Wahhabism, anti-Shia ideology, and the fate of Yemen’s Zaidi population. Update 24.12.15

saada destruction

Most of the news from Yemen this week concerns the ceasefire that didn’t happen, the promised humanitarian aid that hasn’t actually arrived, and the peace talks that have been adjourned; apart from that war and starvation as usual, except worse as the war and blockade grind on towards month ten.

Meanwhile, as Da’esh and Al Qaeda proliferate in Yemen with evidence that they have cooperated with the Saudi-led coalition in its war there, Saudi Arabia has announced that it has formed an alliance against ‘terrorism’. Rosemary Higgins states: “Terrorism is a term without legal significance. It is merely a convenient way of alluding to activities…in which either the methods used are unlawful, or the targets unlawful, or both.”   Another international legal expert, Richard Baxter, states “…the term (terrorism) is imprecise…ambiguous, and above all, serves no legal purpose”.

Many have been critical of KSA’s anti-terror initiative, which they claim is supported by 34 Muslim states. Turkish analyst FehimTastekin states: “For Saudi Arabia, the main terrorists are Shiites. At the same time, the large number of groups with Wahhabi ideology are not considered terrorists by the Saudis.”   British journalist Robert Fisk points out “…what kind of relationship do the Saudis envision with the Iranians who are fighting in both Iraq and Syria against the same Isis “terror” which (Prince Mohammed bin Salman) identifies as part of the “disease”? Neither Shia Iran nor Shia Iraq, needless to say, is part of the new international Muslim army.” Nor is Shia-led Syria, which it could be argued is the only state that is making inroads against Islamic State.

Saudi Arabia follows the Wahhabi sect of Islam, which is Sunni and conservative; one of the characteristics of Wahhabism is a negative attitude to Shia. The leader of the congregation at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Adel Al Kalbani, stated on BBC Arabic Television in May 2009 that all Shia Muslims were apostate, unbelievers, and as such should be hunted down and killed. Other fatwas include that by Saudi cleric Nasser Al Omar who called for conversion or slaughter of Shia men, sexual violation of Shia women and forced conversion of Shia children. Shia Rights Watch claims that every month 402 Shia are killed and 497 injured in sectarian violence.

Saudi Arabia has been strongly linked with the Sunni extremist militias fighting in the Middle East. US Vice President Joe Biden stated that the Saudi regime, along with others from the Middle East had “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight Assad,” naming Al-Nusra and Al Qaeda as beneficiaries.  Other observers have pointed to the similarities in the methods of rule of Saudi and the ‘Islamic State’, in crime and justice issues, and also in its anti-Shia rhetoric. This has led some academics to speculate about growing future links between Saudi Arabia and IS.  As of March 2015, a Salafi jihadi extremist militant group and self-proclaimed caliphate and Islamic state led by Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria, took control over territory occupied by ten million people in Iraq and  Syria. Amnesty International reported ethnic cleansing by the group on a “historic scale”, including attacks on Shia Muslims. According to Shia rights watch, in 2014 ISIS forces killed over 1,700 Shia civilians at Camp Speicher in Tikrit Iraq, and 670 Shia prisoners at the detention facility near Mosul. The New York Times reported “frequent accounts of (ISIS) fighters’ capturing groups of people and releasing the Sunnis while the Shiites are singled out for execution”. Although Saudi has been involved in military activity in Syria, there is skepticism that he is attacking ISIS and a belief that Saudi is supporting groups that are attacking the Syrian army by many observers.

Although in early decades, KSA used ‘soft power’ to spread its interests – such as the selective use of humanitarian aid and building Wahhabi madrassas – in recent years its policies have involved military interventions; linked to destruction of Shia communities or denying their political rights. For example, in 2011 one thousand troops from Saudi Arabia helped to crush the peaceful Arab spring protests in Bahrain, which was largely a Shia movement.  It has not offered protection for Sunni Muslims who have been oppressed by other than Shia Muslims, such as the Palestinians and Darfurians.  KSA was reported as appreciative of the massacre of Zaria Shia in Nigeria on 17th December 2015 – expressing outright support for Sunni President Bulhari of Nigeria for his fight against ‘terrorism’.

In announcing the new Islamic military alliance against terrorism this month, Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman named Yemen as one of its targets. The reality inside Yemen is that the conflict is a fight for power between two unpopular men, Shia Ali Abdullah Saleh a President deposed in 2012, and Sunni Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi who was elected as Interim President for two years in 2012, whose term has expired. The Houthi militias, who are largely Zaidi Shia, sided with Saleh, who has the support of most of the Yemen army, who are a mix of Sunni and Shia, but mostly from the old North Yemen.  Hadi, a Sunni Muslim, was supported by a Saudi-led international coalition, and from Yemen a small religiously conservative section of the Yemen army and numerous militias that are mainly Sunnis, such as Al Qaeda, Daesh, Islah (Muslim Brotherhood), other Salafist militias, and Al Hirak (southern secessionists).

The Bakil tribe from whom the Houthi movement originated are Zaidi Shia whose homeland is the governate of Saada, just south of the Saudi-Yemen border. In 1992 a Believing Youth Zaidi revivalist movement began, in response to the Wahhabi schools that Saudi had funded in Yemen. The then President Saleh attacked the Bakil tribe in 2004 with the blessing of Saudi Arabia, killing the militia leader Hussein Houthi, giving the movement its name. Yahya al-Houthi said that Saudi Arabia had put pressure on Saleh to fight the rebels in Saada. He alleged that the Saudi authorities had supported the government campaign with US$25 billion, although this was denied by Yemeni authorities.  Six wars took place in Saada, with Saudi Arabia crossing the border to join in the affray after 2009.  Many homes were destroyed; thousands of people were displaced and forced to live in camps. The Bakil tribe helped to oust President Saleh in 2012; they became active members in political dialogue in Yemen, although disappointed with the outcomes, they continued to negotiate.  At the same time, the Houthi militias built alliances with other tribes, eventually taking over much of the north and the capital, Sanaa, without opposition.  As the UN negotiations continued President Hadi, who was very unpopular, moved to Aden and then Saudi Arabia, asking his neighbour to start attacking Yemen, which they did. The Houthis followed Hadi to Aden, where they met strong resistance from local secessionists and Islah militias. Saudi Arabia started aerial bombardment on 26th March 2015. Many of the targets from the outset were Shia, for example, a displaced persons’ camp in northern Yemen was hit on March 30, 2015, ing at least 29 civilians with 41 wounded. Despite this and other serious violations of international law, the UN Security Council met on 14th April 2015, and produced a one-sided UNSC resolution, that supported President Hadi and did not take into account that his presidency was a contested issue within Yemen.

