Sunday, April 19, 2015

Yemen at War: Nostalgia for the Past and the Future

This is not from today's newspaper. This is from 1994. How much history repeats itself? source: the Financial Times, 

Last week, I read one tweet that was a mere copy-past by a Yemeni columnist who was copying another Yemeni columnist's tweet. The first was in Arabic, the latter was in English. I felt sorry; what a plagiarism, right there, where we all can read it: intellectual bankruptcy. But the truth of matter is, there is nothing left to say about Yemen's real dystopia. Everything has been said and in vain. 

Perhaps, this attitude won't help at all, you need to snap out it, Afrah. No time for despair. – I tell myself. Yes, maybe it's time even to say that there is nothing left to be said. And that we're just repeating the same message over an over while the misery seems unstoppable. But maybe it's helpful to just reflect & explain some random thoughts.

The country has been collapsing since the start of 2011 and today's reality probably the real big change that will transform the future drastically. The cost for the change is so heavy that each household would pay. Including those outside of Yemen. Yemen today is in a position where it's trading off a drastic change with a fake lasting peace. Before the war, was Yemen in a better position? was Yemen enjoying a formidable stability? Yemen's peaceful reality was weary and more of a cold war. Across Yemen, there were people facing death on a gradual scale by so many direct and indirect causes, which was swept under the rug. Saleh was & still is responsible of massive atrocities, just like how Abdelmalik al Houthi did & still does since he led the coup in September 2014. 

We're harvesting what we planted over the past 3 decades rule of Saleh. Don't look at the Houthis, Saudis, Iranis, etc as separate distinctive entities. Try to see the bigger picture: these players seized a chance in a country that was never enjoying its own national independence/sovereignty. Yemen's governance was always under the guardianship (wisaya) of some other external political power. Yemen current misery is the result of a long-standing chronicle dysfunctional system. Wars are merely milestones in the process of these systems.

As I'm having nostalgia for the past and the future, for that matter: (can't wait till this nightmare is over), I went through some of the old media reports, pictures of Yemen's civil war in 1994 (see below). I was 9 years old and in Sana'a when we went through those two months of fightings. Despite the terror and the risk to be killed, my main memory is the love and care we had from my mother.

A couple of reports published in 1994 about Yemen's Civil War then. Source: The Economist. 

During the 1994 Civil War, president Hadi was the Minister of Defense as he was siding
 with Saleh and the northern government.   
At the large couch you find Saleh meeting with religious clerics, Abdulwahab Al Dailami and Abdelmajeed Al Zandani. In those sessions in 1994, Al Dailami, minister of Justice back then invoked Fatwa to legitimize  war against secessionists. That fatwa is considered as the one of the causes of the killing of thousands of people in the south. Read more on that here in a piece I co-wrote previously.

This is a documentary on the 1994 Yemen's Civil War. It mainly depicts the atrocities made against the south of Yemen by the north government led by ruling president then, Ali Abduallah Saleh. History repeats itself but in a new form. Aden today is facing the heaviest bombardment: Saleh/Houthis' aggression and the the Saudi-led air strikes.

I must stress that this war is way different than the one in 94. Yemen today at war with external super political/sectarin powers, with a fascist, racist bigot Houthi group that aims to restore the old Yemeni Imamate system as a futuristic political system, with Saleh's & his will to cling to power as long as possible, with Yemen's deepest demons (a toxic mixture of tribalism, poverty, barbarism and emerging tendency of oligarchy rule), with president Hadi's cowardice and most of all; all that opens the door for Yemen's new undefined political configuration. That configuration has to be done by us, Yemenis.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Swearing & War

One viber call after another with my folk in Sana'a, and the swearing increasingly gets so creative. I can't remember when was the last time I've heard/spoke this amount of swear words over one single week. Psychologically, it's very relieving to swear when you're angry. Can't confirm that, since I'm no psychologist, but I can see how we, family, friends and I, feel so good after we fire those swearing words at each other as we describe the situation in Yemen.

"Those motherfuckers airstrikes, those dickheads militias, those assholes, those fucking bastards, those fucking little piece of fucking shit..etc," are among a long list of swearing words coloring my viber-conversations with my peeps. (Let your imagination translate that into Arabic!)

I never used to swear in front of my mother, of course, out of respect. Today, she's in Sana'a updating me with her day-to-day miserable experiences with the daily air strikes, over our constant viber calls – today, I find no shame at all to describe political issues for her with my cursing.

