"You Can Find Nothing in the City Now";Yemen After Month-Long Air Strikes

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Articles
Thursday, 23 April 2015

Saudi Arabia’s four-week aerial assault on Yemen, designed to restore to power the country’s elected president, has left the Arab world’s poorest nation facing fuel shortages, hunger, interruptions to water and electricity, while almost 1,000 have been killed and many more injured.

But according to interviews with ordinary Yemenis, a more serious long-term challenge will be to reconcile a gaping chasm between the antagonists in this conflict.

On one side are the Houthis and their allies, troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, while on the other are those backing the current president, who saw the Houthis’ meteoric ascent to power as an affront to the country’s sovereignty.

The Houthis, who hail from the northern province of Sa’ada and adhere to the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam, seized power after storming the capital Sana’a last year. They have since exiled the elected president, Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia, and launched an offensive on the southern port city of Aden, a stronghold of his supporters.

Saudi Arabia launched air strikes in response to the power grab by the Houthis.

“We hope that the Saudi military raids will not last long and Yemenis return to complete the dialogue they started ten months ago,” he said.

Yousif, a doctor at the military hospital in Taez , said supplies were in dire shortage and the facility was receiving casualties daily during the air campaign, their operating room kept alight by a single generator. Food shortages are the norm now, hunger just a small shift in fortune away – a kilogram of wheat that used to cost $1 has risen tenfold in price.

“Many wounded are laid on the floor, we have only 130 beds,” said the doctor, who walks an hour to his hospital because there is no more petrol for his car. “To ease the pressure on the morgue, which is filled with bodies, we took pictures of bodies and buried them if none of their relatives came to receive them the same day.”

Many children also came to Yousif’s hospital, suffering phobias and panic from the air raids.

“I have eight children and my sister is living with me too,” he said before the air campaign was halted. “My children find it difficult to go to school like most of the children now as they are awake all night.”

“All basic food items can not be found in the market such as wheat, rice and milk,” said Kahlid al-Madah, the father of four children who works at the city’s council. He said the food crisis was aggravated by people panicking and stockpiling food as soon as the military campaign began.

For Madah and his children, the end of the air war, when it comes, will be a major relief.

“What I have at home might last for five or six days only,” he said. “I still have 20 kilos of wheat, a few kilos of rice and potatoes. We could not store any meat for lack of power and fuel... My salary is $150, I got it last month, there is no guarantee that I will get it this month.”

Despite the ceasefire, the war has burned indelible wounds in his mind. He recalled an air strike in Mahan, a district of Taez, that killed 15 people, most of them women and children.

“I was in the hospital and the bodies were flooding to the morgue,” he said. “I saw a child who was hit in his abdomen and his bowels came out of his body. There are horrible cases in the hospital that you can hardly look at.”

Those deaths made Madah angry about the Saudi campaign.

“The Saudis are looking for the 300 Skud rockets which pose a threat to them, but they are destroying the entire country,” he said. “The war can’t be merely against Houthis, it’s meant to humiliate the Yemeni people.”

He added: “After Saudi aggression, I’m proud to declare in public my support to Houthis. The Saudi enemy does not make a difference between a Houthi and non-Houthi.”

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