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.











The rich, the poor, and the mercenaries. Yemen update 10.12.15



The Yemen war so far in brief; following a power struggle between ex-President Saleh and President Hadi (both of whom had a very tenuous claim for presidency) the very unpopular Hadi, fearing loss of power in democratic elections, asked Saudi Arabia to take his side and bomb Yemen – which they willingly and enthusiastically did, from 25th March this year.  They had already formed a coalition of GCC and other Arab states and had backing from UK, US, and France.  The Houthi militias backed Saleh, and a mix of other militias took a stand against the Houthis; this included Islah (Muslim Brotherhood), secessionist militias (Al Hirak), Al Qaeda, Da’esh, and local militias in the southwest.  The Yemen army split, most of which backed the Saleh-Houthi alliance but the Army brigades associated with Ali Muhsin backed Hadi. Al Qaeda took control of the eastern port of Mukalla and much of the large Eastern province of Hadramaut.  The Houthis held the west side of Yemen without opposition, and moved into the southwest corner of Yemen where they met with local resistance, with all sides behaving in an immoral, brutal and inhumane manner in the ground war there.


A one-sided UNSC resolution in April required the Houthi-Saleh alliance to leave all parts of Yemen which they had captured and move back to their homeland in the northwest of Yemen. The UN called Hadi ‘the legitimate President’ and did not acknowledge that this was a contested issue within Yemen. The first round of the peace talks in the summer came to nothing.  In July, ground troops entered Yemen, mostly from UAE, but also from Malaysia, Qatar and Bahrain and supported by a rag-bag of Yemeni militias; they drove out the Houthi-Saleh alliance from the port of Aden.  After the Houthis left, different militias struggled for control, including Al Qaeda.  Da’esh remains active and has claimed suicide attacks in Aden as well as other parts of Yemen. Other foci of war were in Taiz in the southwest and on route to the capital Sanaa, central Yemen in Marib where the Yemeni oilfields are, and also the army loyal to Saleh moved across the border to the Saudi cities of Najran and Jizan which historically were part of Yemen.  Most of the west side of Yemen (the Old North plus Aden and Lahj) have been bombed relentlessly by the Saudi led coalition.  Some cities have been virtually erased by aerial assaults from the Saudi-led coalition (for example in the first 250 days Saada suffered 42,500 air to ground missiles), and many other cities have been seriously damaged.

It is claimed illegal weapons have been used, for example, chemical weapons, cluster bombs, and in the crater of one bomb dropped on 20th May in the capital Sanaa nuclear materials have been found in the debris.  Civilian structures have been widely targeted, for example, homes, schools, hospitals, mosques, roads, bridges, petrol stations, factories, food stores, ports, airports, displaced people’s camps, markets, museums, electricity stations, water tanks. Many important historic buildings have been damaged and destroyed, such as the achingly beautiful 2,500 year Old City of Sanaa, a UNESCO world heritage site, the oldest inhabited city in the world.

Additionally, the Saudi navy commenced a blockade on Yemen in March, which had previously imported 90% of its goods, including diesel – important for electricity and to pump water, all of which is pumped from deep wells in Yemen. This blockade is assisted by US and UK navies, and enforced by the French Navy.  It has led to widespread water-borne diseases and starvation, and 85% of the 26 million people living in Yemen are suffering from acute severe food insecurity.  500,000 children currently are severely malnourished.  Very few hospitals are now functioning.  After 5 months, the UNSC was told that Yemen already looked like Syria after 5 years – and yet the world did nothing to try to stop the war.  Amnesty and HRW have claimed that war crimes are being committed and illegal weapons used, but this has not stopped the West from arming Saudi Arabia, any investigations made more difficult as Saudi Arabia was appointed to the UN Human Rights Commission in November.  An attempt to get an independent enquiry into the events in Yemen by the Netherlands was blocked by Saudi Arabia and the GCC states.

To make matters worse, on October 30th East Yemen was hit with Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Chapala; a very rare and powerful tropical cyclone which with gusts up to 250 kph became the strongest cyclone on record to hit Yemen, as well as the most powerful storm known to have existed in the Gulf of Aden. It was followed by Cyclone Megh of equal intensity a week later that particularly damaged the Yemeni Island of Soqatra, one of the top sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list because of its biodiversity with rich and distinct flora and fauna.   These cyclones devastated the eastern side of Yemen, under the control of Al Qaeda but not as involved in the conflict as the rest of Yemen.

Peace talks were set for November and all sides were struggling for a better position before entering the war, with a focus on Taiz. The high casualty rate has encouraged rich nations such as Saudi and UAE to withdraw their troops, and replace them with tens of thousands of mercenaries from Africa and South America.

The talks were delayed until Tuesday 15th December. Like most Yemenis, I wait with anticipation, but realistically the outcome is likely to be both sides blaming each other for the lack of breakthrough.  This week more heart-breaking pictures of starving children, news that Yemen has completely run out of insulin for their 700,000 diabetics, more pictures of homeless children sleeping on the streets and children taking lessons inside broken buildings that should be demolished rather than housing children for several hours a day.

The American security company Blackwater has been named as supplying many South American mercenaries – promised fat pay cheques and residency in UAE as a carrot. Mercenaries from UK, Australia, Mexico, France and Columbia have been killed in the Yemen mountains this week. How can we hope for peace when rich companies are making money for providing weapons and ‘security’ and poor countries are making money for providing mercenaries?

Even inside Yemen, the main source of employment now is joining a militia or an army, with ten thousand Yemenis signing up to fight for the Saudi-led coalition in a new ‘Yemen’ army. For most in the more populous north, the Houthi-Saleh alliance is fighting against foreign invaders and military occupiers and winning support.  For those in the south, the Houthis are the cause of the war and all the damage, and they will not accept any peace except a military victory.  As for the old South Yemen that unified with North Yemen in 1990, only independence from the North will be acceptable.  Most commentators agree the biggest winner in this war is Al Qaeda, now controlling huge swathes of Yemen, and imposing a very conservative agenda on the suffering population.


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 – a dilemma for the Left.


I have always been of the political Left. My politics drew me to work in humanitarian aid, sometimes in war zones. I hated the low-tech warfare of Rwanda and Burundi, where populations were both born into the hatred of ‘the Other’, culminating in a genocidal attack in Rwanda, where men, women and children were killed by machetes. I hated the high-tech warfare of the Israelis in South Lebanon; I saw the new graves at Qana, where 106 people sheltering in a UN compound were killed, over half of them children.   To me, the mother I met in Burundi, whose tiny baby’s head was slashed by a machete, and the mother I met in South Lebanon, whose small son was beheaded in front of her by shrapnel from a bomb, both suffered equally. Nothing justified such killing. Nothing justified war.

