Looking Back at a Year of Bloodshed in Yemen

We’ve traveled to Yemen twice in the last two years. Once in 2014, prior to the Houthi takeover, and again in September and October of 2015 after Saudi airstrikes had decimated much of the country. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the beginning of the Saudi military campaign in the country. The UN special envoy has said that the warring parties have agreed to a ceasefire starting April 10th, and a new round of peace talks beginning in Kuwait on April 18. The below is an account of our time reporting from Yemen in 2015—the people we met and the destruction we witnessed firsthand.

We were walking down a street in the center of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, feeling relaxed for the first time since we had arrived two weeks earlier. Most of the city was dark, except for a few windows, gently lit by candles, or the headlights of cars driven fast by nervous men with a reason to risk being out at night.

We’d celebrated making it to the end of a tense and often terrifying shoot by visiting the old city for kebabs. The young men cooking the skewers of minced meat on glowing charcoals smiled at us, waving their hands dismissively as anti-aircraft tracer s lit up the sky and the now-familiar thud and boom of airstrikes followed. The missile strikes in Sanaa weren’t as frightening as the ones we had seen in the north, mostly because they came in predictable batches and hit generally the same areas, which people in the capital knew to avoid. There would be about half a dozen late at night , then another half a dozen or so just before dawn.

As we walked back to our hotel, our bellies full, a fighter jet flew in low and seemed to suck the air from around us. A terrific whooshing sound instantly filled the street, like a scream as loud as thunder. Suddenly, the earth seemed to tilt sideways . Something exploded just ahead of us. The other silhouettes on the street vanished and we staggered into a nearby shop as broken glass fell to the floor. I was carrying a friend’sfour year-old nephew on my shoulders and struggl ing to stay on my feet.

We ran back to the hotel and everyone took cover in the stairwell. The staff and a few families looked terrified as each blast shook the walls around us. They had been experiencing this for eight months, but hadn’t been able to get used to it.

yemen-body-image-1458934003-size_1000

A plane wreckage at Sanaa’s airport. Photo by Peter Salisbury

You see the results of this bombing campaign as soon as you arrive in Sanaa. At the city’s main airport, several destroyed planes still sit on the tarmac next to the main runway. Nearby, military bases, officer academies , and weapons depots have all been obliterated.

Civilian homes have also been hit, sometimes seemingly at random. Basic infrastructurehas been targeted as if the pilots of the fighter jets or their paymasters are becoming frustrated by the fact they are still far from any kind of victory. Sometimes targets that have already been hit many times are hit again; a house belonging to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s son was hit several times over the course of a few weeks even though it had already been flattened. It seems wrong to call a bombing campaign that has so far involved over 40,000 air strikes petulant, but that it is how it often seems. The morning after we’d been caught out in the open we found out what the target had been: a cemetery.

According to the UN, at least 6,000 people have been killed so far in Yemen’s civil war, roughly half of them civilians. That number only includes those who died in a medical facility so the actual number is certainly much higher. The majority of deaths have been caused by airstrikes launched by the Saudi-led military coalition.

 

Read More: http://www.vice.com/read/yemen-saudi-conflict-anniversary?utm_source=vicetwitterus

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Al-Monitor: How much more can Yemen’s heritage sites take?

How much more can Yemen’s heritage sites take?

SANAA, Yemen — One of the oldest civilizations in the world in one of the poorest and most troubled countries of the Middle East is facing a tough cultural crisis. Yemen, which extends over a surface area of 528,000 square kilometers (204,000 square miles), abounds with the antiquities of various cultures, the oldest of which dates back 3,000 years. The civil war that the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, is participating in, alongside President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government, is a scar in humanity’s civilization.

Summary⎙ Print The ancient city of Sanaa in conflict-torn Yemen is at risk of complete destruction as its historical landmarks keep taking one blow after the other.
Author

TranslatorPascale el-Khoury

An overview of the Old City of Sanaa that is on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List shows the extent to which the city and its heritage have been tarnished by the missiles of fighters. Over 6,000 historical houses whose renovation dates back to nine centuries have been reduced to remnants and occupy a surface area on which five houses were built before an Arab coalition missile hit them.

