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Two years of all-out lawlessness plagues Yemen Open in fullscreen

Khalid Al-Karimi

Two years of all-out lawlessness plagues Yemen

Taez, after clashes between pro-government militants loyal to President Hadi, and Houthi rebels [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 December, 2016

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Comment: Two years have gone by, and Yemen's people are still besieged by violence, food insecurity and deadly diseases, writes Khalid Al-Karimi.

Yemen is bidding 2016 farewell, and welcomes 2017 with countless miseries.

It was April, 2015, when Yemen began to shake horribly. Today, it lies in an abysmal abyss.

In September, 2014, Houthi rebels took over Sanaa, establishing their presence in the state institutions. Despite this, they appeared to remain on good terms with the internationally recognised president, Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi.

In early 2015, the Houthi militants, who officially call themselves Ansar Allah, placed Hadi under house arrest. This came as shocking news to Yemenis. Backed by forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Houthis shook up power, and paved the way for a fresh status in the country.

In February, 2015, they announced what they described the "constitutional declaration", dissolving the country's parliament. A new and unexpected Yemen was initiated.

At the time, Yemenis were worried over such an escalation, and while the president was under house arrest, no one could predict what would happen next.

But the people of Yemen could not have envisioned that the three week house arrest of the president would open a door to hell. Today, it is a hell in the truest sense of the word, and over the past two years, the country has been beset by lawlessness.

Welcome to war

The house arrest of the president did not last long. On 21 February, he surprisingly announced he was in Aden, Yemen's second largest city. It was a stealthy and well-prepared escape. Many people thought it would be possible for the legitimate government to survive and exercise power from Aden, but that was not realistic either. The civil war was lying in wait.

In March of 2015, Yemen opened a new chapter of violence, and war spread like wildfire

In March of 2015,Yemen opened a new chapter of violence, and war spread like wildfire. The Houthis and allied forces invaded the South, crushing all the rival forces on the way to Aden. They also arrested the Hadi government's defense minister on the battlefield.

Yemenis were baffled. The defense minister was taken into Houthi custody and government forces were incapable of standing in their way. Another shock followed when the anti-government forces entered Aden, seeking to catch the president. Yet, the president fled to Saudi Arabia, leaving his final refuge.

2015 continued with further astonishing developments in Yemen. In the night of March 26 of 2015, the war from the sky began. People in Yemen's capital Sanaa, including myself, woke up to a thunder-like blasts. It was not easy to guess what it was.

Some hurried to check the latest news. Others just waited for the morning to see what had happened. Finally, they discovered it was the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm.

The first airstrikes on Sanaa bombed Houthi-held Sanaa International Airport. The intention was to paralyse the Houthi-controlled state air force. 

Today, the country is divided, exhausted and destroyed by the two-year conflict

Yemen was under siege in a blink of an eye. No one could travel easily and imports could not enter the country smoothly. De-escalation of the war looked increasingly unlikely. Since then, the country has been reduced to a battleground for the pro-government forces, Houthi militants and allied forces.  

Following almost four months of fighting in Aden in 2015, pro-government forces backed by Saudi-led coalition ground forces and airstrikes seized the city. Houthis and allied forces lost, leaving behind a city filled with debris. Today, the battles continue on various front lines, and one party's battle loss is not an end to the war.

Two years have gone by, and Yemen's people are still besieged by violence, food insecurity and deadly diseases. 

The sky harbours warplanes and fierce armed clashes persist on the ground in several parts of the country.

Searching for peace

Concerted efforts to end Yemen's conflict in its first year did not help, and to date, no significant headway has been made.  

Yemenis have grown cynical about peace talks between the warring sides in Yemen

In June of 2015, the first round of peace negotiations began in Geneva. Grassroots organisations in Yemen were glad that the opponents would engage in talks. But that same month, the talks ended, yielding no fruit.  

Despite this, hope did not fade away. The UN sponsored another round of negotiations in August in Biel, Switzerland. Peace efforts there also evaporated. A third round of talks was held in Kuwait in May of 2016 but the result was no different.

After two years of war, Yemenis are frustrated that the peace talks have made no positive difference on the ground. This has led the people to be skeptical about the value of diplomatic debates. They have grown cynical about peace talks between the warring sides in Yemen. 

Today, the country is divided, exhausted and destroyed by the two-year conflict.

A bleak present and an unknown future

Security, food and medication are hard to find. Salaries, services and safety no longer exist. People have been bearing the war tragedies for the last two years. This is definitely attributed to the lawlessness which began in April, 2015. Almost a single day does not elapse, without deaths or injuries.

Security, food and medication are hard to find. Salaries, services and safety no longer exist

Yemen's present is bleak, and bloodshed has become the norm. The basic services that its government maintained prior to April 2015 are all but a memory.

According to the UN report , 19 out of 22 Yemeni provinces have been facing severe food insecurity, adding that over half the country's population is living in emergency levels of food insecurity.  

In August, 2015, a UN official said at least 10,000 Yemeni people had been killed since early 2015. Three million had been displaced and 200,000 sought refuge overseas. Hearing such tragedies from afar breaks hearts, but experiencing them first hand destroys lives.

Yemen today exists without a functioning Central Bank, and its people are struggling with a war on two fronts; both economic and military.

2015 and 2016 have left grim memories of war. As a new year begins, the future of the country remains ambiguous. Yemenis now pleadingly ask: Will peace draw nearer in 2017?


Khalid Al-Karimi is a freelance reporter and translator. He is a staff member of the Sanaa-based Yemeni Media Center and previously worked as a full-time editor and reporter for the Yemen Times newspaper.

Follow him on Twitter: @Khalidkarimi205

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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