In 1998 I was offered a job in Yemen, and since then it has been the country of my soul. I fell in love with the country and its people, but more amazingly, Yemeni people also took me to their heart. I stayed until there 2001, but after this I travelled to Yemen most years for a few weeks or months, the last time in 2014. When I woke on the 25th March this year to hear that a Saudi-led coalition had started an air assault on Yemen to support one side in a civil war, I knew instinctively that Yemen would never be the same again. The next few days were spent trying to contact my friends there to find out what was happening. My best friend lived in Aden and the news was desperate. Eventually she became a refugee; her home damaged by Saudi bombs, she was forced to risk leaving the dangerous area she lived in due to the lack of drinking water, her car shot at by Houthi snipers as she escaped from a brutal war zone. Aden was ravaged by air assaults, a vicious ground war, and a cruel siege; from peace to all-out war in three days. My contacts in other parts of the country were also reporting bombs, food shortages, lack of medicines, fuel scarcity, lack of electricity, and most serious of all, a desperate shortage of water. The suddenness and ferocity of the war stunned me, and for the first few weeks, paralysed me. Most surprisingly of all, this dreadful war was being ignored by the media. Strangely, it also had a low profile in the anti-war movement. As I emerged from my stupor, I knew I would have to do something to publicise this war.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, those on the political Left have viewed the Western powers, particularly USA and its allies, as a major cause of conflict worldwide, but particularly in the Middle East. This accelerated after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, and led to the development of an international anti-war movement, at its peak just before the attacks on Iraq, when millions of people worldwide marched against war. This argument had the USA at its centre, and in UK, the relationship between the leaders of our government and the US president. I was undertaking research in media imagery at that time, and found that journalists and commentators had a position that they rarely changed whatever arguments they encountered, each ‘side’ finding Iraqis to support ‘their’ view. I interviewed Iraqis at that time; virtually all of them told me that the day the war began, the press lost interest in Iraq and they were rarely contacted for an opinion. Whether Western people were for or against the war, however compassionate and humble they were, their main focus was Western power. As the war progressed, it was the actions of Western politicians, Western military and Western arguments such as the presence or absence of weapons of mass destruction that dominated the media and conversations about Iraq.

Although the Stop the War movement reached its zenith in 2002/3 prior to the Iraq War, it did not go away. It became smaller but more organised, and the electorate in Western countries became increasingly tired of the wars that their governments were fighting, using up resources, raising taxes and causing death and injuries to soldiers. The countries that had wars inflicted on them remained unstable rather than becoming prosperous democracies as Western leaders had promised, and extremist militia movements increased in number, size and scope. The film “We Are Many” released in 2015 claimed that the anti-war movement had held Western governments to account, but I believe made Western politicians rethink not their policies but their way of conducting war. A new type of war; Yemen was the prototype.

Prior to, and at the beginning of the Yemen war, there was evidence of several meetings between Israel and Saudi governments, despite their lack of official government relations. The attack on Yemen shows many similarities with recent attacks on Gaza. Yemen was, and is, sealed; goods going in checked and restricted, no goods are allowed out, and movement of people is difficult thus reducing refugee flow. Air assaults are dramatic and widespread throughout the West of Yemen (the old North Yemen plus Aden and Lahj). Illegal weapons and experimental weapons are being used. The war on Yemen was obviously prepared for well in advance. From the day of the first bombs, a coalition of Arab and Muslim countries was formed and coordinated, 150 British military advisers were installed in Riyadh, the Saudi navy had warships in place to enforce an embargo with the French navy assisting, and the British and Americans observing. The US were refuelling Saudi warplanes in the air, and helping with rescue of military personnel as needed. Priority was given to the supply of weapons and munitions for the coalition partners.   A plan to manage the media was in place. Al Qaeda took over the port of Mukalla; in an interview with Al Jazeera a representative stated that this was at the request of Saudi Arabia who wanted the port secured against Houthi advances. This assault by the Saudi-led coalition may have been a surprise to Yemen and the world, but it was not a surprise to the countries that had obviously been plotting this for a long time, waiting for the right moment to intervene to crush Yemen and its people.

The hostilities began essentially as an internal conflict in the southwest of Yemen, with a complexity of groups involved in ground fighting, including the Houthis, oppressed in their homeland for many years, and the southerners, marginalised since the last 1994 civil war. Families are divided; I was sent a photo of a severely burned Yemeni teenager, put into an oven by her grandfather because of her view on the war. The Yemen army had split; the largest part of the army was from the tribes of the north and therefore aligned with the Houthis and ex-President Saleh. The rest of the Yemen army, mainly the brigades of the religiously conservative Brigadier Ali Muhsin supported President Hadi. Aden had a secessionist militia called Al Hirak (the movement) – inexperienced because after the 1994 civil war thousands of military from the South were forcibly retired. Alongside Al Hirak were the Islah militias (including Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood), Al Qaeda and Da’esh often together described as ‘loyalists’.   These extremist Sunni militias have a strong anti-Shia sentiment, which made them fight without mercy when attacking their Zaidi rivals. The Houthis were battle hardened after years of fighting in various arenas, and were equally ruthless. Although the Houthi leaders had put forward an agenda for positive change, their militias on the ground were largely uneducated, unpaid, and fighting for their existence against groups that they knew wanted to eradicate them.

The Saudis aligned themselves with Hadi describing him as the legitimate president, and stating that their aim was to restore him as the democratic leader. As soon as their aerial assaults began, all militias responded by behaving in an extremely brutal and aggressive manner. The ‘loyalists’ were given a sense of optimism and hope that enthused them for warfare; the Houthis respond in an equally fervent manner. Whilst damage in some parts of Aden, Lahj and Taiz was caused by militias brutally attacking each other, the Houthis controlled Crater and Khormiksar in Aden and all of the damage there was caused by Houthis in their attempts to control and intimidate the local population. The Houthi militias entered homes, robbed citizens of food and money, and killed anyone whom they believed to pose a danger to them. From day one the Saudis blocked all ports and airports cutting off Yemen from the outside world; the Houthis responded by adding a siege of Aden, not letting money, food, petrol and medical supplies in or out of the port city. There was ferocious militia fighting on routes leaving the city, trapping the population. Within two weeks, it was announced that people in Aden were already dying of starvation, dehydration, war injuries and illnesses, aggravated by a lack of medical care. Outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever broke out, and many died.

In UK there are many Yemenis who originate from the South because of the longstanding links between Aden and Britain. In the main, they were supportive of the Saudi-led campaign, particularly those with relatives trapped in Aden. Other British Yemenis were equally as strongly against the Saudi action. Realising that this was making it impossible to organise a campaign to bring awareness to the British public, in Liverpool a group of Yemenis tried to start a coordination network, hoping that if Yemenis could unite in UK, they could help spread the message to their countrymen and give a kick start to any peace process. The first meetings that bought the pro- and anti-Saudi camps together were very traumatic, and gradually, the meetings caused such stress that Yemenis stopped attending. The polarising of Yemen meant that many Yemenis believed that their ‘side’ was perfect, and the other ‘side’ was doing all the damage. Moreover, often in conversation polarised Yemenis denied the existence of Yemenis with any other view than their own.

This was a challenge to the anti-war and the Left. The initial response was to organise a demonstration in support of Yemen and against the Saudi interference in the Yemen war. This met with fierce criticism from parts of the Yemeni community, particularly those with relatives in Aden who were able to explain the horrendous circumstances of their relatives’ lives. Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition said that Yemen had been different to other conflicts, because others started more slowly and built up, and in the initial stages it was easy to see that Western interests were stoking the conflict. Only when the wars finally engulfed those countries did parties consistently behave brutally and illegally. The problem in Yemen was that within days all sides were behaving with impunity, causing civilian casualties that were hard to justify. Just as the Yemeni community has been divided, this has also caused tensions in the Left and made it more difficult to coordinate publicity about the terrible price of this conflict. Many who knew of the almost incomprehensibly shocking situation in Aden until the end of July, and in Taiz from June until the present, felt they had to speak out about it because the suffering was so extreme, whereas others believed it needed to be hidden as to speak out was to in effect to appear to justify the Saudi’s bombing campaign.