In mid-June 2015, Saudi-led military coalition airstrikes bombed the historic al-Qasimi neighborhood in Sanaa’s city center, destroying five historic houses. Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, said in a statement published June 12 that she was distressed by the damage done to the oldest jewels of Islamic civilization and called on all parties to keep the heritage sites out of the circle of conflict.

The neighborhood is one of dozens of historic archaeological sites in Yemen destroyed by the coalition airstrikes and local attacks resulting from the armed conflict between supporters of Hadi, the internationally recognized president, and the armed Houthis and their ally, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The country known historically as “Arabia Felix” (in Latin), meaning happy Arabia, is no longer as fortunate, facing a threat of destruction of its history and heritage.

On Sept. 19, the airstrikes hit al-Falihi neighborhood and killed 10 members of the same family: Hafaz Allah Ahmad al-Ayni, his wife, Houria Saad al-Hadid, and their children Nassim, Ahmad, twins Maria and Maram, Mohammad, Ali, Malak and Yehya. The shelling destroyed yet another historical house and damaged a number of nearby houses.

Amt al-Rzaq Jhaf, the undersecretary of the General Authority to Maintain Historic Sites, told Al-Monitor, “The coalition airstrikes destroyed 52 archaeological sites, notably Asaad al-Kamal cave in Ibb province, the Cairo Citadel in Taiz province, Awam Temple, the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of Bran, Baraqish graveyard, the Great Dam of Marib and the historical walls of the city of Saada.”

Jhaf accused Saudi Arabia of violating the Hague Convention, stressing the need to protect cultural property during armed conflict. “Saudi Arabia is disregarding the feelings of millions of people passionate about Yemeni architecture,” she said.

Amid the raging war in Yemen, and following UNESCO’s calls not to target historical sites, one can only bank on the ethics of the fighting parties.

The Kawkaban fortified citadel, 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Sanaa, has managed to preserve its strength and beauty for 18 centuries, but on Feb. 14 it was destroyed by the shelling from missiles of the coalition aircraft.

The General Authority to Maintain Historic Sites condemned the destruction of the citadel in a statement published Feb. 15 and said that it targeted history, heritage and human values.

On Nov. 21, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast near the archaeological old walled city of Shibam, in eastern Yemen’s Hadramawt province, 990 kilometers (615 miles) from the capital Sanaa. The blast that targeted a military checkpoint of Yemeni troops wreaked havoc in the city that dates to the 16th century and is famous for its fenced mud-brick high-rise buildings that rise up to more than 30 meters (98 feet) in the middle of a vast desert.

Hassan Aideed, director general of the General Authority to Maintain Historic Sites in Hadramawt, told Al-Monitor, “The blast caused the historical city serious harm. The city’s walls and mud houses were damaged.”

Aideed called on the international organizations supporting the Yemeni architectural heritage, such as UNESCO, to intervene quickly to save around 160 damaged houses in Seiyun.

Aideed told Al-Monitor, “Due to the bombing, the historical buildings nearby suffered from cracks and several families have been displaced while they wait for the buildings to be renovated.”

Shibam, known as the “Manhattan of the Desert,” is a haven for desert tourism lovers. Inhabited by 7,000 people, the city includes about 500 buildings from five to 11 stories. It was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1982.

In the southern province of Taiz, two prominent historical landmarks were ravaged by the internal armed conflict, ongoing in the province for nearly a year now.

On Feb. 3, the National Museum in Taiz came under artillery fire. The museum, which includes rare manuscripts and pre-Islamic and traditional artifacts, was almost completely burned.

The Cairo Citadel, built a thousand years ago, was ravaged by the aircraft shelling that targeted it more than once.

The Houthi forces, officially called Ansar Allah, backed by troops loyal to Saleh, seized the historic citadel and its fortified fence in March 2015. They set up cannons to bombard the city and the sites affiliated with the Popular Resistance loyal to Hadi, which turned the city into a target for the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.

The historical Marib Dam was hit by an air raid on May 31, 2015, which destroyed ancient Sabaean inscriptions carved on its walls. Marib province is located to the east of the capital Sanaa and was the largest ancient city in the south of the Arabian Peninsula.

