Being Under Attack

Written by Helene Aecherli on Sunday, 28 June 2015. Posted in Jemen

Yemenis write about the war

In Yemen rages an erratic multilateral war that has so far killed over two thousand people. 22 million, 80 percent of the population, are lacking food, water and basic health care; a humanitarian disaster which is worsened by a naval blockade imposed by the Saudis to cut off arms supplies to rebel forces. The Geneva peace talks that were held last week brought no result. 
However the war in Yemen hardly rarely gets into the headlines of international media. It is off the radar of international attention.
But Yemenis want to be heard. They need to be heard. Thus I have asked Yemeni friends of mine, men and women, to tell their stories, to give a personal account of their experiences of war and to take pictures that illustrate their texts. I will post them here on this website, one by one.
I hope their writings will have an impact.
Yemeni men and women waiting to get water. Photo: Abdo Ramadan
 The first account is by Abdo Ramadan, a business man from Sana'a:
It is not easy to describe how life has turned upside down since March 26th 2015. Words are not enough to reveal the sufferings we endure as a family that lives in the Yemeni capital Sana’a under the attacks of missiles and bombs as a daily exercise. During each attack we expect death by a missile that smashes our lovely roof taking its way to take our souls. 
My wife and four young daughters experience dreadful, frightful and horrible moments when they hear the sounds of the attacking jets flying through Sana’a's clear blue sky. This fear is doubled when I am at work and out of the house as they feel more secure when I am with them, when we all are together.
Whenever we hear the sounds of a plane and sounds explosions we rush to our safe place “below the stairs“ near the door fearing the worst. Just imagine how the ladies feel being crouched beneath the stairs!
Apart from her fear, Malak, my oldest daughter, worries about her and her sisters’s future as all the schools are closed. She is in the 9th grade now and her exams are scheduled to take place in less than two months, but she doesn’t know if they will ever take place and if she will be able to do them as she isn’t prepared and cannot study at home due to the constant atmosphere of fear we are living in. 
My second daughter Layan is suffering deeply; the experience of being under attack is traumatic for her. When she hears a noise in the street or in the house, and be it only a glass that falls off the kitchen table, she runs away, terrified, as if there was an air attack or a bombing.
Fortunately Ghaida and Aseel, my youngest daughters, aren’t much aware of the danger they are in. They keep repeating “attacks, attacks, attacks!” and giggle innocently while they rush to the safety stairs.  
My wife has become a full house wife and nurse since the attacks began. Nurse in the sense, that she councels the other women in the house who are horrified during the attacks. And she supervises the children and makes sure take they take their doses of iron supplementation.
Before the war started, my wife worked as a teacher in an illiteracy center in our area. But now the center is closed; 90 percent of her students have left and fled to their villages or to other areas in the country that might still be safe. We were considering going to our village as well, at least to send my wife and daughters. But the suffering there is worse than in the capital, as the village is crowded with refugees and there is hardly any water and food. And moreover, my wife refused to leave me alone in Sana’a.
However - there are more attacks and jets here in Sana’a than in the village, so my old parents refuse to spend the holy month of Ramadan with us this year. This hurts as well. During Ramadan we used to be together. This was our tradition.
Personally, I am not afraid of being killed, but I feel crushed by the responsibility I bear for my family and for my daughters as their future is vague. Frustration and hope - this is what I feel during this endless crisis. 
I am aware of the fact that, compared to millions of Yemenis, my family and I are lucky. I still have my job as a human resources manager in the last big hotel in Sana’a. The entire expatriate staff left the country in early April. To keep the hotel open with just a handful of people is a horrendous challenge. Even more so as every day I see the suffering in the faces of my staff and colleagues who fight their hunger. Our income has decreased, while the costs of living have increased dramatically: 1 litre of petrol used to be 150 Yemeni Rial, 0. 70 US $. Now it’s 600. 50 kilogram of flour were 5500 YR, now they are up to 9500YR. To get these items for the official rate you have to spend days and nights in search for them. Sometimes you see dozens of desperate men, women and children trying to get a can of water from a huge truck with water tanks. The water is donated by rich people.
Boys trying to get their water cans filled. Photo: Abdo Ramadan
Thirty percent of the income is spent only for transportation as fuel has become unavailable - not only in the city, but in the entire country, and those who have their buses still running have increased the ticket prices because they purchase fuel at the black markets. There fuel is sold for incredible prices. Before the war, a ticket for two or three kilometres in a public minibus cost 50 Yemeni Rial, around 0.20 $, now the price has doubled. Taxis for the same distance cost 300 YR, now you have to pay more than 600. A 20-litre gas cylinder used to officially cost 1200 YR (6 $), at the black market you have to pay around 5000 YR (23 $).
Most Yemenis, like many of my colleagues, can’t afford any transportation at all. So they are forced to walk long distances to get to work.
Taxis line up to get gas. The queue is almost four kilometres long. Photo: Abdo Ramadan
Many employees of the governmental and private sectors have lost their jobs and are in the streets. Almost all the teachers, like my wife, can’t work anymore as well. The war has bereaved us of our productivity.
I can say that we, the Yemeni people, are filled with hatred, rage and a desire for revenge as the attacks have reached all homes and every individual. There isn’t a family that hasn’t lost a relative or friend or fears to be killed by the blockade imposed on us by the Saudis: They prevent medicine, food items and fuel to enter the country. They can do that because they control all the ports of our Yemen.         


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