What the civil war is doing to Yemenis

What the civil war is doing to Yemenis
4 min read
20 Apr, 2015
Comment: The civil war in Yemen is the worst the country has ever suffered, and it will deeply scar its people, says Bushra al-Maqtari.
Yemenis wait to fill their containers with drinking water in Sanaa [Anadolu]
There have been several civil wars in Yemen's recent history, for which the country has paid a high price. But the war currently being fought is definitely the most violent and complicated.

During the previous wars in Yemen, neither the society nor the subsequent governments ever sought to uproot the causes of the conflict. The war caused social and political tensions that were never addressed, and transitional governments never successfully resolved the national crises or eased tensions, which were only deferred by political settlements.

The policies and measures of the "national consensus" or "unanimous" governments only isolated the Yemeni society once again in peacetime and hampered its recovery.

A war on two fronts

The civil war currently being fought is definitely the most violent and complicated of all the civil wars in Yemen's recent history.

A violent war has been imposed on the Yemenis who are fighting on two fronts: an external front represented by the Saudi-led coalition to protect the president-in-exile, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and an internal conflict.

The forces of the Houthi movement and its allies are fighting in defence of national sovereignty. The Houthi popular forces need to feel they belong to a strong military force, and to believe that the group is a resistance force, akin to Hizballah in Lebanon.

Forces loyal to the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, are fighting because their interests were threatened by the 2011 revolution. While allied with the Houthis, the pro-Saleh forces see the war a chance to restore their social and political influence.

The complications emerging from the alliances at home have set Yemeni society in a constant fight against itself. Many wars are taking place at once; a war alongside or against the Saudi intervention, a civil war in the south, a sectarian war in central Yemen.

Nonetheless, there are two justifications for Yemen's infighting; it is either in defence of Hadi's legitimate government or in defence of Yemen's sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the situation is Yemen is likely to deteriorate at all levels, signalling a definite humanitarian catastrophe.

According to the most recent survey conducted by the EU-affiliated Freedom House organisation in Yemen, 2,571 people have died across the country, including 381 children and 214 women, while 3,897 others were injured, including 618 children and 455 women. Besides, 334 residential compounds came under attack, 2265 houses were destroyed and 91 houses were demolished on their inhabitants.

Because of non-stop missile attacks and armed clashes in residential areas, over 35,000 families have been displaced and the economic crisis continued to deteriorate with every passing day.

Because of non-stop missile attacks and armed clashes in residential areas, over 35,000 families have been displaced.

Businesses, companies and most factories dismissed around 1,000 employees and Yemen ran out of food and fuel.

The clashes have also left the country's main power station in Maareb out of service, bringing daily life to a complete halt.

The Yemenis have turned into pawns in the hands of political and regional alignments and political rivals settle their differences by force of arms.

This has threatened the social unity of the Yemenis and left society unable to free itself from the choices of the feuding politicians. It has also hampered the formation of a force from within the society to defend the livelihood of the people.

The use of weapons and the intolerant language used by Yemen's rivals silenced civil society, which is unable to practice any form of peaceful resistance.

Other regional and sectarian forces have mobilised the people and justified their use of weapons and violence.

Yemen's civil society, known for its peaceful behaviour in all political battles it waged against previous political regimes, is now at risk. This movement has always represented a safety valve for Yemeni society and its aspirations, and has successfully prevented it from slipping into violence.

The paralysis that plagues Yemen today is just scary, and so is the absence of any civil voice that could protect what remains of the country.

Today, many worn-out Yemenis are left with no choice in the face of the internal violence and the unprecedented divide in Yemeni society.

Faced with a tragic reality they did not choose, these Yemenis refuse to become a cover for local and regional interests, or mouthpieces for the Houthis or Saleh. However, they are unable to realise their dream of safeguarding their country and restoring its unity.

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

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.