Thursday, October 20, 2016

No Place Like Home: Yemen's Moualleds in Times of War

Photo courtesy:

*Who is a “Moualled”? In Yemeni society, the term is used to designate a person who has a non-Yemeni parent. It can also refer, in the most extreme cases of Yemeni xenophobia, to someone who has any non-Yemeni ethnic roots, even if it was a great grandfather. They would be designated according to those other roots, for instance, an Egyptian Moualled, or an Ethiopian Moualled and so forth. As an Ethiopian Moualled who is well aware of the complexity of such a dual identity, I can't but think of other Moualleds in these times of war in Yemen.

Two years have passed since the war began in Yemen. The vast majority of people are living under a suffocating siege while bombs rain down on them from the sky and an unending armed conflict threatens them from the ground.

Today, Yemen is under siege from the air, land, and sea. As a result, the country is witnessing one of the largest movements of displacement in the world reaching more than 3 million displaced. Yemenis have nowhere to escape to, however. For Moualleds, even if the chance of escaping presents itself, it is extremely difficult and complicated as they are living with a dual identity both culturally and on paper.

Before the war

To understand this complexity, a brief description of a Moualled's life before the war might help. There are no exact statistics about the numbers of Moualleds in Yemen because of the absence of state institutions responsible for this category of people. Furthermore, Moualleds themselves do not usually want to expose their other ethnic roots. This might be related to the complexity of civil laws in the two countries when it comes to carriers of dual passports.

From my personal experience in dealing with Ethiopian-Yemeni Moualleds in particular, I have found that large numbers have tried to hide their dual identity as a way to deal with the racist atmosphere in the country. In Yemen, many having dual citizenship might often lead to discrimination and ridicule.

Yemeni society is generally homogeneous and people tend to prefer a homogeneity. Large parts of society are suspicious of ethnic and cultural plurality and diversity. Moualleds, therefore, find themselves facing one of two hard choices: To expose their other identity and face the racist consequences or to hide it and struggle to prove that they are 100% Yemeni, including using only one passport.

Photo courtesy:

The war begins

Moualleds who decided to only have Yemeni citizenship and hide any other roots fell into a legal trap during the war. Many of them have regretted their choice, especially when several embassies announced that they were repatriating their citizens living in Yemen. Ethiopians quickly headed to their embassy including Ethiopian-Yemeni Moualleds despite the fact that many of them did not have the Ethiopian nationality. They were hoping that their Ethiopian roots would be recognized and that the embassy will repatriate them as well. But the lack of documentation meant that no help was provided.

Yemen: The Arab World's overlooked proxy war

A week ago, I co-discussed Yemen war on France24 tv channel, in the wake of the funeral hall attack in Sana'a. Part 1 & 2 can be watched below.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Yemen: far from war

"In villages perched high on a mountain in western Yemen, residents are a safe distance from a conflict raging through most of the country, but they endure a hardscrabble existence little changed from hundreds of years ago. 
Long used to a livelihood without electricity or running water, they have felt little impact from the 18 months of civil war which have cut those essential services to many of Yemen's 28 million people." –reuters. Photography Courtsey: Abduljabbar Zeyad

Sana'a Funeral Hall Attack

In my fury & frustration to the slow coverage to the atrocities in Yemen, I tweeted this a couple days ago. Usually, my mobile doesn't stop receiving notifications when a natural disaster or a terrorist attack happen anywhere in the world, but the day the funeral hall was hit, my mobile was silent. It's not like a notification about Yemen could solve the problem but it tells you about the indifference to Yemenis' lives by big mainstream media. 

I was angry. When I am angry, it usually means I am right. I objected with a tweet. Then, I slid into a minor depression. But when you are a Yemeni under war, and politically concerned, means you're juggling anger with pain. And when you process the idea that your family and loved ones are the potential targets of the next airstrike which doesn't differentiate between a civilian or military target, you know that depression is a luxury you can't afford. I brushed my depression away and spoke out, even louder.