The extensive and horrifying Saudi bombing campaign was indeed the catalyst that had caused the all of the Yemen militias to increase their aggressiveness, and this had rapidly got out of hand. After visiting Yemen, Peter Maurer of the Red Cross stated that in 5 months there was as much damage in Yemen as after 5 years in Syria. The suffering in Yemen was described to the UNSC as ‘almost incomprehensible’. MSF, used to offering medical care in extreme conflicts, stated that the situation in Yemen was worse than in any other country where they had ever operated. HRW has criticised both militias and the Saudi-led coalition for war crimes. UNICEF, WHO, Oxfam and other organisations have stated that tens of thousands of Yemeni children suffer from severe malnutrition, and over a million are at severe risk; they have also warned of t the severe water insecurity as water is normally pumped from deep aquifers and diesel is not available, and that twenty million people are food insecure. ICRC , MSF and others have pointed to the number of medical facilities that have been forced to close down, due to damage, staff shortages, or lack of medical supplies. This is not a ‘normal’ war.

The other issue that complicates the Yemen conflict is the competing presidents. Ex-President Saleh left office in 2012 after demonstrations against him in the Yemeni ‘Arab Spring’ but is now supporting the Houthi coalition. President Hadi was elected as an interim president in 2012 and his term had already expired; he had resigned and then reinstated himself. Hence his legitimacy is disputed; additionally he left Yemen during the war for a safe haven in Riyadh after inviting Saudi Arabia to start bombing at his behest, which caused a further diminution of his popularity.   Additionally, the Houthis have their own leader, Abdulmalik Al Houthi, although there are varying accounts of what his leadership ambitions are. All of these leaders have their own baggage and the Houthi association with Saleh makes their case more difficult to support amongst sections of the Yemeni population.

There are those in the anti-war movement in the West who believe that the Houthis are a bulwark against extremist militias such as Al Qaeda and Da’esh; the Houthis have won battles against AQAP in Marib in the past. But it is naïve to believe that using one militia to attack another can survive as a long term peace strategy. For example, in Iraq with a majority Shia population and Iran as its neighbour, the Shiite Mahdi Army could not defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, but instead, reached a stalemate in which Baghdad – and much of the rest of Iraq – was divided on religious lines. In Yemen, the Zaidis are in a minority and Yemen is surrounded by Sunni countries, so their position is more precarious. Militias in Yemen are essentially extensions of tribal networks and both the Houthi militias and Al Qaeda have in various times in their history morphed from tribe to militia and back to tribe; the only permanent solution to stop such wars is to negotiate for peace. The role of the US drone programme has been much criticised by Yemenis because it has been a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, rather than reducing its capability.

The Western anti-war movements are also concerned with the alignment of power – the Israel/Europe/US axis versus Iran/China/Russia alliances. The links between Iran and the Houthis has been much exaggerated by Saudi Arabia and its allies. When the war started, Iran was at a critical time in its negotiations concerning its nuclear programme, and was heavily involved in the Syrian war. If Iran was interested in the Yemen war, it was only to use Yemen as a bargaining chip in its nuclear negotiations. Most experts agree Iran’s past contacts with the Houthis were limited. However, because of the challenging relationship between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, it is highly likely that had the Houthis controlled Yemen there would have been increased Iranian links and influence.

Meanwhile in Yemen itself, the attitudes of the Yemeni population trapped in a war not of their making have also gone through changes. The Houthis had a following amongst certain sections before the war, particularly the Zaidi tribes (about 30-45% of the population) and supporters of the GPC party, and some who thought they might change the corrupt political system. When the Houthis took over control of Sanaa in September 2014, the militias antagonised sections of the population by themselves acting corruptly, taking over locally owned businesses, jailing opponents, closing down newspapers, and kidnapping journalists.  However Sanaanis, used to political manoeuvrings, craved stability and accepted these encroachments without protest. So despite a long standing resentment towards their neighbour Saudi Arabia, many Yemenis initially welcomed the Saudi-led coalition air assaults as their stated aim at that time was to destroy Houthi arsenals. The southwest has largely remained supportive of the Saudi campaign, as trapped in a ground war it seems their only hope of salvation, and those who support conservative political parties such as Islah have also remained fervent supporters. People in the northwest, who have suffered extensive destruction their cities including most civilian homes by the Saudi-led alliance, see the Houthi militias as their only chance of survival; many GPC supporters also support the Houthis. But most other Yemenis now are war-weary and have less or no faith in all warring parties, and see the war as already having reached a stalemate in which all Yemenis are losers. Recent reports have indicated there are tensions arising both in the Saudi-led coalition and within the Houthi camp as their supporters waver. But they all are trapped on the treadmill of war, with the leaders unwilling to concede enough, or anything at all, for Yemen and for peace.

Even if all parties were willing partners in peace negotiations, there are now larger barriers to overcome. South Yemen, an independent country until 1990 and an unwilling partner in a united Yemen since 1994, is unlikely to accept anything but independence; even the hotel which Hadi used as a temporary home whilst visiting Yemen this week flies a South Yemen flag and not the Yemen flag. Extremist Sunni militias have gained strongholds and control in many parts of Yemen. The infrastructure is so damaged that it will take generations before Yemen has recovered even to its previously impoverished state. Hadi is expecting to be reinstated, but the majority of Yemenis do not want him back. The chance of ongoing war in Yemen, in a scenario such as in Afghanistan, is a very frightening possibility.

The ferocity of the war in Yemen has posed challenges to the Left, but it also raises important issues concerning where the future focus of anti-war movements should be.

  • There is a tension between persons who are pacifist and against all war, versus those who assign a moral right to one ‘side’ in a conflict and support one side in its military resistance. This tension needs to be resolved as unity is essential if the anti-war movement is not to be weakened.
  • Western anti-war movements initially started due to Western adventurism after the fall of the Soviet bloc, particularly in the build-up to the Iraq War. They focussed on Western and American world domination, and breaking that cycle. As the nature of war is changing, does the anti-war story also need to adapt?
  • Western anti-war movements have been focussed on stopping particular wars, or intervening at an early stage when it is possible for the target country to recover from war. As each war progresses, this strategy is less useful.   As countries are left in chaos, and the latest Yemen war began with such ferocity that is was impossible to stop, does this strategy need to be revised?
  • Any ‘side’ that is opposing Western domination will inevitably conduct its own atrocities. This is sometimes ignored, denied or condoned by anti-war groups. How far does this open the anti-war movements to criticism from its detractors, and impact on its effectiveness?
  • The citizens of a war torn country inevitably have different views to that of Western anti-war activists. I believe my views represent the opinions of Yemeni people, yet they have been described as ‘naïve’ and I am viewed to be too influenced by Yemeni colleagues. Another example: when I analysed the Iraq War news coverage for 4 months before and during the Iraq War for my PhD, I noted that journalists and activists had a certain view, and then chose an Iraqi at certain points to ‘prove’ his or her viewpoint. My analysis revealed that both pro- and anti-war activists were more interested in being pro- or anti-USA than in Iraq and Iraqis. Is ignoring local opinions the best way for anti-war groups to oppose Western power?
  • The war in Yemen shows many characteristics more in line with the Israeli attacks on Gaza. It is a new style of international warfare, characterised by: (1) using another country as a front (2) no warning and sudden onset of a ferocious war (3) cutting of all exports, and only allowing very limited imports (4) Disabling normal business functioning by restrictions of fuel and water (5) media silence (6) coordinated discourses and language by those controlling the war, eg., supporting democracy, legitimate leader, loyalists, rebels (7) the refugee outflow was hindered, thus helping to reduce the visibility of the war. The anti-war movement was not prepared for this new war and it has not been able to respond adequatelyIn a civil war, inevitably there are polarised viewpoints. This also hinders responses by the anti-war lobby, particularly in Yeme

