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 – 6th November 2015.

I would like particularly to dwell on the suffering of children in this ghastly war, as this week children are returning to school after an 8 month gap in their education since March.   When children stopped going to school because of the aerial bombardment, people thought it would be a short time until the war was over.  Now, 224 days later, they are still subject to a barrage of bombs, but people want to get on with their lives.  Education will still be difficult.  Many schools are destroyed or damaged, and in some areas the remaining intact schools are so far away that it will not be possible to send children to school, such as in Saada governate. Most schools do not have electricity or water, and also lack basic equipment such as paper because of the blockade.  So despite the fact that the pace of the war has not diminished and the blockade stops educational equipment from arriving, the people of Yemen do not want their children to be a lost generation and they have decided that they must go to school, whatever happens. This will not be easy, as bombs can still be heard day and night, and many children are suffering from stress because of it.  But congratulations, mabruk Yemen, on getting your schools up and running. And what courage those teachers must have.

photos 6.11.15 012

photos 6.11.15 015

Children’s lives are affected in many different ways in this war. The blockade has meant that petrol cannot be imported, and hence water cannot be pumped from aquifers.  I had water delivered direct to my home from the water authorities when I lived in Yemen, but this is a thing of the past now.  People collect water from tankers, using plastic cartons, limiting them to 5 litres a day per person – for all tasks, drinking, washing, cooking, and laundering clothes. The severe shortage of clean water has caused high rates of water borne diseases, such as diarrhoea.  The figures are shocking – half a million children at risk of severe malnutrition, and over 100,000 treated for severe malnutrition. I cannot find any figures for deaths due to malnutrition, but as hospitals have been destroyed, equipment and medicines cannot reach Yemen due to the blockade; my guess is that the death rate is high.

There is also the issue of child soldiers. They do not fight in armies as far as I know, but they do fight with militias; the Houthis have been accused by the Saudi-led coalition, but my guess is that they are fighting with other militias too. They are not forced to fight; they want to do so. The constant bombs in the north – over 40,000 have been dropped in 7.5 months – which destroy civilian homes and infrastructure – has made many in the population feel that the Saudi coalition is conducting a foreign invasion and it is their duty to fight.  Particularly in the Saada province, which has suffered wars since 2004, many schools have been destroyed and many children cannot get to school. These children work in subsidence farms or sell items in the roads to passing drivers – a mini business – and many of them are illiterate.  It is not surprising that adolescents decide to fight, as it gives them a moment of glory that they will not otherwise experience in their dreary lives.  This is not to excuse child soldiers, but it is to explain it.

And last of all, so many children have been killed in this dreadful war. Nearly 50% of the population were under 18 in Yemen; it had one of the highest fertility rates in the world. So inevitably, there are many children killed when bombs fall in civilian areas – which is caused by militias, armies, and air bombardment.


cyclone chapala2
Cyclone Chapala

As well as a ferocious ground war and an inhumane aerial assault, nature also seems to have decided to attack Yemen, this time Hadramaut, Mukalla and the Island of Soqatra, the areas so far not directly affected by war. Again, it seems that Yemen is not worthy of top slot in the news reports in UK as the news did not hit the headlines. But the cyclone has been reported in a low key manner in some media outlets.  The cyclone is an extremely rare occurrence, the first time in over 40 years.  Waves were reported as over 10 metres, winds were recorded as 140mph and over 10 years’ worth of rain fell in two days.  Many of the houses in this region are made of mud bricks, and there has been devastation of housing stock, I have been told more homes destroyed in Mukalla than in Aden, where 50% of housing stock was destroyed in the ground war there.  There was a surprisingly low death rate – just 8 deaths – as the population moved inland.  In Soqatra, used to batterings from high winds and with a good system in place for evacuation, 400 homes were destroyed.

cyclone chapala4
Devastation in Mukalla caused by Cyclone Chapala

In Soqatra, already Oman and UAE have offered assistance. It is not so easy in the mainland, because the worst hit town, Mukalla, in under the control of Al Qaeda militias, as are many areas along the southeast coast. This will make overseas relief agencies unwilling to assist because of the high risk to any workers or volunteers going there.


