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. I hope their writing will have an impact.
The third account of this series is written by Samia Al-Ansi (36). She works in the humanitarian sector as a country logistics manager in Sana'a. And one day she might be a writer of short stories. Her text below gives you a taste of her talent.
"I have lived in my own bubble. My eyes used to be closed during the Arab spring, I didn’t want to face the conflicts that were raging in some cities in Yemen, didn’t want to be confronted with the suffering of the world. I didn’t watch tv and didn’t care about politics.
People thought it was strange that I kept myself distant from all the hustle around me and that I created my own environment by spending my free time reading and listening to music. I had my rituals that kept me calm and happy and as far away as possible from stress and anger . My close friends have always criticized me for that. They said the way I managed to split myself from everything around me got on their nerves.
Now I understand them. Having lived in this war for more than three months makes it clear for me why I have been considered provocative and a teaser. I had never thought that I will lose all my pink fences in one night.
It all started on the 26th of March when I woke up early in the morning hearing weird sounds that seemed a bit like a thunder storm with heavy rain. But there was no rain. It was the start of operation “Decisive storm” led by Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries to stop the Houthis from spreading, as our legitimate president had REQUESTED.
Having been in denial since 2012 led to this shock when all of a sudden we woke up to find that someone had decided to defend his borders by hitting our central city! We had been so proud of all those mountains surrounding Sana’a as its natural defence that we were unaware of the fact that X- regime used them as weapon stores. Now the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is targeting them “to clear the city and to give Yemenis a more civilized life” – as they say.
Let me explain what this means in reality:
We have vegetated in total blackout for the last three months; we have no electricity and no clean drinking water. Food prices are jumping high. Health facilities are partially paralyzed. An air- and naval blockade worsens the situation. And a freaking high percentage of unemployment rate makes life even harder to digest and adds to the misery.
I have read about the Taliban in Afghanistan, about Palestine and the civil war in Lebanon and I felt bad for all those millions of people who suffer from this craziness and continuous injustice. Never had I thought that Yemen would be caught in a similar horrifying war. No one has ever predicted that we will be facing air strikes led by our neighboring country. Now I know myself what the people in Afghanistan, Palestine and Libanon are going through.
I work in the Faj Attan area, which is one of the areas that has been affected most by the coalition air strikes. When the war started I still felt safe. I felt as if my office’s windows were covered with blast film (a film we cover our windows with to protect us from gun shots or explosions. When something happens the glass won’t be shattered randomly but will melt down as soft sand) and I was sure the coalition would never hit a civilian area.
But then came the moment of truth: on the 20th of April I looked death in the eyes.
I remember how I unhappy I had been that morning and how I had wished not to report to the office, but had to as I work for a humanitarian organization and feel responsible for other people’s lives. I was in my office, which is in the basement of our building, when the air strikes started. I told my colleagues to go down to the basement, which is safe, and returned to my desk pretending that everything was normal and there was no need to worry.
Then the earth quake of a huge explosion started. The steel door at the back of my office blew up, all the shelves collapsed, file cabinets were smashed to the ground and glass was shattered all around the office. It was like in a movie scene: everything seemed to happen in slow motion while my entire life was flashing back in front of my eyes and I was asking myself: “Seriously? Will this be the end of my life? My dreams? My ambition? Will I die here and now without being able to say goodbye to my mother? Will this be IT?” These few minutes felt like a life time till the moment I heard someone calling me to move to the safe room.
There: Female colleagues were in tears, panic wore the faces, unanswered questions in the air, a male colleague burst into tears unable to manage his fear. We were stuck in the moment and not knowing whether we would be able to make it to our families.
Outside and on our ways home: Rubble was all around the area, broken doors, destroyed cars, exploded bakeries, shattered glass all over the streets, ambulance sirens, a sound hardly heard before in my city, and above all: dead bodies missing arms or legs, laying in the middle of this chaos waiting for a pause in this madness or at least an explanation.
And my bubble exploded!
Now I wake up in the middle of my sleep, wondering: Was it a nightmare that started on the 26th of March? Can anyone undo all this? Or are we still suffering from being stranded inside our country? Meanwhile our government lives in exile not knowing what we are going through and the whole world is acting deaf and mute to our struggle.
Seeing fear in my mother’s eyes every day I leave home for my work place, and happiness when I make it back safe and sound, I leave my house every day praying that when I come back I will still find my house and my mother, knowing that nothing can guarantee this. And I am checking on my friends and extended family every day to make sure they are still alive.
P.S. A question by a friend: “What will you do when this war ends?”
I reply immediately: “I will LIVE.”