The city hosts many important cultural landmarks such as Bran Temple, Awam Temple and Cemetery and Marib Dam, which is considered an architectural wonder. These cultural landmarks are all included in the World Heritage Sites in Yemen.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which controls the southern city of Mukalla in Yemen, destroyed on April 2, 2015, a number of Sufi shrines and domes built in 1158, alleging that these shrines promote polytheism.

The destruction of a number of unique cultural heritage landmarks in Yemen caused the country to lose an important part of its civilization and creative legacy.

The monuments that remain standing are struggling to survive. UNESCO in July 2015 included Sanaa and Shibam on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites, thereby sending a message to the warring parties to stop destroying history and sounding the alarm that those areas are under threat of destruction.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/03/yemen-civil-war-saudi-strikes-destroy-historical-buildings.html#ixzz44Bqs3YXK

BBC – UK Report on Saudi Airstrikes (British and US bombs)

Ahmed Sharif stood on top of a mound of rubble, waving a dinner plate. “The Saudis attacked this,” he said. “There was no weapons facility. There was no military site. This was a tourist attraction.”

He descended from the wreckage of a house that had stood for 1,400 years to gave me a tour of Kawkaban – an ancient citadel perched on a cliff top. Locals say this Yemeni treasure was hit by Saudi airstrikes in February, killing seven civilians. Mr. Sharif’s brother-in-law was one of them. He pointed to fragments of clothing in among the rubble. “That’s what’s left of him,” he said.

The dead of Kawkaban are among at least 3,200 civilians killed here in the past year. The United Nations says most were victims of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. A UN panel has accused the Saudis and their allies of bombing schools, health facilities, wedding parties and camps for the displaced.

‘The pain is so intense’

Saudi Arabia says it makes every effort to avoid hitting civilian targets, but that’s little consolation to the burn victim we met in hospital in Sanaa.

Abdel Bari Omar survived an airstrike outside the city last month, but only just. The van driver lay in bed, bandaged from the chest down. He was transporting gas cylinders when the fighter jets struck.

“The pain is so intense only God can understand,” he said, through trembling lips. “Whatever way I turn I am in agony. I’m afraid this pain will stop my heart.” His other fear is about the future of his children now their breadwinner has burns on more than 40% of his body.

Abdel Bari Omar
Image captionAbdel Bari Omar was transporting gas cylinders when fighter jets struck

Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign was supposed to reinstate Yemen’s ousted President, Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and contain the Shia Houthi rebels who drove him out.

Riyadh claims they are puppets of its regional rival, Iran. A year on, the president remains out of sight, and the Houthis remain in control of the capital.

“We can keep fighting forever,” said Mohamed Ali Al Houthi, the rebel leader who occupies the Presidency building, and has a traditional dagger in his waistband. “If they continue the war we are ready for that, and if they want peace we want it even more.”

The Houthis too are accused of killing innocent civilians by indiscriminate shelling – something they deny. But the troubling questions here aren’t only for the warring parties.

The British connection

Yemeni businessman Ghalib al-Sawary wants to know why Britain has played a role in ruining his life’s work.

He walked me through the wreckage of Radfan Ceramics, a factory outside Sanaa that employed 350 people before the war. Airstrikes last year – which reportedly killed one man – reduced the factory to a shell.

“We built it over 20 years,” he said, “but to destroy it took only 20 minutes.”

Mr Sawary showed me hunks of mangled metal bearing the label of a British manufacturer – GEC Marconi Dynamics – which he says were recovered after the airstrike. He keeps plenty of them, under lock and key. The campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has identified the remnants are part of a British made cruise missile.

Factory in Matnah, Yemen, allegedly destroyed by Saudi-led coalition using British-made bomb
Image captionThe ceramics factory in Matnah was allegedly destroyed by a British-made bomb

For Mr Sawary the pain of loss was heightened by the origin of the weapon. “I studied in Britain in 1988. We respect the British people and we like them,” he said, “but we are blaming them for supplying this weapon.”

