taiz. Whilst the actions of militias were often inhumane and brutal, it is more difficult to link this to genocidal intent, as all militia fighting on the ground is primarily designed to control through war rather than to eliminate any particular group within the population. Opposing militias were fighting each other, and additionally, these areas were also subject to air attacks by the Saudi coalition and the Saudi led blockade; hence it is far less clear where boundaries for responsibilities lie.

Meanwhile, in UK, the Disasters Emergency Committee has not yet had a charitable appeal to help the severe disaster that has been inflicted on Yemeni men, women and children. Politicians and the media are not telling it how it is. I find this inexplicable.