Having worked in war zones, I do not believe there is such a thing as a moral way to conduct war. When people, militias, and armed forces fight, they fight to win at all costs. In my view, those who are pro-war, such as government representatives and people who are persuaded by the government view, tell the story of ‘their’ moral war, but also, those opposing Western adventurism also like to believe that their side is also conducting an ethical resistance. I see a value in anti-war movements moving towards describing the horror of war by all parties from the outset. At the moment, just as some Yemenis on each ‘side’ have turned a blind eye to the atrocities committed by their ‘side’ convincing themselves that their ‘side’ is being framed, some on the Left also find it difficult to bring to the world’s attention all the facets of the disgusting nature of today’s wars. Whilst they are opposing the domination of the world by a single super power, and hence their selectiveness in what they highlight, there could be an alternative media strategy of revealing the pathways from Western domination and manipulation, to wars on the ground, the rise of militia activity, the increased extremist attitudes held by whole populations, and population movement. When the national army of Syria carries out illegal and life threatening actions or the Houthis in Yemen are attacking defenceless civilian populations, the Left and anti-war lobby has been largely silent, because of the fear that it will detract from their cause. But could it also be argued that this very silence damages their credibility? This is something that needs fundamental discussion and a media strategy to increase impact and effectiveness.

My own view is that if the anti-war lobby and the Left are to be most effective in these new styles of war, then it needs to move closer to the populations that are caught up in conflict. The research I did for my PhD, and my current experiences with Yemen show that the UK anti-war movement is mostly obsessed with the actions of the USA and UK governments, whereas Yemenis are obsessed with their hope for stability in Yemen. I am influenced by knowledge and my many daily personal contacts with persons of all political persuasions and none. I feel privileged and enabled to be in their confidence and to share conversations. I believe that I contribute to a debate within Yemen that is gradually, so slowly, moving the population towards realising that they can only find peace if they themselves are prepared to make painful compromises. But I can only do so if I am even handed – noting the pain not only of those who have had their house destroyed, their child killed, by a Saudi bomb, but also those who have suffered that same loss, but by the actions of a Houthi warrior, and genuinely seeing both as horrific.

The recent evidence reveals that Western powers leave the countries they target in chaos. The ‘migrant crisis’ may force them rethink that strategy. Even ‘posher’ refugee camps – the current option being discussed – are not going to make Syrians and Yemenis stay in a land where they cannot rely on stability, where they cannot own their home, build their future, and educate their children. If people are to stay put in their homeland, they need hope. If in a small way we can somehow build hope by listening, and by encouraging people at war to talk to their opponent – who after all was not so long ago their friendly neighbour – then is this a better way of opposing Western power and domination? Wars have changed since 2003. The Left needs to change to combat the new challenges; our work is crucial. We need unity, knowledge, local contacts in war zones, and a well thought out media strategy. Otherwise, we are failing all those millions of people whose lives were devastated yesterday, are being devasted today, and will be devastated in the future by the scourge of war.

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme Monday 27th July.

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme 6.44-6.49 today. An item on Yemen. Please note: whilst it is laudible for the Today programme at last to do an item on Yemen, and it is excellent, why oh why put it on at 6.44, when the highest listening time on the Today Programme is an hour later. You can listen to this piece by going to BBC Radio 4 and move the cursor to 6.44.am.

amran province
The people of Amran province are desperate after daily bombing attacks by the Saudi coalition.

More than 1600 people have been killed in Yemen in the last 3 months. Many of them have died in Saudi airstrikes on cities controlled by the Houthi rebels, including the capital Sana’a. The Saudis, who support the country’s now exiled President Hadi oppose the Houthis that they think are backed by Iran. Given ongoing fighting and risk of kidnap by Islamic extremists very few Western journalists are in the country but with the help of her mobile phone as a recording device Dr. Natalie Roberts with Medicine Sans Frontieres has given an account of her life in North Yemen to our correspondent Mike Thompson.
NR “I am in the MSF car now heading out of town to visit the health centre that’s out in the countryside”. 36 year old Dr. Natalie Roberts from Wrexham is in Amran province just north of Sana’a but her work in providing emergency health care takes her all over this dangerous terrain. “The roads are targeted, cars are often hit and as I’m driving now I can see a truck that was bombed a few hours ago, still burning. It was carrying apples and wheat, the sacks of wheat are on fire. Every few hundred metres you see another burned out vehicle. Every single bridge on the road has been bombed out. It’s just an intimidating experience to drive up and down this road and be aware that at any minute an aeroplane could be coming. We have a flag on the roof but it doesn’t feel that it gives me much protection when you arrive at scenes like this.”
NR. “I’m in the Emergency Room at the Health Centre that we have been supporting in the mountains of North Yemen, really quite near the border. It’s an area that has had very heavy bombing. All the villages and towns nearby sustain air strikes most days.”
MT. With little or no mains electricity in Yemen, clinics like this rely on noisy generators running on scarce and very expensive fuel supplies. Many of them needing emergency help here are young children.
NR. “There’s a six year old boy here with a piece of shrapnel in his eye that he sustained this morning. It means he has lost his eye. He’s being very brave, he’s lying on a bed covered in blood and his mother is talking to him. We have already had three trauma cases this morning and it’s 11.30am. ”
NR. “That’s the call to evening prayer you hear all around Yemen. Today it’s more exciting for people because the rumour is a ceasefire has been declared. There’s a strong rumour it will start this evening. Everyone is very much in hope of that. This is a desperate population and they need some respite from the fighting.”
NR. “Morning now, it’s really quiet. Last night at midnight we were all hoping that this ceasefire that was about to be implemented, but by three o’clock in the morning I started to get text messages saying that there was more planes bombing in Sana’a and Saada governates. Really, really disappointed.”.
MT. There was some brighter news from Aden recently, when a ship carrying UN food supplies finally managed to get through to the port after waiting for weeks, but it has been estimated that the continuing violence threatens the survival of six million people across the country who are in urgent need of help.
NR. “Lunchtime and there’s a warplane circling overhead again. It happens at least once an hour. This place really makes me concerned about planes because you know that if a plane is flying overhead it’s a warplane. There’s no other planes flying over Yemen just now. So you are just waiting for the bomb to drop.”
MT. Dr. Roberts previously worked in Syria and Ukraine and will spend another month in Yemen with this threat as she tries to help local people, who are too afraid or unable to leave their homes. But given the daily risk to herself, does she think of abandoning her contract and getting out?
NR. “All the time, yes, I’ve been having these moments for the last three years. Often there’s times I lie there particularly at night when there is bombing and I think I don’t quite know why I am here. But this is the first place I have been to with no media. I just haven’t met a journalist at all. That means it’s not in the public eye. The public should be aware of the disaster and the crisis that is happening in this country.”.