In the rest of Yemen, the weather has not halted the war. The ground war, with Islah mililtias against the Houthi-Saleh alliance continues in Taiz; I have regular photos of gruesome corpses burned after missiles were aimed into civilian areas. I heard news that weapons have been dropped to areas of Taiz held by Islah militias by the Saudi-led coalition; one such plane was reported as destroyed by missiles. The Taiz population have been supporters of Islah for some time, and most have a strong anti-Houthi stance.  Hence there have been photos this week of many within the population carrying munitions through mountain roads to reach militias; carried by hand or on donkeys.  It has also been reported that troops from the Saudi-led coalition have reached the outskirts of Taiz city.

And yes, the people of Taiz call the Houthis ‘terrorists’, and the bit of the army still loyal to Hadi (there are reputed to be 10,000 newly trained Yemeni soldiers) they call ‘the legitimate army’.  Those that support the Saleh/Houthi alliance call the army loyal to Saleh as the ‘Yemen army’ and the militias fighting them as ‘terrorists’.  It will take a long time for Yemeni people to put these passions behind them, and move towards peaceful coexistence.


There have been many reports of the continued air assaults, many of them targeting civilian homes, and with many civilian casualties. After seven and a half months, it is almost not news, I seem to say the same thing every week and I am fearful that some are finding this ‘news’ repetitive. For example, I was told two days ago, that there had been 120 bombs dropped on north Yemen in 24 hours.  A village south of Sanaa was destroyed by 3 missiles – the second and third a few minutes after the first, called ‘double tap’ – to kill the rescuers.   I don’t think that in any previous war there has been such non-stop bombing for so long, with some areas such as Saada still having had bomb attacks every day.  I even saw pictures of a lorry full of bee hives destroyed today.  They must be running out of targets.  In Sanaa, there was a big protest against the war and the blockade this week.

demonstration against the war and blockade in Sanaa
Demonstration against the war and blockade this week


An item that was reported in Sanaa over the last couple of days is the appearance of a Russian plane, which landed directly in Sanaa airport, rather than going to Djibouti to have its cargo checked. The mystery is how this actually happened, with Saudi controlling airspace.  After the plane landed and 20 tons of humanitarian aid delivered, it was blocked from leaving the airport by Saudi Arabia, but happily it is on its way back to Russia now, the Saudis and Russians reaching agreement, presumably.


The UN has announced that the peace talks are still going to happen, and they have named the date as th 15th November.  My thoughts are that Saudi Arabia hopes that it will have recaptured Taiz at this point, and they are making noises that sound as if they are expecting the war to end.  That won’t mean peace for many years.  The polarisation of Yemenis and issues such as the growth of Al Qaeda and the secessionist movement in the old South Yemen means that there are plenty of internal battles that are likely to keep festering. But it would be a start on  the long road to peace if the Houthi/Saleh alliance could reach some sort of agreement with the Saudi-led coalition and Hadi.   On that positive note, I will end this week’s update.

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.



Yemen, its historical sites, and war; Part 3.

Between 12th Century BCE and 6th Century BC Yemen was one of the leading dynasties in the world, it was known as ‘Arabia Felix’ or Happy Arabia. The dynasties included Ma’in, Qataban, Hadramaut, Aswan, Saba and Himyar.  The Himyarite kingdom was an important one for Yemen, because it located its capital in Sanaa, the same location as today’s capital city.  The remains of the Ghamdan Palace where the rulers lived are in the Old City in Sanaa, and that too was destroyed in an earlier war.  The Himyarite period was known to the Romans, the Greeks, and the Egyptians as the Homerite Kingdom, and it spanned from 110BC to 520h (1126).   There were many cities in Yemen at that time with over 5,000 inhabitants, which was large for that period of history.  Because of its importance to Yemen, a museum collected the artefacts which were used by scholars and researchers; they numbered over 10,000 artefacts. This museum and its contents have now been erased, no longer available for scholars researching ancient world history.

