This week has been the same never ending reports of death and destruction in Yemen. And the UN is saying today that they peace talks – due to start next week – are now delayed until December. I guess Hadi and his powerful neighbours want to make more progress in the ground war before entering the talks, but as usual – the ground war is at stalemate. Everyone says this war can only be ended by negotiations, so why oh why do they have to kill more Yemenis before they talk, for God’s sake?
Taiz is a ferocious battleground, with both sides hoping to use any progress there as a bargaining chip in peace negotiations. I read in one paper that the Houthi-Saleh alliance are using mercenaries from Ethiopia – I don’t know if it is true – and the Saudi-led alliance is definitely bringing in mercenaries and allies from all over the Middle East, Africa, and South America. If you read newspaper articles in papers from members of the Saudi led coalition, they are winning. On the other hand, if you read Iranian or Houthi papers and news agencies, then you would also read that they too are winning. When I hear from ordinary Taiz people with no political affiliations, they only state that they are being killed and starved.
Hadi – who ran away from his country and responsibilities at the beginning of the war has moved back to Aden at last – he says permanently. I guess he’s left his family safe and comfortable in Riyadh. I hope this development means that more effort will be put into security matters in Aden. Al Qaeda is driving around openly and the Houthi-Saleh alliance are said to be approaching the city – again. Adenis have been asked to leave their weapons at home – but with gun-toting militias around and no effective police or army, that’s a big ask. Hadi’s return may indeed draw the fight to Aden, as he is himself a divisive figure with limited popularity and many enemies.
The Saudi bombing raids are as fearsome as ever, killing and destroying all in their wake, especially in the northwest of Yemen. They obviously have used up lots of their bombs (they dropped 40,000 in the first seven months of war); they have now ordered another 25,140 air to ground missiles from US, including 1,500 penetrator warheads (usually nuclear tipped) and 2,000 of the huge Mother Of All Bombs, each over 1000 pounds. Total cost said to be 1.3 billion US dollars. Human Rights Watch have called on the US not to send weapons to Saudi Arabia, but I guess no-one is listening. An Italian news outlet said the weapons are on their way already. There is the usual round of dire warnings about the Yemeni humanitarian situation – this week ICRC has put out an appeal about the crisis – as has UNICEF. The two recent cyclones have added to the disastrous situation in Yemen. But it’s one thing making a plea and wringing your hands. Yemenis actually need action now – they are already dying.
Hadramaut had so far has been spared from the war, but the news today is that the war has been taken to them, with suicide bombs and attacks in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Shibam and nearby Al Qatn. A home video of the attack shows it is no mini matter – some of the explosions were horrendous. As ISIS has claimed responsibility, in the week after the Paris attacks, at least this is getting some media coverage.
The UK media this week has really focused on Paris and the events there, and I guess for people like me who are trying to get empathetic coverage of a much bigger disaster elsewhere this is frustrating. For example, on BBC Radio 4 a man said that after two lots of bombs in 10 months, he is wondering whether Paris is a good place to bring up his children. HELLO!!!! People in Yemen have had massive destructive bombs every single day for over 237 days in some cities like Saada; their homes, schools, hospitals destroyed and perhaps they too think that this is not a good place to bring up children. Some cities such as Taiz have had ground war every day for over four months, their city looking as damaged as cities in Syria after 5 years. Don’t Yemenis and Arabs want to protect their children too? Surely this is the reason why there are so many refugees in Europe today.
Last but not least, there is an important inquiry in UK into the government’s response to the crisis in Yemen. Written submissions are being invited. I shall send a submission on behalf of Yemen News Today, but other charities and organisations linked to Yemen should also send their own observations. It may not change anything, but those of us who love Yemen must do our best to assist Yemen and Yemenis in every way we can.