Yemenis flee capital to escape airstrikes

Yemenis flee capital to escape airstrikes
Feature: As Arab Coalition airstrikes continue to hit Sanaa and other governorates, many residents are fleeing to their villages to escape the bombs.
4 min read
31 March, 2015
Residents flees as airstrikes continue on Sanaa [Anadolu]
Thousands of families have been forced to leave their houses in Sanaa and surrounding areas to escape airstrikes being carried out as part of operation Decisive Storm.

The strikes carried out by Arab coaltion fighter jets have hit residential neighbourhoods close to airports and military bases in the Yemeni capital. Many have been killed and injured, including women and children.

Ali al-Harrazi, a small shop owner who lives close to a military base in the Jabal Naqim area, one of the large mountains surrounding Sanaa, was forced to flee the area.
     The strikes carried out by Arab coaltion fighter jets have hit residential neighbourhoods close to airports and military bases.

"I borrowed money to transport my family of 15 and important items to a relative's house in Sanaa's Musaik district," Harrazi explained.

The shop owner says they are now living in uncomfortable conditions because his relative’s house is too small to accomodate two large families. He hopes the airstrikes will stop so his family can return home. Despite previous wars, this is the first time his family have been forced to leave their home.

Harrazi also fears his house, which he spent all of his life savings on building, could be bombed. "The house that shelters me and my family is the only thing I own in the world. I am scared it will be destroyed in the attacks. If this happens the government will not compensate me, and I will not be able to build another one," he explained.

Operation Decisive Storm airstrikes are also targeting military bases and positions in a number of Yemeni governorates besides Sanaa. However, many of the capital's residents are fleeing to these areas because they originate from them and they have a lower population density.

After fleeing to al-Mahweet governorate Ibrahim al-Haffashi describes staying in the capital as "a risk". He fled to his family's village despite the difficulties and challenges of life there. "I knew my family would suffer in the village because it lacks many services, however I moved them here to protect their lives," he said.

Haffashi had to take his children out of school and leave his government job so they could move to the remote mountain village that is largely unaffected by the war.

In Sanaa, an employee at a well-know restaurant chain complained about a drop in custom and revenues since Operation Decisive Storm began. This has led to a number of employees losing their jobs. In addition,he said: "People are not spending money on restaurant food and are saving up in case of an emergency due to the war."

Houses are not a target

Despite the high numbers leaving the capital, many families have also remained despite the daily bombing. They do not want to leave their properties, livelihoods or schools.
     Most residents left the city during the civil war between north and south Yemen in 1994.

Sabri al-Khaldi explained that although his family had a house in Taiz village in central Yemen, he did not want to move there because, he argued, airstrikes are targeting military positions controlled by the Houthi group not houses.

"We will stay in Sanaa until we feel directly threatened by, for example, the intentional bombing of houses or a lack of food or water,” Khaldi explained. His family were forced to leave Sanaa in 2011 when water supplies were cut off in the city.

Shawqi al-Abbasi, a journalist specialising in population issues believes many of the city's residents quickly fled because most are not originally from Sanaa. He told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "Most local residents are not fleeing to camps, but to their houses in the other governorates."

Most residents left the city during the civil war between north and south Yemen in 1994, when scud missiles began falling on houses.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has said violence by multiple groups is increasing in 11 our of Yemen's 22 governorates. From 20 to 26 March, 267 civilians were killed and 994 injured. This includes the 143 civilians that were killed and 382 injured in bombings targeting two mosques in the north and centre of Sanaa on 20 March.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. 

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.