Mom:  why Houthis talk as if they're winning?
Me:  it's the same lame fucking rhetorics used when you're about to be defeated. Remember when Saddam's officers used to swear the Americans during the Iraq War in 2003? And what happened next? The Americans invaded Iraq and fucked it up.

Later on, I get another viber call from my friend Bushra​ in Sana'a:

Bushra:  those %$#@(
Me:  indeed.
Bushra:  know what, Afrah? I hate to swear with demeaning words about women's sensitive stuff. I'm feminist afterall.
Me:  true. But look at it in this way: in our fucking conservative society, the fact that you, as a female, are swearing is by itself a political and feminist statement. It means you are saying to males: why it's acceptable that you can swear and I can't, ha? Know what I mean.

And that's how we try to stay fucking sane in this war. Basically, the situation is so unbearable that only swearing gives you some ease. That sank in on my mind after watching the Lebanese movie, 'West Beirut' a year ago. The movie depicts a period of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. The best parts in the movie are the swearing parts, which are put in a compilation video.

I've enjoyed watching the movie, but this clip is really fucking awesome.

Yemen, a living catastrophe

Depicting the slight of hope for Yemen, by Yemeni cartoonist, Rashad Al Same'i.

From where to begin. My head has been spinning around as the situation in Yemen, for my family, friends and all, has been worsening beyond anyone's imagination.

Before this War, if you have asked anyone who lived in Yemen for only 24 hours would have told you how life is extremely difficult in the country. Today's War is absolutely making an enormous destruction – as if War can happen to be fair.

My silence for the past week is because I couldn't handle the news, I couldn't blog because the conflict is very complex; it's basically a civil war and regional war combined. The amount of misleading information and fabrication by all sides is beyond my blogging skills. Instigating violence, hatred, antagonism, divisions are among the many ways the media is dealing with the War in Yemen currently. Truth is definitely lost at this stage. One thing is certain, though, that is Yemen is midst a humanitarian catastrophe.

Nearly 100 civilians have been killed and 364 wounded in around five Yemeni cities in the past week, and the death toll is on the rise. More children have died in the last week because of bombings and street fighting than in the whole of 2014. Around 4916 Yemeni citizens stranded at international airports since the beginning of the Saudi-led air strikesMore than two dozen people in al-Mazraq camp were killed in an apparent air strike by the Saudi-led coalitionMore than 550 injured received by the Doctors Without Borders since the clashes started in Aden on March 19. The armed clashes are expanding –foreign troops reportedly arrive to Aden today–  and the death toll is rising as I write this post. The humanitarian situation is worsening day after day and the water scarcity is its forgotten conflict; half of Yemen's population, 13 million, struggle daily to find or buy enough clean water to drink or grow food.

I detest the War and violence – who doesn't? the Saudi-led air strikes are an aggression by all means which all Yemen's politicians take responsibility for, as well. Current aggression is a continuation of the Houthi-Saleh's coalition's aggression which began in 21st of September last year, when they carried out a coup against Hadi's regime. That must be said not to justify today's violence but rather to put things into its context. Moreover, the conflict is not Yemen vs. Saudi & Arab States, it's rather all of them against Yemeni people who are being suffocated, bombarded, attacked, killed inside the country, & who are outside the country displaced and stranded at airports and heartbroken for their loved ones inside Yemen.

The War was inevitable considering how our bastard politicians underestimated peace and stability for their own people.

I fear that the War will prolong for awhile and I see that only a miracle can save us from the Syrian, Libyan & Iraqi scenario.

While I pray for all Yemenis to be safe, I pray for an immediate political resolution done by a third party, wise, responsible mediator.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Yemen's Crisis: Witnesses' Testimonies

"Basma Qassim, a 20-year sociology student who grew up in New York and now lives in the southern port city of Aden, describes hearing explosions and hiding with her family in the basement as army units loyal to president Hadi battled with Houthi militants advancing on the city. "We haven't been sleeping... I have to admit it's psycholigically damaging. Death is closer to us than ever before," she said......", Middle East Eye.

Roundup on Yemen's Crisis by Yemen Peace Project

The escalating conflict is already exacerbating Yemen’s very serious humanitarian crisis. With roads cut by rival military forces, and power and fuel unavailable, life is only getting harder for the millions of Yemenis facing food insecurity and water shortages...... read more