Human Rights Watch reported that on May 8, a coalition spokesman announced that the entire city of Saada was a military target. This not only violated the laws-of-war prohibition against placing civilians at particular risk by treating a number of separate and distinct military objectives as a single military target, but possibly also the prohibition against making threats of violence whose purpose is to instill terror in the civilian population.

As well as the aerial bombardment, Saudi Arabian navy, with the assistance of US, UK and France, imposed a blockade on Yemen which has dire consequences in a country that normally imports 90% of its goods, including diesel used for pumping ALL of Yemen’s water. By May 26th Oxfam put out a statement that two thirds of Yemenis had no access to clean drinking water, creating a high risk of water-borne disease.  This has resulted in diarrhoeal illnesses, untreatable as so many medical facilities have closed down, or are without medical supplies  – causing severe malnutrition in children and death.

On April 17 Saudi Arabia pledged $274 million dollars in aid for Yemen, meeting entirely the UN’s emergency “flash appeal” for humanitarian funding less than 24 hours after it was announced. But six months later, the money had not been delivered. According to a UN memo the Saudi government applied unprecedented conditions that complicated and delayed its disbursement. According to aid workers and officials, ever since its April 17 pledge, the Saudi government has pushed for restrictions on how the aid would be given out, including that it not be spent in areas controlled by Shia Houthi rebels, which a Riyadh-led coalition has bombed since late March.

On 18th August he Saudi-led coalition also attacked Hodeida, the only port which aid agencies were using to supply aid to north Yemen; some organisations called this a war crime.  The White House expressed “deep concerns” over the Saudi action. “”We are deeply concerned by the attack on critical infrastructure at the port of Hodeida in Yemen,” said a National Security Council spokesperson. “The port is a crucial lifeline used to provide medicine, food and fuel to Yemen’s population.

The aerial bombardment of Saada governate has not ceased; it has been attacked every day and night for ten months, with reports of 42,500 bombs in the first 250 days of war. An MSF radio report stated that food trucks on the way to Saada had been destroyed, as were bridges, houses, hospitals, schools, mosques, factories including those producing water and food, market places, petrol stations, and ancient monuments. Protests and appeals have been put out by a number of agencies; UNICEF, Oxfam, Save the Children, ICRC, WHO, Amnesty, and Human Rights Watch, amongst others but the world seems to be unable or unwilling to act in relieving  war crimes and mass starvation, especially in North Yemen. The recent peace talks in Geneva agreed to send aid to Taiz in the south, but made no mention of Saada governate where the civilian population is dying from aerial bombardment,  but more especially of the effects of the Saudi-led blockade.  One mother told a BBC reporter that hunger was the worst; she was hoping that she and her family would be killed together in a bomb attack, because otherwise, they would have to suffer seeing each other die slowly from starvation.  An attempt by the Netherlands to get an independent investigation into the human right abuses in Yemen was blocked by Saudi Arabia, who has since been elected on to the Human Rights Council at the UN.

Many of the people of South Yemen, Aden and Taiz that I communicate with often use the meaningless definition of ‘terrorism’ when referring to Houthi aggression; this term is often used by those with huge arsenals to describe the resistance of those with few military resources. This is not to excuse the Houthi acts of aggression in Yemen, but to put them into context.  Many in Taiz and Aden also describe the deaths at the hands of the Houthi militias as genocide; my assessment is that the Houthis are killing to maintain control of Yemen which they believe is necessary for their survival, and civilian deaths due to ground warfare are a result of a ferocious war inflicted on the community by fighting militias, of which the Houthis are only one.

It is in the Houthi Zaidi homeland that the word genocide could be used more appropriately; Martin Shaw believes that it is far more than killing, but is understood as destroying groups’ social power in economic, political and cultural senses. Saada, old and new, has been purposefully and almost completely destroyed.  “Genocide involves mass killing, but…is much more than mass killing.”  Deaths in the northwest from aerial bombardment are difficult to count, and from examining evidence, I believe they are seriously under-counted.  58% of the population of Yemen have no access to medical services, yet the only deaths in UN statistics that are counted in this war are those from conflict that are counted in hospitals; it is reasonable to assume that less than half of the deaths due to conflict are actually registered.  The casualties from this war do not include the deaths caused by the blockade, and it is realistic to assume that more are dying from the effect of lack of clean water, lack of food, lack of shelter, and lack of medical assistance than from the conflict itself, and that amongst these deaths there will be a high proportion of the very young.  The UN and the world appear to be ignoring the plight of Yemen’s Zaidi Shia population, whilst assisting their oppressors to continue their war unabated.











Hidden deaths, starvation and human rights abuses – as Hadi obstructs the proposed peace talks. Update 3rd December 2015

Hayat, aged 3, lost her leg, her home, and her sister in a Saudi bomb



This week the war on Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition has passed 250 days; some areas have suffered bomb attacks every one of those days.  Saada city and much of Saada governate no longer exists – it has been wiped off the face of Yemen.  Much of the capital Sanaa is similarly destroyed by the Saudi-led coalition.  I have been saying this for months; a country like Yemen cannot survive a blockade of food and other goods – now on-going for nearly 9 months.  I have been extremely touched by some posts from Yemen today. One is an interview with Fatema Al Ajal, Save the Children’s director in Sanaa, who describes the ongoing lives or ordinary people in Yemen, who are barely surviving now.  Another short video by the ICRC  called “Hayat walks again” shows a little girl – three years old -who lost her leg , her relatives and her home in a bomb raid, now learning to walk on an artificial leg, such an inspiration – and a credit to the ICRC.  And a touching short essay by the human rights activist Abdulrashid Alfaqih to his yet to be born children; about his life in Yemen, and why he is forced to live it as he does.