Yemen’s middle classes – stupified, insecure – and running out of hope and money

“…when I go to work there is nothing to do.  I feel I ought to do something, but I can’t motivate myself to start doing anything….”   “…I can’t think, plan or act, all I do is sit around waiting for what tomorrow will bring…” “…my children’s school has closed, but they won’t do any schoolwork at home…”  “…I seem to have lost the will to do anything…”  The suddenness of the change from peace to brutal, deadly war in Yemen has put the whole population into a state of stupefied shock.

Yemen’s millions of underclasses were struggling to survive long before the war, with very little to lose and very little hope of gain. In 2014 54% of Yemenis lived below the poverty line; unemployment was 40%, with youth unemployment set at 60%.   An estimated 58% of Yemen’s population – or 14.7 million people – were already in crisis, with food insecurity, child malnutrition, and suffering rights violations such as exploitation and displacement.  Over 13 million did not have access to safe water supplies, and over 8.6 million were without basic health care. 500,000 people were already internally displaced or returnees (ie., Yemenis who were forced to leave another country where they had been residing and/or working).  The 2014 Human Response Plan for Yemen, issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, attributed the large proportion of the population living at crisis point to endemic poverty, long-standing under-development, poor governance, environmental stress, demographic pressures, continued political instability and conflict.  The lives of Yemen’s chronic poor maybe less comfortable due to the escalation of the conflict, they will undoubtedly have moments of terror, and a larger proportion may be displaced and food insecure.  A small proportion of them may be injured or killed.  But in the main, their previously miserable and insecure lives continue, but rather more miserably, and much less securely.

Yemen’s poor – even before the war they had little to lose, and little hope of gain.

The wealth gap is as large in Yemen as elsewhere in the world. There are areas in Yemen with ornate mansions that rival any in the wealthy cities and states of the Middle East.  Just as anywhere else in the world, the rich have more choices; to leave or stay; and if they decide to stay, they can afford to pay the black-market prices for everyday comforts and for extra security at home and at work.  But the middle classes who have worked to buy their homes, who have studied to educate themselves and their children; they are the ones who have lost most. In some cases, they have seen everything they own, everything they worked for over many decades, destroyed.  They have lost their homes, their businesses or their employment, and they and their children have had their only chance of education severely disrupted or terminated due to the conflict.  The war has for them been a cataclysmic event; a life changing tsunami.

yemeni doctor
Yemeni doctors – there is much need, but with hospitals destroyed and closed due to lack of medical equipment, they are under-employed and many are not being paid

Statements reflect their inability to control anything.   This was directly addressed by R (translator, Sana’a): “You can’t defeat this war nor control it; you just have to submit yourself to it…”  More commonly, people express their helplessness in describing situations. A British Yemeni with her family in under siege in Aden described her powerlessness: “We are still trying to get my granddaughter out (of Aden)…but it is the bus to Sana’a that is so risky…” Another friend (S, doctor) who had already fled from Aden and is now displaced in Hadramaut expressed similar feelings: “My friends in Aden are trapped there…the only thing I can do is pray for them…”   A (teacher, Sana’a) stated “…the bombs are getting closer to our house now, we are all frightened, there is nothing we can do except pray…”  Many also describe their powerlessness relating to their economic circumstances, many persons who are still employed in the public sector are still being paid at the moment, but most express concern as their workplaces are no longer functioning, and their only remaining source of income might cease.  Those who are unemployed recognise that there is no hope for employment in the foreseeable future.  A (engineer, Dhamar) “There is no point in seeking work in Yemen; there is none.”   A future with no income and no savings looms in front of them; they are inside a trap of war with no ability to respond to any real threat to themselves and their family.

yemeni school2
Yemeni schools and universities – closed all over Yemen. Many are housing displaced people, others have been destroyed or damaged. Most teachers are not working.

People describe even their inability to control the simplest things in life that are normally taken for granted. (R. translator, Sana’a) “When you are using water to bathe, or do the laundry, you are always worried that the water will end before you finish.” (A, teacher, Sana’a) “Food is very expensive and we are using up our savings, but we have no choice.”  G (Dental Student, Aden), who was due to take her final examinations this year “I will never be able to finish my degree and become a dentist.” R. (translator, Sana’a) “… I worry about them (two boys, fourteen and ten) and their futures…we don’t know when they will go back to school…”  F (student, Aden) “…we managed to find some vegetables, but when the militias saw us, they wouldn’t let us take them through…”

The loss of assets has affected the middle class disproportionately. In Aden, Lahj and Taiz in the south-west, and Saada in the north-west most people who owned their homes have lost them, either by destruction, or by being forced to flee with no hope of return. Parts of many other cities have also been destroyed. In a society that has no retirement income, sharing your home with grown up children provides security in old age; instead of facing a comfortable retirement surrounded by their family, when their home disappears and their children are forced to scatter, the future in retirement becomes bleak. If people have savings, they are worried about the viability of banks and they do not know whether to risk leaving the money there, or whether to risk leaving large amounts of cash in their home that could be destroyed without warning.

crater 006
The loss of your home means a loss of your retirement security
yemeni engineer2
The oil industry used to be a source of employment for engineers in Yemen. But currently there are no opportunities for engineers.

The lack of electricity, combined with the restriction to indoor living and the cessation of work and school has created monotony and boredom.  Initially when there was limited electricity every few days people rushed to charge their phones so that they had some means of calling for help in emergencies, or responding to emergency calls of others. In many places now there is no electricity at all. People who had home generators found problems in purchasing diesel to run them; in Sana’a people queued for five days for five litres of diesel (A, teacher).  Some managed to buy a solar panel which is sufficient to run a wireless router and a few low voltage gadgets (R, translator, Sana’a).  Others charge their phones by going to local shops to pay for charging services (A, engineer, Dhamar).

Most people do not have sufficient electricity to access television programmes.  “During Ramadhan, there are usually really good programmes on the TV, soap operas, that sort of thing, but this year there is no electricity so nothing to distract us…without things to do it makes everyone miserable.” (R, translator, Sana’a).  Some people still use the radio for their source of news (A, teacher, Sana’a). Not surprisingly, bombing raids and rocket attacks have become a source of frightening entertainment for young people, especially young men; most days, I get a horrifying supply of photos of last night’s raids.  When interviewing one Sana’a resident one evening, in the space of 45 minutes we counted six bombs, plus my interviewee described the sound of anti-aircraft fire over the roof of the house.  There are often rumours that the raid tonight is going to be near your home (R, translator, Sana’a) which adds to stress.  When the bombs are released, there is a whooshing sound, and during that moment people say their heart stops as they wait to see whether it will hit their home (H, activist, Sana’a).  Others report frightening episodes: “…when my wife was in labour in the hospital, six rockets hit the building next door…”  (A, engineer, Dhamar). This affects the ability to sleep;  (A, translator, Sana’a) “… when you are fully submitted then you can finally sleep, but you don’t know if you will wake up again or not. Whether you will be in the next group of blown up houses and corpses.”

bomb 20.5.15 (2)
Repeated bomb blasts near to people’s homes make it difficult to sleep

Not surprisingly, the stress results in difficulties with relationships in many families. Whilst many report an increase in petty arguments, others report more serious quarrels.  (A, teacher, Sana’a)  “We are lucky in our family, we don’t belong to political parties; the war has split some families.  But when we talk about the war, the conversations can become very heated”. Sometimes the issues are related to whether to move overseas and claim asylum, or whether to stay in Yemen. “My father says it will be alright if we stay, but I don’t think there is any future for us in Yemen now. He was so angry, shouting at us.” (G., student, Tarim).

