Living under Saudis’ airstrikes

Yemeni conflict is the least covered among the ones that are raging in the Middle East. This is due also to the lack of valuable and reliable information coming from independent and international reporters on the ground.

A paper with a tank drawn on it, lies on a table at The al-Shawkani Foundation for Orphans Care in Sanaa, Yemen
A paper with a tank drawn on it, lies on a table at The al-Shawkani Foundation for Orphans Care in Sanaa, Yemen. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Since September 2014, Houthi rebels coming from the northern Yemen have total control of the capital, Sana’a. The name of this faction stems from its founder, Husayn Badr al-Din al-Houthi. Their struggle against central government dates back to 2004. Originally, the rebels confronted former president  Ali 'Abd Allah Saleh, in charge from 1977 to 2012. However, tension didn't ease with the new president Abd Rabbih Mansur Hadi. In fact, Saleh from his exile, started supporting Houthi, with the intention of drive back Hadi from the capital. Eventually, this happened in 2014, when the rebels conquered Sana’a. Hadi  fled to Aden from where he’s battling Houthis, helped by Saudis and UAE troops.

Saudi Arabia steeped in the Yemeni crisis to stop the insurgents, who follow a branch of Shia Islam. In May 2015, an air campaign began against Houthis’ targets that are usually located inside or near Sana’a. International media and human rights organizations have criticized these airstrikes, accusing Saudi airforce to deliberately hitting hospitals and civilians.

Bombs and missiles represent a big threat for people like Fatima and Abdul. «Fortunately, raids don't take place everyday and they usually  happen in the nighttime. I think this is for scaring us» says Fatima in a Skype call.

Many Yemenis like them think international public opinion and media have abandoned the country because of Saudis’ interests. The reign is still one of the best ally for many western countries and a major buyer of weapons produced in the United States and in Europe. British media have investigated how the sale of Eurofighter jets and bombs to Saudi Arabia have convinced the country to turn a blind eye on how the Saudis have been conducting this war.

«Usually, jets target areas and facilities outside the city center, near the presidential palace» tells Fatima «However, in the past, they also shelled the old city. They provoked damages to the ancient  buildings, besides the civilian victims.»

Fatima and Abdul don’t call into question only the Saudi intervention, but also the Houthis’ administration. «Many welcomed the new rulers, because we thought they could provide a better security. In fact, terrorist attacks and target killings have taken a dive. But, we have witnessed a curtail of our personal liberties because of their extremism. This happened not only in Sana’a but also in the areas where Zaidism( the sect of Shia Islam to which Houthi belong) is practiced» says Abdul, who studies engineering.

Yemen is on the edge of collapse. It’s facing the worst famine of its history. In January 2016, after 10 months of war in Yemen, the UN reported that 1.3 million Yemeni children were acutely malnourished, that 14.4 million Yemenis were struggling to find enough food, and that 21.2 million Yemenis were in need of humanitarian assistance. Comparing that to 12.2 million in Syria, it meant that even at the beginning of 2016, Yemen was the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

Furthermore,  all the Ngos and international organizations and companies have left the territory controlled by the Houthis. With them, the chances to find a job. Fatima used to work with foreigners, dealing with different sectors. «I’d like to leave the country, but Yemeni passport doesn’t allow me to do that.»

Today, black market is the only way to import goods. Oil has hiked up in these months, so many people just abandoned their vehicles. Electricity disconnects often and for this reason the population recurs more and more to solar panels, extremely pricey, and even candles.

«The situation has turned from bad to worse because of the airstrikes. We just survive. The governments is absent and it doesn’t even provide us with shelters in which take cover.  They just try to take down aircrafts with cannons. We do the rest, like searching bodies and persons among the rubbles.»

The people who flee from the areas surrounding the capital compound the existing problems. Extreme climate conditions and absence of any kind of power force them to move to Sana’a, where they beg to carry on. Fatima and her friends try to help them, despite the shortage of medicine, equipment and food.

While the north is the stage of massive air attacks, the south, in particular the region of  Taiz, Mocha, Lahij,  are the ground where Houthis and forces loyal to Hadi wage battle against each other. Aden has been sieged by insurgents for long time in 2015. Eventually, the governative force broke the siege and they now fight both the Houthis and the al-Qaeda branch in arabic peninsula.

«Still, I can’t explain why nobody has stopped this war yet. How long Yemenis have to suffer?» she asks before hanging up the Skype call.


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