Save The Children also put out a statement that “UK appears to put weapons sales above the lives of Yemen’s children”.  Whilst Amnesty asks “Does the UK have blood on its hands?” stating British made bombs are hitting civilian targets, and that they are not keeping to the rules of the Arms Trade Treaty, in which UK was a leading member only two years ago.  Human Rights Watch also issued similar criticism of the UK government policy. ICRC has suffered another disaster with their staff; a kidnapped international employee, following the murder of four of their workers in two incidents earlier this year.  MSF have had another clinic bombed this week by the Saudi-led coalition, this time near Taiz, only two weeks after their hospital was bombed in Saada governate.  I read that 51 hospitals have been destroyed, and many more have had to close because of the blockade, which is not only reducing medical aid and medicines that enter Yemen at this critical time, but also the desperate situation is forcing staff to move as their homes are destroyed and their lives put at risk due to starvation.  As deaths are only counted in official statistics if registered in a hospital, this skews the death statistics as many who die are simply not counted.

In the worldwide news, the bombing of Syria has occupied many in the media, more interested in the leadership of the Labour Party that was split on the vote in the House of Commons than the consequences of the bombs.  I went on a Stop the War demonstration in Bristol this week, and I spoke to 30 groups of about the war in Yemen whilst I was there; despite the fact that these were people interested in Middle East issues, only two people that I spoke to had significant knowledge of the war on Yemen; for most it was the first time they had heard of it.   This war has been kept quite secret.  In Yemen ISIS and Al Qaeda have been fighting openly with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen – unlike Syria, rarely mentioned by our selective British media.  This week Al Qaeda gained more ground, taking control of most of Abyan governate in the southwest, including the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar, although they relinquished Jaar back to local control the following day.  At the same time Islamic State and Al Qaeda have made inroads into the rest of the southwest corner of Yemen.

As the struggle for Taiz continues, there are signs that the Saudi-led coalition is developing cracks at the top as they fail to make the rapid progress they expected.  Hadi and his deputy Bahah, the Prime Minister of Yemen are apparently not getting on, and Hadi tried to change members of the cabinet whilst Bahah was out of the country, in order to shore up his own support.  There were also reports of Saudi Arabia not liking UAE’s plan to replace its own troops in Yemen with around two thousand mercenaries from South America; yet Saudi already has its own mercenaries in Yemen from Columbia and Sudan – a united nations at war with Yemen. The UAE mercenaries are necessary because of the high death toll amongst UAE soldiers and the lack of support for continued warfare amongst the UAE public.  The new mercenaries are being trained by Columbians; USA declined to do so as it didn’t want to be implicated when atrocities come to light – as I guess they will be.  One article asked if this was how wars are to be waged in the future – rich nations paying poor nations to fight their wars for them.  How immoral can war get?

Meanwhile, it has being reported from some media outlets that Hadi is the obstacle that is hindering the start of the much heralded UN peace talks – due to take place in November and already put back till December, with no start date yet announced.  Of course, when Yemen is at peace Hadi is so unpopular that he has no hope of remaining as President. So the destruction goes on.

The reports of two battle arenas vary widely depending on who is reporting them; Taiz and the Najran area in southwest Saudi Arabia, where the Yemen army loyal to Saleh is attacking southwest KSA in retaliation for their assault on Yemen.  Both ‘sides’ claim to be killing a lot of those on the other side, and both claim satisfactory progress themselves.  There are undoubtedly atrocities on all sides in this gruesome war, and there is little chance of either side winning in the near future, whilst civilians suffer horrendously.  Especially from the blockade; 85% of Yemenis are now suffering ‘acute severe food insecurity’. Most governates have been described as on level 4 starvation for several months; I have spoken to people in Yemen who think they are witnessing famine already, with starving populations already on the move in the Tihama region.

It is sobering to think that with this level of catastrophe, that a large proportion of people in UK have not yet heard of this terrible war.  Shame on our media.


Yemen update – 29th October 2015.

saada destruction
destruction of Saada.

I will start my update on a positive note. It was my birthday yesterday and I had so many wonderful messages of support from Yemen. I just want to tell everyone who sent messages that your greetings made my day special.   I know that you have so many things to worry about, and your lives are so challenging; so I particularly appreciate that you took time to send a note to me.

A short summary of the headlines this week includes the destruction of an MSF hospital in Saada, the targeting of a coach of employees in Taiz, and bombing of fishermen in the Red Sea. There appeared to be chemical weapons used in Hodeida causing horrific injuries, and Al Qaeda is getting a stronger hold on Aden.  Columbian and Sudanese mercenaries have started to arrive in Yemen, paid by Saudi Arabia. The blockades, sieges, and ground wars unfortunately show no sign of abatement.  Yemenis genuinely and realistically fear death from conflict, starvation or disease if they stay.

Day after day I hear from Yemenis who are thinking of leaving home – on Facebook and messenger they tell me their plans, send me photos of their gorgeous children. They don’t merely want to be safe – they want certainty, their lives have been put on hold since the start of this war, and they want to get on with their lives and careers, to find work, to be able to give their children the better future that they can’t see they can achieve by staying in Yemen. The lack of hope is so stark and obvious. I feel privileged that so many want to share ideas, ask my opinions, whilst at the same time it makes me overwhelmed with sadness.  So many times I hear that people have lost their employment, and their savings are running out – or that they are working, but the money they earn is not enough to pay for the extortionate costs of living inside this ferocious war. They are aiming for a country where they can find work; any work.  A senior engineer told me that he would be willing to wash cars if that was the only work available – this is typical of the attitudes I hear.

Despite the poverty, when I lived in Yemen emigration was far from anyone’s mind. But now, everyone seems to dream of a life outside their homeland.  Recently I have helped people with applications for Master’s degrees and doctorates in Europe; discussed the pros and cons of countries that might offer asylum; given advice on how to find an overseas wife.  I’ve even had a marriage proposal or two from young men who knew my age, but didn’t know my marital status.  It shows these young men are being imaginative in their search for a better life, willing to make sacrifices for a secure future.  Such is the desperation of a population that believes that if they stay in Yemen, soon they and their family will no longer be able to afford to eat.   Not only is food in very short supply and expensive, but cooking fuel is getting more difficult to find.  People in Sanaa who cook with wood tell me that now they have to go as far as Wadi Dhar – some 20 mile out of Sanaa – to get fresh supplies.  And the people of Taiz and Saada are even worse off than those in Sanaa.


