Ramadan in Yemen: The bloodshed continues

Ramadan in Yemen: The bloodshed continues
4 min read
13 Jun, 2017
Comment: The recent diplomatic crisis in in the Gulf risks diverting the attention from Yemen's continuing, brutal civil war, writes Khalid Al-Karimi.
This is the third year that Ramadan in Yemen has been marred by war [AFP]

Yemen is at war, and Ramadan this year will not pass without bloodshed. For three consecutive years now, Yemeni citizens have endured a Ramadan devoid of joy or peace.

Just a week into the holy month, a bomb went off at a market in northern Yemen, killing and wounding at least 20 civilians who were out food shopping, or running their businesses.

The month of Ramadan is intended to be a time for spirituality, repentance and the attainment of God's grace and mercy. Sadly, the conflicting rivals in Yemen display no reverence for Ramadan, or for human life.

As a Muslim country, the people of Yemen cherish this month and all those capable of fasting do so. The fighters on the front lines also fast in Yemen. They refrain from food and water in obedience to God, yet they engage in bloodshed in obedience to their commanders.

Since the beginning of this holy month, the fighting on numerous front lines has intensified, and the number of lives lost continues to accumulate.

Common sense appears to have vanished from the country's leaders, intolerance is engulfing society and the thirst for revenge is spreading like wildfire. The Ramadan atrocities stand as a solid proof. Last week, armed confrontations also killed dozens of fighters in Taiz from both sides.

Intolerance is engulfing society and the thirst for revenge is spreading like wildfire

A verse in the Holy Quran goes "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint."

What is taking place, however, is exactly the reverse. Self-restraint is absent from the hearts and minds of Yemen's  warring rivals this Ramadan.

Reckless leaders and futile peace efforts

Today, more than 17 million people in Yemen desperately need food aid, and a cholera epidemic is sweeping the country. The UN has warned the entire country is heading towards total collapse. 

In spite of this, the heads of the warring factions are doing nothing to de-escalate the conflict.

In Yemen, two governments are running a polarised country

The war has devastated Yemenis for over two years. Poverty has taken a heavy toll on them. Now, the cholera outbreak constitutes another health risk nationwide. If these catastrophes are not able to make Yemen's warmongers see reason, what is?

In Yemen, two governments are running a polarised country. While the government in the north does little to mitigate the suffering of the people, the government in the south keeps flying from Riyadh to Aden, confining its job to making press statements.

  Read more: Yemen cholera has infected over 100,000, killing several hundreds

UN peace efforts have made no positive change on the ground, and seem unable to go beyond attempting to bring Yemen's opponents to the negotiating table. If the UN does not act to expand its role, the conflict will continue to rage.

When UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Sanaa last month, he was received by angry crowds who hurled eggs at his convoy. Ahmed had hoped to negotiate a truce during the month of Ramadan, as well as the handover of Hodeida port and the payment of public employees' salaries.

UN peace efforts have made no positive change on the ground

Spending a few days in Sanaa, he departed empty-handed and no such breakthrough was achieved, demostrating that the UN diplomats who strive to help end the conflict in Yemen have lost their influence. For over two years, the UN-sponsored peace talks have been at a stalemate.

The year-long UN-sponsored Yemen National Dialogue Conference was scuppered in late 2014, when Sanaa fell to the Houthis and allied forces. Today, the UN is unable to persuade or coerce the warring sides to reach an agreement on just a one-month truce.  

In an furious move against the UN envoy, the Sanaa government this week has banned him from returning to Sanaa, calling him "undesirable."

Abandoning a people

Yemenis are being abandoned by their war-loving leaders, and the international community. In addition, the recent astonishing tensions in the Gulf risk diverting the attention from Yemen war to the Gulf's deepening rifts.

Yemen cannot expect the solution to its problems to come from beyond its borders. When the external players in the war become preoccupied with their own issues, Yemen will be further forgotten. This Ramadan, Yemenis must help bring an end to the violence that threatens to be the end of their country.

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.