dhamar museum
Dhamar museum, which contained 10,000 artefacts from the Himyarite period.
museum after bombing raid
The remains of the Dhamar museum today

The Regional Museum was the main museum of the Dhamar governorate. It was built at Hirran, north of Dhamar city, in 2002. It had several exhibition halls, a lecture hall, a computer laboratory and storerooms. Its pre-Islamic collection comprised over hundred inscriptions of various provenance and period, whereas the section dedicated to the Islamic archaeology contains some decorated artefacts bearing Arabic inscriptions, in addition to jewels and other handmade products of traditional handicrafts in Dhamar. The most important object is the wooden minbar (pulpit) from the Great Mosque of Dhamar city, which was dated to the fourth century Hegira (11th Century). This was bombed on 18th June 2015.  I have also heard that another museum has been bombed in Zinjibar, Abyan province, but I cannot find confirmation.

Another UNESCO site that has been damaged is the Al Ashrafiyya Mosque in Taiz.

The Al Ashrafiyya after its recent restoration
The Al Ashrafiyya after its recent restoration

One of the beautiful minarets of al-Ashrafiyya Mosque has been hit by tank shelling. It tooks more than 10 years to the Yemeni-Italian restoration team to complete the intervention and restore the original beauty of this holy place and they were ready to begin with the project for the restoration of nearby Al-Muzaffar complex, which now is unlikely to proceed.  It was damaged on 18th June 2015.

The damage to the minaret
The damage to the minaret

The south west corner of Yemen is indeed suffering considerable damage as several militias are fighting and it is also subjected to overhead bombing by the Saudi coalition.  The city of Lahj has been destroyed, mostly by militia activity.

(photos of Lahj from Fatema need downloading from phone and inserting.

Parts of Aden have suffered extensive damage.  The oldest district, Crater, is indeed built in the crater of an extinct volcano. Most of the buildings are relatively recent, but there was a pretty mosque that was used to illustrate stamps during the British occupation of Aden, called the Aidrus mosque.

aidrus mosque
Stamp depicting Aidrus Mosque

This mosque is believed to date from the end of the 15th Century. It was damaged during the 1994 civil war, when old Qu’rans were burned by Yemeni troops from the north, and it has been destroyed in May this year when Houthi militias burned down many of the buildings in Crater, including the Aidrus Mosque. I have no photographs of the mosque post damage  but this is a view of Crater at the time of the arson attack, which does not give me confidence that it has survived.

crater 006
Crater after arson attack by Houthi militias

Another building in Aden has suffered damage from bombs, this is an old Ottoman fort overlooking the harbour known as Seera Castle. This grand citadel was in excellent condition when I visited it in 2011, and commands extensive views of the sea and harbour. I understand it suffered extensive damage on 22nd June, although I have no photographs of the damage.

seera castle7
Seera Castle, Aden, now damaged by bombs.

I also understand that the port area has suffered considerable damage, but have no other details. The port has the remains of grand and imposing buildings erected during the British occupation of Aden, which were badly in need of loving care but not damaged or altered in any way, and after restoration could have been made the area into an attractive area for visitors. Also near the port was the attractive guesthouse of the Sultan of Lahj, or the Sultan of Abdali, who ruled Yemen in the Ottoman period and remained on good terms with the British during their occupation. Indeed, despite the long and bitter campaign to make the British forces leave, Adenis now remember the British occupation in positive terms and feel a strong allegiance with British people. The statue of Queen Victoria remained in place, and a small church damaged once by Al Qaeda and restored, were always treated with respect by Aden people.  I fear for these buildings that reveal a significant part of Aden’s 19th and 20th century history will be lost, and with it, the potential for developing tourism in this part of Yemen.

What makes me feel so sad is that everyone has lost, and no-one has gained.  This is a man made war that cannot be won by military means. In the end, Yemeni and Saudi people will have to sit down with people they hate and make painful compromises. They could have done this without the loss of life, the suffering, and the loss of Yemeni, and world, architectural and historical heritage.