The siege of Taiz has reached desperate proportions, with an MSF aid truck refused admission to Taiz despite heavy demand for medical services, and a truck delivering bottled water to Taiz attacked by Houthi militias. Thawra Hospital was forced to close due to lack of fuel for generators.  There have been airstrikes – one of which destroyed the Presidential palace in Taiz – another part of Yemen’s history destroyed – and today there were reports of an airstrike on a bus carrying Taiz workers to their employment, with reports of 10-13 fatalities, and many other injured.

There are signs that the Saudi-led alliance is planning to move to Taiz soon, with their reinforcements of mercenaries from Sudan and Columbia – used to mountain warfare. It was reported that weapons have been dropped by air to the anti-Houthi militias in Taiz.


Saada, rarely in the mainstream news, has been widely reported this week as an MSF hospital was struck by a number of aerial bombs. Fortunately and amazingly, although there were 20 patients and 2 staff in the hospital, no-one was seriously injured or killed, although most of the hospital is entirely destroyed. This attack has been condemned by UNICEF, Amnesty and MSF. Saudi Arabia denied the airstrikes, and then said that it was a ‘mistake’ due to being given the wrong coordinates by MSF; MSF insist the correct coordinates were given.

The official death count of this war is recorded by hospitals, so the loss of this facility means that it will be even less likely that death counts will be accurate. This was the only hospital left for a population of 200,000 people in the Saada, now destroyed.

The siege of Saada continues, with insufficient food and many suffering from severe malnutrition. The destruction of the only available medical facility means that inevitably many severely malnourished children will die.


Aden has also been in the news this week, because extremist Sunni militias are exerting their control on the port city. They have ordered the recently reopened university to segregate classes; one college was bombed as a warning.   Numerous newspapers are reporting chaos caused by militia control in Aden, and this week I even noted that one Qatari and one Emirati news outlet have reported the problems there, such as attacks on a supermarket where female staff did not cover their faces.  I heard a local report – not collaborated – that there has been one beheading.


Sanaa continues to live precariously under the blockade and under a stream of bombs. Apparently Hadda Street, which was the main shopping street, the equivalent of Oxford St in London, has been totally destroyed. I also heard that a Sanaa school was destroyed this week; fortunately with no casualties. Sanaa children were due to go back to school this week after an 8 month closure, but although a small number of schools have reopened, many stay closed, and indeed, many have been destroyed.  Outside the capital, the only functioning schools  are in Hadramaut and Aden. There is no ground fighting in Sanaa yet, but the prospect  of a ground war is causing many Sanaani people to feel despair.


It has been reported that a Saudi warship has been destroyed this week, in total there have been 3 reports of ships being hit by missiles from the Houthi/Saleh alliance. Additionally, there was a report of the Saudi led coalition bombing a group of fishermen in the Red Sea, with up to 30 fatalities.


The most shocking pictures I received this week were off a young man with horrific burns. I was told this was a young man from Hodeida; it is claimed he received chemical burns from bombs dropped by the Saudi led alliance. So far this does not seem to have reached the mainstream media.

For daily news headlines, please follow my Facebook page Yemen News Today at www.facebook.com/yemennewstodayenglish/   News headlines from all over the world are selected daily to give different and opposing views of what is happening in Yemen today.

Yemen update – 22nd October 2015.

Sudanese troops arrive in Yemen

My news from Yemen centres on five main areas this week: Taiz, Aden, Saada, the UN peace accords, and the health of King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Firstly, there has been a shift in Saudi policy this week, and I gather than officials from the UN are speaking to the Crown Price, now that King Salman is ill. There seems to be a slightly more conciliatory attitude from Saudi Arabia, who are “allowing” Hadi to attend peace talks at the end of the month.  Well, at least Hadi is going and he could not have done so unless Saudi had agreed. I also have heard rumour that the young Saudi man sentenced to death and crucifixion has been reprieved, so maybe they are starting to listen to outside opinions.

Saudi has also announced that some other armies are joining them in Yemen. This includes 300 from the Sudanese army already in Aden; eventually there will be 10,000 Sudanese. This is the very same army that was accused of genocide in Darfur.  They are mercenaries – paid by Saudi to fight.  More mercenaries are coming from Columbia – a further 800.  What is notable is that these mercenaries are from countries that are used to fighting in mountain terrain.  So now fighting with the Saudi coalition on the ground are the new 10,000 Yemeni troops trained in Saudi Arabia, the few regiments from the Yemen army that stayed loyal to Hadi, militias including Al Qaeda, Daesh, Islah, Salafist, and local militias such as Al Hirak in Aden, plus troops from UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, maybe others, and now Sudan and Columbia. It’s a bit like world armed forces attacking Yemen, especially when you include the other members of the coalition included in the bombing raids, and the assistance from US , Israel, UK and France, plus rumours that some of the militias associated with Daesh are from countries outside Yemen. I have been told that 3,000 militias who were at risk in Syria because of the recent Russian involvement have moved to Yemen. Of course, they might be returning Yemenis.

The reasons why these new troops are needed is because of the situation in Taiz and Aden.   Aden is meant to be under control of the Yemen government and the Saudi coalition, but in reality it not controlled by anyone. Instead, it has a mix of many militias stamping their authority, most of whom are extremist Sunni militias.  Some of them are fighting each other, or attacking the coalition forces.  Some very gloomy reports have come out of the port this week.  As armies of the coalition move from Aden into other areas to ‘liberate’ them, they are not able to control what is left behind.  The UAE is controlling the port area and ships are arriving, but Aden refuses to let any aid or goods move to the north. They also refuse to allow northerners to enter Aden, including those from Taiz who are suffering so terribly at the moment, and are trapped inside the city.

As Bab Al Mandab control has been wrested from the Houthi/Saleh alliance, the port of Mokha can now land vessels. It is a small port area, but it may be that many new troops from Sudan will be moving into Taiz area from this Red Sea port.

Taiz is at the frontline of the war. It is in the highlands in the southwest of Yemen, and has been under attack for many months, with control changing hands twice.  Currently the Houthis and the army loyal to Saleh control the areas around the city, and the central part of the city is controlled by local militias, mainly Salafist militias headed by Abu Alabbas, and Islah militias.  The Saudi coalition is still attacking from the air, and indeed this week dropped bombs on troops supporting the coalition, killing 40 or so it is said, and injuring more.  If you hear the news about Taiz, it sounds as if the Houthis alone are firing into populated areas only because they want to kill people, with no other fighters involved. The situation is of course much more complex than that – the Houthis and Yemen army are firing at militias inside the city, living amongst the population, whilst those militias are firing back; the people  are trapped in between. In addition to the conflict, the  Saudi led blockade and the ban on movement to the north by Aden is stopping food, petrol and other aid from arriving, and the Houthi/Saleh alliance have added a local siege of their own in an attempt to smoke out their opponents.