Just yesterday, I had three radio interviews run in the US. I did not only speak out of the Sana'a funeral hall attack, which my mother in Sana'a lost three of her colleagues at, but of all Yemenis. Yemenis' blood in Sana'a, Taiz, Houdaidah, Aden, and everywhere in Yemen do matter. We lost more than 10 thousand people in this war so far.

You can listen to one interview here and the second here. In the meantime, Yemenis don't need mere condemnation statements, they need action; they need the world's solidarity! Tweet, facebook, write petitions to your politicians, your government representatives, your international aid charity org, Write to them! Tell them, what about Yemen? why is our weapon used there? why are Yemenis dying of hunger in the 21st century? you, in Sweden, UK, USA, Germany, etc... you have the power to contribute in bringing peace!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Save Yemen before the famine rages

One of Yemeni graffiti artist, Murad Subay's work in Sana'a street, reflecting on the humanitarian crisis. 

*The war in Yemen has been often described by media as the forgotten war and in my view, that’s an inaccurate description. It’s rather a lucrative war; lucrative to the West and the East. It has been nineteenth months since the Saudi-led coalition, backed by the US and Britain, began its airstrikes campaign. This came following an attempted coup d'etat against president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi by Yemen’s rebels group – the Houthis – in September 2014. Ever since, the West has been showing indifference to the tragedy in Yemen. As the US, UK and other Western countries have an interest in the arms sale with the Saudis, and a number of Arab countries are themselves members of the coalition, and the Houthi-Saleh coalition stands as deadly to thousands of Yemeni civilians, the international community is turning a blind eye to the atrocities in Yemen, mostly the silent death of thousands of Yemenis through starvation.

Towards the end of Yemen’s post-uprising transitional period in 2014, Yemen started to witness a counter-revolution movement, manifested in Houthis-Saleh alliance, each motivated by its own agenda. Houthis were discontent with the new political realignment preparing Yemen for a new ruling system (Federalism) and led by their political agenda in restoring a religious imamate and resuming their hierarchical supremacy. Saleh was led by resentment and aiming at crushing those who helped oust him in 2011. Over the coming months, the alliance began an aggressive military campaign against Saleh’s oppositional forces, which included president Hadi, after the Houthis descended to Sana’a and militarily took over the capital and stormed into Hadi’s presidential palace. Consequently, Hadi escaped to Saudi Arabia and sought support. In the name of restoring legitimacy in Yemen, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition consisting of 11 Arab states and launched its airstrikes campaign.

Midst this complex conflict, Yemeni people pay a heavy price as they are directly and indirectly affected. The human cost in Yemen war has reached a critical stage, causing the death of at least 10,000 people, the displacement of more than 3 million people and a worsening humanitarian situation for 80% of Yemen’s 27 million population. One of the devastating impacts of the war is hunger and the predicted famine unfolding itself in front of the world’s eyes and next to some of the world’s richest countries. Over half of Yemen’s population – 14.4 million Yemenis unable to meet their food needs and 19.4 million people lacking clean water and sanitation. As children are the most vulnerable, it is estimated that 320,000 children in Yemen face severe malnutrition. All these indicators are nothing but an early warning of a looming famine.

Photos courtesy: Oxfam. 

Hunger Causes

Prior to the ongoing conflict, several factors made Yemen not only one of the poorest countries in the world but also the poorest Arab country in the Arab region. In light of major domestic events, Yemenis have been suffering a life under overlapping deprivations. The foremost event was the return of about one million Yemeni guest workers from Gulf countries to Yemen in 1990 following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait contributed greatly to needs of jobs, schools, healthcare and other basic social services. Then, in light of Yemen’s unification and the country’s failure to manage the challenges of integrating the North and the South’s economic systems and resolving the implications of the post-civil war period; all these events and much more had a devastating impact on the developmental growth of the country.