Almost everyone is considering whether to travel overseas.  “I’m going to Oman to be a refugee; I hope to find work there in my speciality.” (A. Engineer, Dhamar).  “Do you know if I could find a job overseas before I leave Yemen? I don’t want to be a refugee.” (A, teacher, Sana’a) “Someone I know went to Kuala Lumpur, he got a job quickly, and he doesn’t have my language skills; I am planning to go there.” (G. Student, Tarim).  For the people who own their home, this is a challenging choice, as the legal system in Yemen is corrupt and there is no guarantee that the current owner can regain his asset if he returns.   For those who still have a salary, going overseas will mean they will lose that income, with no certainty of work in their new home.  These two issues distract some from travelling; “I will stay here in my home, to live or die, whatever happens,”, but it is less common to have already made a definite decision to stay put.

Refugees who flee Yemen will almost all be from the middle classes; those with enough money to travel overseas. Unlike Syria, it has no border where it is easy to cross into another country to claim asylum. The financial cost inhibits some from travelling. “…we have no water left in our village, we are being forced to leave.  But where can we go, there are 26 of us…” (housewife, Hodeida).  It costs $300US for a visa for each person wishing to travel through Oman, plus the cost of airfare to the next destination, plus money for rent and food until a job is found.  The alternative is catching a boat to cross the Gulf of Aden to reach Somalia or Djibouti, more dangerous and still expensive.  Currently shocked at the suddenness of the change in their circumstances, and still mourning their many losses, choosing to move seems to help middle class Yemenis regain something of their old ambitions and drive.  These are the cream of Yemeni society, the ones who have suffered most, and the ones who have lost all hope of a future in Yemen; they see a new start somewhere else as their only chance to have a successful life.

Saudis Above, Houthis below, nowhere is safe.

Children trapped in war

SANAA, Yemen — In the early hours of June 13, the Amari family was asleep in their home in Beit Meyad, a district near the heart of Sanaa. Then the bombs came. At least four missiles struck their street in quick succession at around 2 a.m.

A nearby shop selling gas cylinders was hit; there was fire everywhere. The family scrambled to flee their house. They were almost outside when an explosion blew the building’s main gate off its hinges, ramming into four of them and sending them flying backward into the house.

Four siblings were killed instantly: 11-year-old Iyad, 18-year-old Abdel Qader, 22-year-old Mona, and 25-year-old Aisha. Their cousin, Ahmed al-Amari, who lived next door, was also killed by the blasts. He was 10 years old.

“They were torn apart. We buried pieces of them,” said Boshra al-Amari, an aunt to the victims. She lives two streets away and huddled with her three sons in her home that day as the missiles rained down.

The four siblings who were killed are survived by an 18-year-old brother and a 20-year-old sister, who is now in shock and unable to speak. The mother of their dead cousin suffered only a broken arm, but she is in a state of hysteria. She believes the children were injured but are still alive. Fearing for her psychological state, Boshra has not had the heart to tell her they are all dead.

The attack also killed five members of the Akwaa family, who lived next door, including three children, bringing the death toll to at least 10, all of them civilians and five of them children. Up to 60 people were also wounded in the strike.

Beit Meyad is a residential district, but the presumed reason for the strike is that enemies of Saudi Arabia lived in the area.

On March 26, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries began bombing Yemen to stop the advance of a rebel group known as the Houthis who took over the capital in September and continued their march southward, seizing control of large parts of the country.

Saudi planes have bombed sites across Yemen on an almost daily basis for nearly three months, backed by logistical and intelligence support from the United States. In addition to military targets and weapons depots, the airstrikes have hit the airports in Aden and Sanaa, where two destroyed commercial airplanes still lie on the tarmac; a refugee camp the northern district of Haradh; and several UNESCO-protected heritage sites, including most recently at least five houses in Sanaa’s 2,500 year-old Old City.

In addition to the airstrikes, fierce street battles have broken out in Aden, Taiz, and elsewhere between the Houthis, who are allied with forces loyal to ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is in exile and other opponents. More than 2,500 people have been killed in the conflict and over 11,000 injured, according to the World Health Organization.

Since the beginning of June, analysts and residents in the capital say, the bombing campaign has entered a new phase:

Planes have begun targeting the homes of Saudi Arabia’s enemies, rather than just military targets.

Planes have begun targeting the homes of Saudi Arabia’s enemies, rather than just military targets. Civilians have found themselves increasingly caught in the crossfire.

The street where the Amari family lived was home to the residences of Saleh’s nephew and his brothers. They weren’t home at the time. Earlier this month, the house of Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali, was bombed, as was his office, which is located near a popular Internet cafe in Sanaa. On Sunday night, June 14, the home of a close Houthi ally in the Faj Attan area of Sanaa was also bombarded.

“They are trying to terrorize and punish their opponents,” said Maged al-Madhaji, a Sanaa-based political researcher, adding that Saleh’s allies do not sleep in their homes anymore. “It’s an idiotic strategy and it’s a sign of their failure. They don’t know what to do. They can’t win this war from the air.”

The Saudi-led air campaign is far from the only danger Sanaa civilians like the Amari family face. Boshra said the night after her relatives were killed, a shell from an anti-aircraft weapon fired by the Houthis hit her roof and another landed in her yard. “Their sound is terrifying,” she said. “We get some kind of shrapnel from them hitting our house almost every day.”

The rapid booms of anti-aircraft fire fill the sky in Sanaa whenever the roar of a passing warplane is heard — and sometimes even when it isn’t.

Dr. Nasr al-Qadasi, the head of the Goumhouri hospital in Sanaa, Yemen’s second-biggest hospital, said he receives three to five patients a day who have been wounded by anti-aircraft munitions. “They shoot randomly and without purpose,” Qadasi said. “I am more afraid of the anti-aircraft fire than of the missiles.” In a report in May, Amnesty International found that anti-aircraft munitions shot by the Houthis “were the leading cause of casualties in the capital.”

Meanwhile, Boshra is at a loss of what to do as her family members, like so many Yemeni civilians, are trapped in the fighting.

In addition to the five family members she lost two days ago in a Saudi airstrike, her 80-year-old aunt died in the town of al-Jalilah, some 90 miles northwest of the capital, after being wounded as a result of shelling by Houthi-allied forces; the aunt was unable to reach a hospital for a month due to the fighting and finally succumbed to her injuries. In Aden, Boshra’s cousin’s husband, who is mentally ill, was shot by snipers as he was walking in the street. And a relative of her brother-in-law, a pharmacist, was kidnapped by Houthis in Sanaa last week.