Life in Taiz must be the like hell. But this week there is report after report in the media about Taiz, whereas there has been a media silence. I think that means that the Saudis are preparing to go in, and justifying it by their negative portrayal of Houthi actions – incidentally, they never mention the Yemen army.  The ‘evil deeds’ are all attributed to the Houthis, which makes me think that when they win this war, Saudi will try to sanitise the army, and blame all on the Houthis – if the war ever finishes.  Asymmetrical wars are notably difficult to end.

Also from Taiz came the story of a little boy, Fareed Shawky aged six, who after being injured by shrapnel called out to his doctors “Don’t bury me!” as he was being tended in hospital. This little boy who longed to live so much died two days later of his wounds.  This sad story has widely circulated in the international media.   Let’s hope this heart-rending story helps to make the people of Yemen realise they must talk peace to prevent more tragic children’s deaths.

Saada in the northwest is as much without hope as ever – after 209 days of war, it has been reported that more than 38,000 bombs have been dropped on this governate. I mention it in comparison to Taiz, which now has relatively wide media coverage, whereas Saada still has none.  The Houthis originate from here, although initially not all from Saada initially followed the Houthis. But as the war has progressed, the local people see the Houthi militias and the Yemen army as the only ones who can protect them against the feared ravages of the invaders and aerial bombardment.  Far from the aerial bombardment reducing the support for the Houthis, it has strengthened it. Many children in Saada have not been to school since the 2009 wars, when many of their schools were destroyed in earlier wars.  Now literate and with little hope of a job, they join the militias – many of them under 18.  Sadly, it gives them status and a chance to be somebody as they see it; a fighter repelling an invading army. This does not bode well for the future, because there are so many schools destroyed all over Yemen, and this might be a pattern that emerges,  as the war drags on, and maybe after it ends.

The UN peace talks are at the end of the month. This asymmetrical war can only be ended by negotiations, and I am hoping that this might be the start of the long route to peace. Saleh and the leader of the Houthis have agreed to abide by 2216.  They can’t stop fighting unilaterally, because if they do, they will be annihilated by the extremist Sunni militias that oppose them. If a ceasefire cannot be negotiated, I fear for Sanaa and its people. The wars as in Taiz and Aden will arrive in Sanaa, with its more mixed and larger population, and there will be so much suffering and destruction.  And still, Yemen’s terrible war never reaches the top of our headlines.  It is a forgotten war, a secret war, where fighters of all sorts can act with impunity – and do.

Yemen update – 15th October 2015.

Aden celebrating independence day with South Yemen flags

The update this week has to include something about the royal family in Saudi Arabia, because that has been so much in the news. They have managed to stop an independent UN investigation, although significant groups such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have said that there is evidence of war crimes. There are also reports of other planned human rights abuses within the kingdom – the death by crucifixion of a peaceful demonstrator, the flogging of a British man aged 74 for brewing wine, and the British government pulling out of a deal to modernise the Saudi penal system – the government saying that those two news items have nothing in common.  Hmmm.

There have also been reports of Saudi selling off overseas assets to fund the war, Saudi princes’ protests against the King Salman and his favoured son, the reckless defence minister. There have been reports of King Salman developing a dementing illness, and Saudi princes leaving the kingdom – taking their money with them – so much that KSA is attempting to stop their wealth flight. Not good news for the Saudi monarchy.

I found two articles today that are directly related to this, well worth a read – partly because they coincide with my own views on the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia and the trap the Yemen war is posing for them. One is “The campaign to undermine Saudi Arabia and the US dollar” by Jeff Berwick, and “Saudi Palace intrigues” by Stig Stenslie. The links are at the bottom of this article.

There are further reported additions to the Saudi-Israeli alliance. As well as the meetings between Saudi and Israeli officials at the beginning of the war, and the visit earlier in the year of Prince Waleed to Jerusalem where when he was reported as saying nice things about Israel, and the Israeli weapons found in the Saudi embassy, there is now a story about an air corridor from Djibouti to Riyadh now used by Israel, reported as providing weapons to Saudi Arabia to help their war effort.  More amazingly, this week the Saudi foreign minister directly appealed to Israel to join the war, saying it was the only way of winning it.  Funny that, seeing that Israel has yet to win the war in Gaza after 67 years, and despite using some very nasty tactics against Palestinians.  All Palestinians have to do to win is to breathe, and the same is true of Yemenis.

So now, interesting posts about Yemen this week.


The government of Yemen (all 8 ministers) has been attacked, first we were told by Houthi missiles, and then it seems that it was suicide bomb attacks by Daesh. This has put the plans of a return of government to Aden on hold, and also the airport has been closed – there were a few foreign flights coming in, but they have now ceased.  I saw a video of Al Qaeda operatives passing through a security post in Aden without challenge.  I saw a celebration of 14th October, the liberation day for South Yemen, noting that in 1967 the British were finally thrown out and South Yemen became an independent country (PDRY).  There seemed to be a lot of South Yemen flags and not many Yemeni flags, and I think the message was that the South wants independence from the united Republic of Yemen.  Meanwhile, Hadi was in UAE agreeing that they can take over port management in Aden.  Just east of Aden in Abyan, reports say that Al Qaeda has taken control.  Al Qaeda have always been very active in Abyan, and they are taking advantage of the war to increase their scope and control.


This crucial point at the bottom of the Red Sea has been reported as falling to the coalition forces, and Saleh/Houthi forces driven out.  The attack was aided by warships in the Straights of Bab al Mandab, which included Saudi boats and according to one report, one Israeli warship (not confirmed). It was also reported that Houthi/Saleh forces attacked two Saudi warships in the area.


This city, which MSF described at one of the two worst places in Yemen at the moment, has been suffering a ferocious ground war , plus coalition air assaults, plus a cruel blockade and local siege, which has not been reported. This week I note that there are more reports in the mainstream media, which may mean that the coalition forces have their eye on the city as their next stop.


An attack on a wedding party, killing at least 13 and injuring many more, on the 8th of October. This followed another wedding attack at the end of September, when it was reported that 130 died.