Campaigners say the attack on the factory – which appeared to be producing only civilian goods – was an apparent violation of the laws of war. They believe it may also have violated the UK’s rules on arms exports.

A British government spokesman denied there had been any breach and said the UK had robust controls for arms exports.

At a police station in Sanaa, Yemeni security officials put a US made cluster bomb unit on display. They claim it was dropped in the Western suburbs in January scattering deadly bomb-lets over a civilian area. They produced several from a pink plastic shopping bag. The coalition has denied using the weapons, which have been banned by more than 100 countries.

Cluster bomb allegedly dropped on Yemen by Saudi-led coalition
Image captionThe Saudi-led coalition has denied allegations that it is using cluster bombs in Yemen

Much of the death and destruction here in the past 12 months has gone unseen – one more war in a troubled region.

“Yemen was already forgotten, prior to the escalation of the conflict,” said Johannes van der Klaauw, of the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR. He believes the crisis has not had the attention it deserves in part because Yemenis aren’t reaching Europe’s shores.

“I am afraid there is a link,” he said. “I see that the international community and particularly Europe has now galvanised more support and also political action because the Syrians and the Iraqis are coming in large numbers to Europe. If the Yemenis would do the same I am sure there would be more attention for Yemen.”

For most Yemenis there is no hope of escape, but more peace talks are planned for next month, to be accompanied by a ceasefire.

Whatever the outcome, UN officials fear that one year of war has set the Arab world’s poorest country back decades.

( http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35901321 )

غارات للتحالف العربي بقيادة السعودية قتلت مئات المدنيين في اليمن

مواطنة: غارات للتحالف العربي بقيادة السعودية قتلت مئات المدنيين في اليمن

قالت منظمة مواطنة لحقوق الانسان ان الغارات الجوية التي تنفذها قوات التحالف العربي بقيادة السعودية قتلت وجرحت مئات المدنيين في اليمن منذ بدء حملتها العسكرية باليمن في 26 مارس الماضي في انتهاك جسيم لحقوق الانسان والقانون الدولي الإنساني والقانون الدولي لحقوق الانسان.

وطالبت مواطنة السعودية وقوات التحالف الكف عن انتهاك القانون الدولي الإنساني وسرعة وقف استهداف المدنيين والبنية التحتية والمنشآت والأعيان المدنية ووضع حد لاستهداف الأماكن التي قد يلحق الهجوم عليها أضراراً بالمدنيين.

جاء ذلك في تقرير أطلقته المنظمة يوثق سقوط المدنيين في اليمن بالضربات الجوية لقوات التحالف العربي منذ بدء حملتها العسكرية في اليمن أواخر مارس الماضي  بطلب من الرئيس عبد ربه منصور هادي وحتى شهر اكتوبر 2015م.

واشتمل التقرير الذي حمل عنوان ” غارات عمياء” على نحو44 ضربة جوية شنتها مقاتلات التحالف العربي في البلاد وحققت فيها مواطنة من خلال البحث الميداني وتنفيذ مقابلات مع 155 شخص من الضحايا الناجين، أهالي الضحايا، شهود عيان ومصادر طبية.

وسلط الضوء على عدد من الوقائع تحققت منها المنظمة منذ بدء العمليات العسكرية الجوية للتحالف في اليمن في تسع محافظات يمنية هي: صنعاء، تعز، لحج، إب، الحديدة، صعدة، حجة، البيضاء وذمار.

وكشف التقرير توصل التحقيقات الى ان هذه الضربات قتلت 615 مدنياً على الأقل، بينهم 120 امرأة و220 طفلاً، وإصابة 678 آخرين، بينهم 125 امرأة و167 طفلاً في تسع محافظات يمنية. وطالت معظم هذه الضربات مناطق بعيدة عن الأهداف العسكرية كالمعسكرات ومناطق تجمع المسلحين.

وقالت رضية المتوكل، رئيسة منظمة مواطنة لحقوق الانسان انه من المؤسف جداً ان تستمر حالة النكران التي يتبناها التحالف تجاه الضحايا المدنيين الذين سقطوا بغارته على اليمن، محملة دول التحالف المسؤولية الجنائية والأخلاقية لهذه الانتهاكات التي ترقى الى جرائم حرب.