“I don’t see this ending,” Boshra said with tears in her eyes. “I think things will get much worse.”

She lost her job as a reporter after the Houthis closed down the newspaper where she worked. Her husband has not received a government salary in three months. They now rely on a relative living in the United States who sends them money. She wants to leave Yemen, but with the borders closed and hardly any outbound flights from Sanaa, she remains trapped inside.

“There is nowhere safe,” she said. “I want to protect my children but everywhere is targeted. I don’t know how to protect them.”

Coping with crisis in Yemen

The war in Yemen is a multifocal one; the Houthis and ex-President Saleh, President Hadi and troops still loyal to him, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, the southern secessionist militias – and into this maelstrom Saudi Arabia started a bombing campaign, which has only aggravated the fighting militias and not stopped any of their advances. Most areas in the west of Yemen (the old North Yemen plus Aden) are witnessing bombs and militia activity on a daily basis, many have lost their homes due to conflict. In the middle of it all, most ordinary Yemeni people do not belong to a militia and do not want to fight at all, but they are finding that ordinary life has become extremely complicated and hazardous, with even basic needs such as eating, drinking, washing, cooking, becoming difficult and challenging tasks.

Most people in the west of Yemen have not been able to work since the conflict escalated with the start of the Saudi bombing campaign at the end of March. Some people are still receiving their salaries, for example, government employees in the North are still being paid, but Aden government salaries have stopped. Even people still getting their government salaries are not sure how long that can continue. Although most businesses in this area have had to cease trading, some are continuing, for example, water tankers are in demand; however, their costs are escalating due to having to buy petrol on the black market at grossly inflated prices in order to transport water to the cities. Some who are working in internationally funded humanitarian agencies in Sana’a such as UNICEF are still employed but finding the demands have increased significantly, whilst resources available are in limited supply. For others who are still able to work getting to their place of employment is a major problem as petrol is in very short supply and public transport is erratic and expensive due to rising petrol costs. In the east of Yemen, Hadramaut, there is less disruption of employment, although this area has a low population because it is mainly desert, and it is under stress because of the large numbers of internally displaced people arriving there. This area is under Al Qaeda control but mostly stable at the moment. In all parts of Yemen prices are rapidly escalating due to the extensive Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports; people who are relying on their savings to buy essentials are finding that their savings are becoming depleted and they face an uncertain future. There is little sign of humanitarian aid arriving due to the blockade. It is hardly surprising that most Yemeni people that I know are now thinking they must move from Yemen in order to survive. This too is not easy as most countries in the Middle East, Asia and Europe are not accepting Yemeni refugees, despite their life threatening circumstances. One way out is by boat across the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden to Somalia and Djibouti; those arriving in Somalia are moving to another war torn country that is more stable than Yemen at the moment. Those Yemenis who have travelled to Djibouti in tens of thousands have not been welcomed and they are living in dire circumstances with little assistance. The other route out is to cross the border into Oman, although Oman is only issuing permits for people who plan to travel across Oman and leave by plane for a third country. So far the only country that has offered asylum to people from Yemen is Malaysia.

So people are trapped inside conflict.The emergency services in Yemen were never well developed, and are now under severe strain. This means that when bombing attacks occur, emergency services rarely turn up.  Local people who are not equipped or trained step in to find people who are injured or dead amongst the rubble, and transport them to hospital.  Often this is done when the rescuers themselves face great danger when they enter buildings that have already been severely damaged, and the survivors who are pulled out might face further injuries because of the makeshift nature of their rescue.

For most Yemenis, the supply of water is their most pressing need.  Even before the conflict water was becoming a serious concern; one city Taiz did not have a regular water supply and it was forecast that Sana’a would be the first capital city in the world to run out of water. In the highlands, water is pumped out of deep wells, needing diesel or electricity. The conflict and blockade has caused erratic electricity and diesel is in very short supply, so water cannot be pumped up. Since April water no longer arrives in people’s homes direct, but instead people leave their homes in search of water, collect it in containers and bring it home. This can only happen when electricity is switched on; in some areas of the capital city residents have reported being without electricity for up to seven days at a time.  When the electricity came on, people rushed out to their nearest water supply; their need was such that sometimes there were fights in the queues waiting for water as people were so desperate. This was helped by some Yemeni benefactors paying for water tankers to bring water to residents in areas that were in short supply.

yemen 29.6.15 003
Water delivery in Yemen

However many humanitarian agencies point to the problems that might arise from contaminated or unclean water in this crisis, and this can only be a temporary stop-gap.  It is aggravated by the lack of fuel for boiling water to make it safe.  All  of the water that is needed by a family – for drinking, cooking, washing and laundering, all has to be bought into the house via plastic containers.

Whilst food is in limited supply and expensive, more pressing is the issue of cooking it.  There has not been any cooking fuel for nearly three months.  Where people have an old tanour oven they are using it, and sharing this facility with their neighbours. For example, one friend has a tanour oven which they share with five other houses which means it is at full capacity most waking hours. It is a boiler shaped oven that has a fire underneath; with little fuel, the only thing that can be used for cooking is wood – and there are not many trees in Yemen.

bread cooking on the side walls of a tanour oven
bread cooking on the side walls of a tanour oven

Many bakeries are no longer functioning and people have to bake their own bread by sticking it on the walls of the oven. Most Sana’a people also have a large metal casserole dish in which they cook the traditional Yemeni food over the fire; a stew of meat and vegetables called salta.

Where people have been made homeless, it is not overseas agencies that have stepped in; it is the hospitable nature of Yemen.  People have opened their homes to others who have lost theirs. In every home that I know of, my Yemeni friends have said that they have a family staying in each of their rooms; a three bedroomed home with 16,18 or more people living together.  Even people who are displaced who have found a small home are sharing it with new arrivals until the seams are almost bursting.

There is no time to start thinking about mental health issues: whole families traumatised as their circumstances have changed from peace to a bloody, senseless war with no end to their insecurity and a lack of hope. Jobs and education disrupted and with no certainty of ever returning to paid employment, or completing school and university. And no end to the constant bombs and hounding by militias. Many must suffer from post-traumatic stress, but there is no treatment available. I have friends in Yemen; I go to bed thinking of them; wake up in the night thinking of them, and they are my first thought when I get up in the morning.  How much worse it must be if you are caught in this prison of conflict.

A lot was said about wartime Britain surviving the blitz.  This is Yemen’s blitz.  They are struggling, and left to do it on their own, with little awareness or concern from others in the world.  If they manage to escape this hell, they will be called economic migrants.

Saudi Arabia at war

By Dr Judith Brown

Saudi Arabia at war. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula. To its west is the Red Sea, to the east is the Gulf of Arabia and a short border with Kuwait and Qatar, to the south-east is the United Arab Emirates and Oman, and Yemen is to the south-west of KSA. To the north, it has land boundaries with Jordan and Iraq. map saudi arabia Source of wealth. KSA has large reserves of oil, believed to be about 40% of the world’s reserves, and is currently the world’s largest producer of crude oil. Whilst oil dropped significantly in price in 2014, Saudi Arabia can use its windfall of reserves saved from when the oil price as higher to finance its current spending (http://www.quora.com/Falling-Oil-Prices-2014-15/How-will-falling-oil-prices-affect-Saudi-Arabia-economically).