This city and surrounding area has been the site of ferocious warfare for some time, with both sides claiming to be gaining ground. Propaganda is certainly the name of the game.  But it seems as if during the last few days the coalition have definitely gained the upper hand.  Locals claim gas was used and have sent me photographs of victims, not confirmed in any mainstream media. Marib has a large percentage of the oil reserves in Yemen, and it was said this week that income generated from oil sales was no longer going to the Houthi government. Iwas surprised at this statement because I believed that oil was not being exported, due to the Saudi blockade.

JAWF governate.

On the border of Saudi Arabia, it has been announced that the coalition is planning to attackit next.


Still subject to air assaults, including one electricity plant destroyed, but nonetheless there was a report of one ship carrying humanitarian aid docking there, the first since the coalition destroyed all the cranes for unloading the ship. There have also been reports of the roads between Hodeida and Taiz being destroyed by coalition bombs, making distribution of aid very difficult.  The Saudi-led coalition has stated that they are aiming to take over this port from Houthi control. It seems to me that they can’t properly control Aden after 3 months there, so they are over extending if they are planning to enter Taiz, Jawf, Hodeida, and take control of Marib.

SAADA governate.

Still being heavily bombed; every day since the start of the war, this is now over 200 days. I saw one report this week of the current situation there – it is dire.  The air assaults have destroyed everything – homes, schools, hospitals, petrol stations, mosques, ancient antiquities, bridges, markets, displaced peoples’ camps, roads, lorries delivering food.  The whole area was declared a military zone in March, which means that everything is as far as the coalition is concerned, is a legitimate target.  This is the Houthi homeland and now they have lost everything and have nothing to lose, which makes them very dangerous – for Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.  It was reported this week that an F16 Saudi jet was shot down in Saada province. And an further sad story – the Jews of Yemen – only a handful left – have been told to convert or leave. They have lived in peace in Saada for centuries.


Sanaa, the capital, has a mixed Zaidi and Sunni population, which has not been significant historically, but it is now. The Houthis are in charge of the government based in Sanaa, which is being squeezed by financial restrictions imposed on Yemen by the Saudi-led blockade, which prevents exports and has caused most work activity to cease. It has been bombed fairly regularly throughout the war, and this increases when there is a military gain by the Houthi militias against the Saudi-led coalition. For example a scud missile fired at an army base in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday resulted in extensive air assaults in the early hours of Thursday morning.  It is suffering from the blockade like most other parts of west Yemen, made worse by the recent bombing of the road between Sanaa and the port of Hodeida, and has not had electricity supplies to homes for several months.  Ex-President made a speech on Lebanese television which went down well with his supporters and it was reported that fireworks were let off in Sanaa to celebrate.

To keep up to date with daily news of Yemen, please visit facebook page Yemen News Today at www.facebook.com/yemennewstodayenglish/   Postings come from all perspectives, including issues not related to the war.  I also post personal photos and videos sent to me direct from Yemen.



Under-reporting of war deaths – or genocide?

Yemen starving child4

The estimates of numbers killed in this terrible war have varied from website to website. On the 31st July FARS news agency reported the number killed as 5313 people, most of them women and children. Al Jazeera quoted UN statistics on 27th July, stating that 3,640 have died altogether, about half of them civilians deaths. I believe both of these numbers hide the truth, and the number of those who have died is much, much higher.

Systems of recording deaths in Yemen during the war are not straightforward, hence the differences in death counts. Some agencies count deaths that have been reported in the media, but this is a multi-focal war, with both militia activity and air assaults by the coalition happening in all of the areas except Hadramaut, and journalists cannot access all areas where people are being attacked. As the war progresses, deaths in Yemen have become less newsworthy as it has become so commonplace and the Western media have not seriously tried to give the war in Yemen the coverage it deserves.  Furthermore, militias and fighting forces have an interest in under-reporting any of their own fighters killed by the other ‘side’ as militia and military deaths have a propaganda purpose; these deaths can only be estimated.

Another way of collecting information about those killed is from hospitals and medical sources. However, many hospitals have themselves been out of action, either because of destruction caused by war activity, because of loss of personnel due to the conflict, or because they have run out of medical equipment and may have disruption of water and electricity supplies making it impossible to function. Additionally, many who died at the site of an attack will not be included in hospital statistics

Then there is the nature of Yemen itself. In rural mountainous areas Yemeni families bury the deceased in their own villages, and with the ongoing conflict there is no system for these deaths to be immediately recorded. In some areas, especially the north-west, villages are inside conflict zones and not excluded from serious effects of warfare. The lack of fuel also means that moving injured to hospital is a challenge, for example, a recent report from journalist Mathieu Aikins “Yemen’s Hidden War” published by Rollingstone, stated that whilst he was in Yemen injured people were bought into a hospital in Saada from a village – he pointed to the difficulties in getting the casualties to hospital, with little petrol available, and for many the cost prohibits access to petrol. Apart from the blockade by Saudi Arabia, 180 petrol stations have been bombed in Saada area. For those few who manage to get their injured loved ones to hospital, inevitably many others will have failed and the injured may have died from lack of medical care.

saada destruction 1
Saada has been subject to daily extensive aerial bombardment by Saudi Arabia throughout the war, causing extensive displacement of families

Aikins also points out that in the areas he passed through in the Sana’a and northwest areas almost all bridges have been bombed, making communication and movement extremely difficult. In a radio report on Radio 4 on 27th July, MSF British doctor Natalie Roberts confirmed this and also stated that it is extremely dangerous to drive along roads, because so many cars and trucks – even those with no military use – are regularly targeted.  No-one will use roads for routine issues such as reporting deaths, and with severe electricity shortages there may be no means for some villages to communicate with the outside world.

natalie roberts msf
Dr. Natalie Roberts saw food trucks that were recently bombed in Amran district, destroying desperately needed food.

The siege has also made it impossible to obtain medicines and medical equipment. This has particularly affected those with chronic illnesses. At times, medicines have been in very limited supply and even the black market has been unable to provide them. This has meant that those with chronic diseases have been at risk, and many have died. Friends have reported that most people on dialysis have died in Sana’a, and also people who need medicines such as insulin have found it difficult to obtain essential medication. Sometimes this has meant that they have had to lower their dosage or change to an alternative medication, often without access to medical advice. Because of the war, non-emergency medical treatment is restricted in many areas; it is hard to imagine that this has not resulted in deaths. These early deaths would have been recorded as due to natural causes, whereas they were due to unnatural warfare and siege conditions under which most Yemeni people are now forced to live.