وقدم التقرير مصفوفة من التوصيات لأطراف النزاع والفاعلين المحليين والاقليميين والدوليين في الصراع الجاري في اليمن للأخذ بها من اجل الحد من استمرار سقوط الضحايا المدنيين والإضرار بمصالحهم.

ودعا السعودية الى اجراء تحقيق محايد وشفاف في الوقائع الواردة في التقرير وأي وقائع أخرى نتج عنها سقوط ضحايا مدنيين، والإعلان عن نتائج هذا التحقيق، وتقديم المسؤولين عنها للمحاكمة.

وشدد التقرير على المطالبة بإنشاء لجنة دولية للتحقيق في انتهاكات قوات التحالف الجسيمة للقانون الإنساني الدولي والقانون الدولي لحقوق الإنسان.
وشددت المتوكل: ” على المجتمع الدولي الخروج عن دائرة الاحجام المُخزي والتصرف بمسؤولية تجاه الانتهاكات التي تُرتكب يومياً من قوات التحالف والأطراف الأخرى في اليمن ضد المدنيين، على المجتمع الدولي ان يدرك انه يتحول تدريجياً الى عامل في اهدار العدالة ومساندة الجلاد في مواجهة ضحايا انتهاكات حقوق الانسان في اليمن.”

البيان: البيان الصحفي

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Press Release

Mwatana: Airstrikes of Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition killed

hundreds of civilians in Yemen

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s aerial attacks in Yemen have led to the killing and injury of hundreds of civilians since March 26, 2015, in flagrant violation for International Humanitarian Law, Mwatana Organization for Human Rights said in a report it released today.

The Report, ” Blind Airstrikes”, Civilian victims of Saudi Arabia-led coalition’ air strikes in Yemen, highlights  the details of  44  incidents of  aerial attacks by Saudi Arabia-led coalition that killed 615 civilians including 120 women and 220 children, and injured 678 others among whom at least 125 women and 167 children.

Mwatana Organization for Human Rights has documented the 44 incidents of unlawful airstrikes through carrying out a field research and conducting interviews with 155 persons including surviving victims, families of the victims, eye- witnesses and medical sources in nine Yemeni provinces: Sana’a, Taiz, Lahj, Ibb, Hodeidah, Sa’adah Hajjah, AL-Baidha and Dhamar, from 26 March to October 2015.

Mwatana called on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all state members of its led coalition to stop  violating International Humanitarian Law and its relevant Instruments particularly and immediately halt targeting civilians, infrastructure and civil institutions and locations the target of which may bring damage to civilians.

The report states that these attacks, which came at the request of Yemeni President Abdraboo Mansoor Hadi to restore his legitimacy, targeted non-military locations and populated areas with no military presence.

The Report calls on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to carry-out an impartial and transparent inquiry on the alleged attacks featured in this report and any other airstrikes led to civilian casualties and to declare findings of investigation for the public and to hold those responsible accountable bringing them into justice.

” It is very regrettable this denial by Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition to the fact that these aerial attacks did target civilian objects in Yemen and thus resulted in loss of civilian lives and injures.  Said Radhya al-Mutawakel, chairperson of Mwatana Organization for Human Rights

Mrs. al-Mutawakel holds the Saudi Arabia-led coalition the full legal and ethical responsibility for these violations which may tantamount to war crimes.

The Report concludes with a matrix of recommendations directed to all warring parties and to local, regional and international players and actors in the on-going conflict in Yemen, to put an end for the continuous loss of civilians’ lives and  sabotaging their own their interests.

The Report emphatically calls for the formulation of an international commission to investigate all violations attributed to Saudi Arabia-led coalition that breach the International Humanitarian Law.

“International community is has to get out of its discreditable inaction and act responsibly  towards such flagrant war violations against civilians committed by Saudi Arabia-led coalition and other warring parties in Yemen. International community must realize that it is gradually turning into an actor in compromising justice and will, thus, be supportive to perpetrators against victims of human rights violations.”  al-Mutawakel asserted .

Press Release –