Weapons procurement. KSA has been purchasing weapons for many decades, many from US and Europe, but the rate of increase in arms purchases has increased significantly in recent years. In 2014 it was the world’s top weapons purchaser.

Table of spending on weapons, 2013/214

Top Defence Importers Top Defence Importers
2013 2014
1. India 1. Saudi Arabia
2. Saudi Arabia 2. India
3. UAE 3. China
4. Taiwan 4. UAE
5. China 5. Taiwan
6. Indonesia 6. Australia
7. South Korea 7. South Korea
8. Egypt 8. Indonesia
9. Australia 9. Turkey
10. Singapore 10. Pakistan

Source: press.ihs.com

Total defence spending. KSA was 4th country in the table of total defence spending in 2014, after USA, China and Russia, spending 10.4% of its GDP on defence, a rise of 17% since 2013. (Perlo-Freeman, Fleurant, Wezeman P., Wezeman S. 2015. Trends in military expenditure2015; Sipri fact sheet; SIPRI, Sweden.)

Sources of procurement. Most of Saudi Arabia’s military aircraft are supplied by USA and UK (Combataircraft.com)

Recent UK deals include: • September 2007, detailed contract signed for 72 Eurofighter Typhoons. o 24 were delivered in 2009, made in Lancashire. o Others supplied in kit form and assembled in Saudi Arabia. o Cost £4.4 billion. o Called Salam ‘peace’ project. • May 2012 BAE contract o Contract to train Saudi air force o 55 Pilatus aircraft made in Switzerland o 22 BAE Hawk jets. o Cost £1.6 billion (source: CAAT) SAUDI JET SUPPLIED BY BAE SYSTEMS This is surprising not only in terms of its own status as an intolerant dictatorship, but also in view of its funding of groups that are deemed to be ‘terrorists’ that has been heavily criticised in the West (Cockburn, P., 2014, Al Qaeda the second act: is Saudi Arabia regretting its support for terrorism; The Independent, 17.3.2014).

Nuclear ambitions. Many British newspapers have recently reported that Saudi Arabia could purchase battle ready nuclear weapons from Pakistan. The relationship between SaudiArabia and Pakistan is cordial and since 1974 KSA has funded part of the Pakistan integrated atomic weapons project. Western intelligence and diplomats believe that Pakistan would sell nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. One German magazine produced photographs in 2006 that allegedly shows Gauri rockets in silos south of Riyadh; Pakistan denies that it has provided weapons to the Kingdom. Source: Wikipedia and UK newspapers.

Saudi Arabia’s use of military force outside the Kingdom. Between 1903-1920, the Saud tribe was involved in various wars in Arabia that enlarged its land under its control, and formed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Then, • In 1924-5 the Saudis fought a war with the Hashemite tribes and took part of the Hijaz territory that had previously been part of Yemen, including the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. • In 1990-1991 Saudi Arabia was involved with the coalition that formed the First Gulf War against Iraq. • In 2009-2010 Saudi invaded northern Yemen to attack the Bakil tribe (the Houthis), and was repelled. • In 2012 it entered Bahrain at the request of the rulers of Bahrain, who had already been involved in a brutal crackdown against protesters, and helped the ruling dictatorship to consolidate its power. • It participated with US led air attacks on ISIS/Daesh in Syria in 2014. • It assembled a coalition to attack Yemen in March 2015.

The stated purpose of the attack on Yemen. • Saudi Arabia’s reason for the attacks (Defensive Shield) was articulated by Adel al-Jubeir, its ambassador to the United States, who said, “Having Yemen fail cannot be an option for us or for our coalition partners.” The Saudis believed that Yemen was failing because Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former president who was supported by Saudi Arabia but was deposed as a result of months of demonstrations in 2011-12, had sided with the Houthi Shiites. The alliance allowed the Houthis to make rapid progress in their attacks on the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and take control of a significant part of Yemen. Hadi fled Yemen and took refuge in Saudi Arabia; Saudi Arabia claims that one goal of the military operation is to restore “the legitimate leader” of Yemen to power. (Sahimi, M., 2015, Saudi Attack on Yemen Aims to Prevent Thaw Between Iran and the West, The World Post, 30.3.2015.) • Yemen has since become a failed state; it now only has a government in exile in Riyadh that cannot speak or act independently in the interests of Yemen. Saudi has also extensively bombed the arsenal of the Yemen army, thus ensuring that there is no possibility of a Yemeni army to police and protect its population. Moreover, Hadi is not seen as a legitimate president by sections of the Yemeni community, because he was elected in a one candidate election for a limited term that expired in February 2014, and he had already resigned and then re-instated himself without authority from the Yemeni people. In any case, Saudi Arabia is not a country that has followed democratic processes in the past. Moreover, the extensive Saudi attack means that no section of society in Yemen can function because of the extent of damage caused. The Houthi links with Iran exist but they are recent, and there is no evidence that Iran exerted any control over Yemen, and also there is no evidence that the Saudi campaign has hindered the Houthi advance. Thus the initial stated aims of Saudi Arabia seem not to have been supported by facts on the ground, the subsequent actions by Saudi Arabia, and the result of those actions. • The UN appointed special advisor, Jamal Benomar, who was appointed to oversee the transition of Yemen after 2011 resigned after the start of the Saudi bombing. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he stated that negotiations in Yemen were continuing and a deal was possible, but start of the bombing raids had hardened all positions and complicated matters further. (Lauria, J, Coker, M., 2015; Former UN Envoy says Yemen political deal was close before Saudi airstrikes began. Wall Street Journal, 26.4.2015)

The dark green area to the left is the area in Houthi control before Saudi bombing campaign
Yemen_war_detailed_map 1.6.15
June 2015 Houthi area of control light green now extends to southern coastline

The members of the Saudi-led coalition against Yemen. Saudi Arabia all the GCC counties except Oman signed a statement of agreement before the coalition started the air attacks on Yemen on 25th March 2015. Oman has remained neutral.

• Saudi Arabia leads the coalition. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 100 fighter jets, 150,000 soldiers and some naval units. These soldiers are not in Yemen but guard the border between the two countries.

• The UAE signed the GCC statement. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 30 fighter jets.

• Bahrain signed the GCC statement. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 15 fighter jets.

• Kuwait signed the GCC statement. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 15 fighter jets.

• Qatar signed the GCC statement. Al-Arabiya reported it had deployed 10 fighter jets.

• Jordan said its fighter jets were involved in the operation. Al-Arabiya said 6 Jordanian jets were involved.

• Sudan said its air and ground forces would take part in the operation. Al-Arabiya said three Sudanese fighter jets were involved.

• Egypt said its naval and air forces were involved in the campaign. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said ground forces could become involved “if necessary”.

• Pakistan had been asked to provide ground troops but declined to take part .

• USA and UK are supporting the coalition, but are not taking part in the combat operations. For example, it has been reported that US has helped to refuel in flight, shared intelligence, and assisted with rescue missions. Operation-Deceive-Storm-Yemen-Conflict Geneva peace talks. Saudi Arabia was not present at the UN sponsored peace talks in Geneva.