Examples include a 24 year old man in Aden I know, previously very healthy, who died of malaria because he was not able to obtain medical supplies. In the Guardian newspaper it was reported that an obstetrician stated that two women had died from complications during childbirth, who would not have died but for the war. Some women will no doubt be giving birth at home because it is impossible to get to hospital, increasing risk to mothers and babies. These deaths are hidden from war statistics.

Sources reporting the humanitarian situation in Yemen point to the precarious water supply. Yemen, already short of water, has now moved into an era of critical water shortage since the beginning of war. On 26th May Oxfam reported that two thirds of people in Yemen no longer had access to clean water, and expected that this would cause deaths fromwater borne diseases. The situation has worsened since then, as some water tanks have suffered bomb damage, and the petrol needed to pump water from deep wells is in even shorter supply.   Another problem is a lack of baby milk. It was reported from Yemen sources recently that only 11.9% of Yemeni women are able to exclusively breast feed, a significant fall since last year. The shortage of water, shortage of food and ongoing stress will make it more difficult for women to produce sufficient milk for their babies. The reduction in breast feeding is life threatening for Yemeni babies, especially when it is combined with low availability of milk powders, unclean water supplies, and shortage of fuel to boil water for sterilisation purposes.

yemen 29.6.15 003
Precarious water supply – benefactors in Yemen have supplied water tankers: people are allowed 5 litres every 3 days each. In some areas the supply is less secure due to lack of diesel for water pumps.

Food is also becoming a severe problem as normally 90% of food is imported into Yemen, and the country is under siege making imports impossible. Humanitarian aid delivery is restricted by a Saudi led blockade. Tariq Riebl of Oxfam pointed out that “People are resorting to extreme measures, principally begging. You’ll see this especially with the 1.5 million displaced people…many that have fled suddenly when airstrikes or ground combat erupted. They are leaving behind all their belongings and having no revenue source or income.” Riebl stated that it is difficult to know how many people are dying from the effects of food deprivation because many parts of the country are not accessible and he continued: “The airstrikes have covered the entire country…so it’s difficult to give you an exact figure. In terms of classification, right now 10 out of 22 governorates are classified as Level 4. Level 5 would be famine. Level 4 is critical emergency level. And the rest of the country is in Level 3, which also would be already considered past the emergency threshold. Yemen is one of the most food insecure countries in the world, if not the most.”

Yemen starting child1
UNICEF: 1.3 million children on verge of severe malnution, 16,000 currently being treated, 30.7.2015

As the blockade has reached its fourth month, the effects of the blockade are now causing severe disruption to the food supply and much suffering, and inevitably deaths.  Humanitarian aid is said to be arriving in Aden but people there are telling me, and many others tweeting, that they have not yet received help.  Food is increasingly expensive in the capital Sana’a, and most residents there are without employment or income, relying on savings.  Those who still draw government salaries are mostly not working, and fear their salary will stop as the Houthi led administration is running out of money due to the blockade.  Food trucks moving in Amran province have been regularly bombed, according to Natalie Roberts of MSF, creating a disastrous food situation there.  The only area which is not under strict blockade is in Hadramaut, where food is entering via Mukalla.  The east has a low population as it is a largely a desert region. Although many internally displaced have moved there, this area is not receiving any humanitarian aid.  Displaced people in Hadramaut are mostly living on limited savings, rents are extremely high, and food is very expensive, so even in the most stable area in Yemen food security is an important issue.

The ongoing Saudi air bombardment is also causing many deaths, most of them civilian.  No area is spared except for Hadramaut in the east, which has had minimal bombing raids so far. For example, in Mocha on the Red Sea coast on 24th July a bombing raid killed between 60-120 civilians, and injured many more, some of whom are seriously ill and with the shortage of medical care it is likely that the death toll will rise.   This was not an area where Houthi militias were found; the persons living there worked in an electricity power plant.

Does this amount to genocide?  According to the UN:

Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part1; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

The Saudis are particularly targeting the Zaidi population in the northwest of Yemen, destroying homes, schools, petrol stations, hospitals, roads, factories, shops, mosques, historical artefacts, a refugee camp and vehicles. Although it was reported that those in Saada were given notice that their homes were about to be destroyed by leafleting prior to main bombing raids, the people living there had few choices. Some organisations claim that the bomb damage in the northwest amounts to war crimes. The majority of people in targeted areas lost their homes, belongings, sources of employment, and income. The destruction of their homes destroyed shelter for families in a hot desert region in midsummer; in winter, high mountainous areas can also experience cold conditions and night frosts, making life without shelter challenging all year round. With the loss of their homes, families also lost access to water, electricity, and cooking facilities. Whilst some of the displaced have moved to the capital Sana’a and other cities, they would not be able to escape to the more stable area of Hadramaut due to their tribal and religious identity, as that area is controlled by extremist Sunni militias with strong anti-Shia sentiments and a fear of Zaidi spies. A large proportion of the displaced from Saada area have remained in the northwest, finding or building temporary shelter with limited resources. Some have formed camps near to the Saudi border, as many have relatives in Jizan and Najran who might offer them sanctuary, but currently I understand they are denied entry into Saudi Arabia, and a wall prevents them from crossing the border.

IDPs are living in tents and home made shelters, with very little protection from the elements.

Many that remain in the northwest are now trapped, as the severe shortage of petrol, the high cost of travel by bus, and the targeting of vehicles for air attacks on all local roads means that escape is challenging even if living conditions are life threatening. The low numbers of refugees crossing borders only reflects severe travel restrictions, and does not imply that the conditions in Yemen are better than in other war-torn countries such as Syria. The northwest of Yemen is suffering severe problems with food and water supplies, not only because of the Saudi led blockade that is affecting all of west Yemen, but also because of damage to roads, and targeting of food trucks. Despite the extensive damage here, the bombing raids continue and like those living all over Yemen the Zaidis are suffering severe stress as they listen to the warplanes circling overhead on a daily, even hourly, basis.

