“Then you realize that you didn’t have any hallucinations”

Written by Helene Aecherli on Friday, 03 July 2015. Posted in Jemen

Yemenis write about the war

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 send me pictures that illustrate their texts. I will post them here on this website, one by one.

Here is an as impressive as gripping account of the war in Yemen, written by Aiman Al Hakeem (39). He works as a banker in Sana'a. 

Suddenly without any warnings there were explosions everywhere. It was almost 2.30 am on the 26th of March 2015. I didn’t know what's going on. I opened my mobile phone to find out and saw a message from my group of friends stating that the Saudi Air Force had destroyed Sana’a’s international airport. 

And as anti-craft missiles started to target the attackers, my children woke up wondering what was going on. “It's not a wedding right now, it's too late for that, right?”, my older son Hamza (10) asked me while his brother Aus (7) was listening. “The Saudis started to fight Yemen”, I answered. “Why?” Hamza asked. “They don't like Yemenis”, I tried to explain. I rushed my family to a safe room where there are no windows. My twin girls Raghad and Rahaf (4) were scared. I heard my wife tell them that it's just fireworks.
After a while everything stopped, electricity came back and I switched on the TV - only to hear the Saudi ambassador in Washington announce that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the world, was attacking one of poorest!

Sometimes the question Why seems to be too stupid to be asked. So I didn’t. The only thing that is really important is that a war has started and nobody is ready to have it in his or her life. Finding yourself in such miserable circumstances makes you think of anything that could come up at any moment.

The day after felt as if there had never been a night, as you hadn’t slept and were angry - if this is the appropriate word to describe the nightmare you been through. And you felt as if somebody hadn’t only violated your country but also abused your life and your dreams: the master’s degree, a good education for your children, a small house.

And then, when you are ready to go out for the first time, this crazy idea crosses your mind that you will find destruction and dead bodies everywhere, so you prepare yourself to face it. But - you find nothing! You start to doubt, doubt the nightmare you seem to have had, especially when you see people walking in the streets and going to work. Had there ever been an attack? Hadn’t it just been a nightmare? You hope to be relieved from your fears when you finally meet one of your colleagues and ask him: “What happened last night?” The answer eliminates your doubts, then you realize that you didn’t have any hallucinations: “It's true, we had been under attack.” Well, maybe it was one shoot and that's it, I told myself to give myself some fake peace. But the coalition spokesperson said that the airstrikes would go on for days and months until the coalition countries have achieved what they came for.

As the days go by you start getting of used to the danger that surrounds you. The schools have been closed to keep the children away from danger - as if they were safer at home! When you leave for work you make sure that you say goodbye to your wife and kids because you never know what will happen to you or your family. And when you are gone you worry about them even more and your worries increase whenever you hear fighter jets approach.

The very seconds warplanes struck a Scud missile base in Faij Attan, a district in Sana'a. At least 25 people were killed and almost 400 wounded.

One day - I was at work in the second floor - an airstrike hit a location close to us in the Faj Attan area. It wasn’t a normal bomb as the torch of the explosion reached the sky and the shockwaves made the building shake. Glass broke, furniture moved, there was panic all over, my female colleagues almost freaked out. In those seconds I felt like the luckiest person in the world because I was still alive, which meant that I would see my family again and spend some time with them.

The explosions started to come closer to the area where I live in. I figured out that my family and I had been living close to a military camp for four years! I was listening to the fighter jets when they launched their missiles and hit their targets and I felt the building shake (which is bad habit). I decided to take my family to my father’s home close to Noqom Mountain which is quite far away from our house. But two days later there were rumours that the coalition would hit Noqom Mountain. I faced the truth: There is no safe place.

The night we expected Noqom Mountain to be hit, we gathered in our safe room. The fighter jets arrived before sunset. They flew very low, the sounds of their engines were terrifying. They targeted an ammunition depot in the mountain and bullets and missiles started to explode hitting everything within their huge radius. You literally had to keep your head down to avoid being hit. There were explosions going off every second, and finally they introduced the apocalyptic one: its shockwaves lasted about five seconds, doors were torn open and slammed, an enormous fire ball emerged into the sky. I was holding one daughter, sitting in front of my wife who held our other daughter. Hamza and Aus were crouching next to their mom. I thought that the building would collapse, so I jumped up and wrapped my arms around my family trying to protect them.


Airstrikes destroying the weapon depots on Noqom Mountain, on Sanaa's Northeastern edge. In the background you see the Mövenpick Hotel, that was damaged heavily. The strike came just hits before a humanitarian ceasefire was due to begin.

We are under attack and our attacker is our prison guard, the prison which our country is locked in day and night. I don’t know when something like this has happened ever before in any place in the world. Under this military operation you see the people of Yemen being displaced and moving continuously governed by rumors, fighter rounds, coalition spokespersons.

Since Yemen has turned into this big prison we have hardly had any electricity and no petrol derivatives are allowed to be brought to this place of the world, which also means that hospitals can’t operate because they need petrol to keep their infrastructure running. Nowadays 20 liters of petrol equal 30000 Yemeni Rial, almost 140 US $ (while the global price for a barrel of raw oil amounts to 60 US $). If the price of petroleum derivatives increases (even if it's fake increment) it means that all the prices increase and this affects everybody. And when you see that a big number of companies, factories, projects, embassies, oil companies and oil services have stopped their operations and dismissed their staff you realize the deplorable state the Yemeni economy is trapped in.

I know - war is blind, but I have never seen anything like this before. There are no rules, no laws, no human rights, and the voices of the international community are mute.

The war in Yemen devours everything, people’s lives, their dreams, their hopes, their future - and even their heritage.


Aiman Al Hakeem

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