It is difficult to argue that these conditions are compatible with life, and desperate appeals have been put out by a number of organisations, including Oxfam, UN, and WFP, ensuring that Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, including US and UK, must be aware of the seriousness of this man-made crisis. Particularly the lives of the very young, the very old, and disabled have been and are seriously at risk.   Additionally, with many hospitals and clinics destroyed, there is little medical input to help the vulnerable overcome these threats, and as the siege proceeds more of the population will become vulnerable.   It is hard to argue that continued military strikes and ongoing siege in the face of this evidence can be anything other than intentional, as described in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948).

There is impelling evidence that members of the Zaidi population have been killed, and most have suffered serious bodily and mental harm by the destruction of their homes and the on-going blockade, and continued bombing attacks. It is hard to understand the purpose of the air attacks unless it was calculated to inflict on the Zaidi conditions of life that would bring about their physical destruction, in whole or in part.  Additionally, the nearest border is the Saudi border, and the desperate and displaced are not allowed to cross it.

There are also many reported civilian deaths at the hands of the various militias, including the Houthis, in areas of conflict. This has resulted in damage to a significant numbers of homes and other buildings, reduced access to fuel, food, water, and medical assistance, and some civilians have been killed by militias, as well as militias killed whilst fighting each other. Also, many families in the southwest are displaced because of militia activity, and found it difficult to escape horrendous living conditions because of the conflict and siege, as to escape they had to pass through dangerous areas where militias were fighting each other. All of these factors have resulted in Yemeni deaths and suffering, particularly in Aden, Lahj and Taiz. Whilst the actions of militias were often inhumane and brutal, it is more difficult to link this to genocidal intent, as all militia fighting on the ground is primarily designed to control through war rather than to eliminate any particular group within the population. Opposing militias were fighting each other, and additionally, these areas were also subject to air attacks by the Saudi coalition and the Saudi led blockade; hence it is far less clear where boundaries for responsibilities lie.

Meanwhile, in UK, the Disasters Emergency Committee has not yet had a charitable appeal to help the severe disaster that has been inflicted on Yemeni men, women and children. Politicians and the media are not telling it how it is. I find this inexplicable.

Yemen, its historical sites, and war; part 2.

Even older than the 2,500 Old City of Sanaa is the Marib Dam.  On June 1, the ancient Great Marib Dam, described as “one of the grandest engineering marvels of the ancient world” and one of the most important ancient sites in Yemen dating back to the ancient Queen of Sheba, was damaged by Saudi airstrikes which hit the better-preserved northern sluice. The original dam was first built in the 8th century BC, in the city of Marib which was once the capital of the kingdom of Sheba (Saba).  Saba, or Sheba, was one of the four great early kingdoms of Yemen; the largest and most prosperous.

marib damMarib is close to the area where Yemeni oil and gas reserves are found, and has long been an area of tribal conflict in Yemen. Currently the Houthis are fighting with Al Qaeda for control.  All of the Saudi bombs are falling in areas where the Houthis are active. This was bombed on 22nd June.

A new dam was then built more recently, close to the location of the old one, at the expense of the late ruler of the United Arab Emirates, whose tribe resettled from Marib to the present UAEsome time in the 17th century.The new dam is built of earth across the Wadi Dhana, creating a storage capacity of 398 million cubic meters. The dam site is located 3 km upstream of the ruins of the old Ma’rib dam. The new dam, like the old, was designed to store water for irrigating the Ma’rib plains. However, the wadi bed at the new dam site consists of alluvial sand and gravel material 30–50 m thick. Seepage emanates from this dam that does not threaten its structure,but does lose water. As a way of capturing the seepage, consideration is being given to rebuilding the ancient Ma’rib dam, both as a functioning structure, and also as a historic monument and tourist attraction. The complexity and volume of work involved in this project make it necessary that several organizations work together under the aegis of UNESCO using financial contributions from international organizations. (Wikipedia). However, with the current situation of unrest this is unlikely to happen.

new marib dam
New Marib Dam

A UNESCO site which was bombed to extinction without any world protest was the Al Qahira Citadel in Taiz. Bombing was reported on 12th May 2015.  This had recently been restored and was now a recreational and tourist facility.  The earliest portions were certainly pre-Islamic and it might have been one of the most ancient sites in Yemen, with some claiming it was there since 10C BC.  On top of it was built a beautiful Ottoman fort.  It took 3 days of bombing before it finally was totally demolished.

al qahira castle being bombed
Al Qahira site being bombed

al qahira castle being bombed2al qahira castle being bombed3

Saada, in the north west portion of Yemen and close to the Saudi border, and the home city of the Houthis has come in for particular bombardment.  Parts of the city had already suffered extensive damage in 2004-2009, when the Saleh government with support of Saudi Arabia conducted wars in this region, and Saudi crossed the border in a military incursion themselves in 2009.  However, what is left of the city has now disappeared. This includes stunning the 9th Century Al Hadi mosque, one of the oldest mosques in the world, bombed on 9th May 2015. This was followed by the bombing of the pre-Islamic city of Baraqish again a UNESCO site on the 11th May.

al hadi mosque
9th Century Al Hadi mosque before it was bombed.
al hadi mosque after bombs
The Al Hadi mosque after 9th May bombs.

This loss to the world is compounded by the displacement of a whole population, some of whom were related to the militias but many of whom were just ordinary Yemeni working people.  Some Saada residents were already living in refugee camps ran by Oxfam since 2009, and although Oxfam told the Saudi authorities the exact location of the refugee camp and advised them that it was not a military site, the camp was bombed on one of the first days of the campaign. The bombing continues as Saudis strike nearby villages on an almost daily basis.

Another Citadel that was bombed was close to the Red Sea port of Hodeida, the Sharif Citadel in the city of Bajel.  This was struck on 24th May. I can find no details of damage sustained.

al sharif bajel
Al Sharif Citadel, Bajel.

One ancient site which I knew well which I believe is lightly damaged is the Dar al Hajjar, the House on the Rock. This was a palace of the last Imam of Yemen who was overthrown in the 1960s.  It was built in 1786 and is an icon of Yemen, it is in a valley north of Sanaa called Wadi Dhar.  Prominently located in the centre of the wadi, it is visible from most of the mountains that surround the valley, and I often went running in this wadi, with the view of Dar al Hajjar from many vantage points. Now a museum, it was hit on 4th June.

Dar al Hajjar2
The iconic symbol of Yemen, Dar al Hajjar in Wadi Dhar.

I am hoping that this wonderful museum survives the war. Part 3 describes more architectural gems that have been damaged.