The abduction of a country

Ezzadin Al-Asbahi
Wednesday 8 Sep 2021

If the world had dealt with the matter more seriously — as well as with Yemeni society, its parties, intellectuals, and various social figures — the collapse of the Yemeni state may have ended a long time ago

Despite my tight clinging to every glimmer of hope, any glittering flash in an obscure sky, the severe deterioration of the Yemeni situation is unspeakable, making one feel desperately pessimistic.

Since the fall of Sana’a on September 21, 2014, to the hands of the Houthi militia, Yemen has experienced an unprecedented rupture.

It is as if it is the destiny of this beautiful country to undergo successive episodes of suffering and oppression before it can rise again, as has been the case time and again throughout its long history.

When the famous Dam of Mareb collapsed thousands of years ago, Yemenis at the time kept asking Allah to make the spaces longer between their journeys, as if misery and torment were a genuine Yemeni hobby.

As the gracious verse described, Yemenis asked for the torment themselves: “But they said: ‘Our Lord! Make spaces longer between our journeys,’ and they wronged themselves. So, we made them tales, narrated from generation to generation, and scattered them with an utter scattering. Most surely there are signs (lessons) in this for every patient, grateful one.” (Surat Saba, Verse 19, The Noble Koran)

Travel and diaspora have been intrinsically Yemeni attributes since then, and a new journey for Yemeni diaspora began on September 21, 2014, when Sana’a, the capital, was stormed by Houthi militias — who announced that the destruction of the state’s institutions is about to begin, ushering in a new agonising chapter in Yemeni history.

At the time, Sana’a had lived through terrifying days of bombings and killings. The world remained silent as it watched Yemenis get slaughtered, with no one stepping up to be an advocate or supporter to the Yemeni cause, as if the prayers of their forefathers were being answered.

The devastating collapse Yemen witnessed since the Houthis took control of Sana’a on September 21, 2014, has indeed been one of the most prominent cases of institutional collapse the country has ever seen.

The world tried after this disaster to conceal the tragedy by putting an end to the militia’s labeling of the collapse as a major achievement. The international community also tried to keep the Yemeni government afloat by maintaining the very few remaining fragile institutions, but total collapse was inevitable.

The fragile situation reached its climax when the Houthi militias commenced a siege on the government and started making assassination attempts on President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the head of the government at the time, Khaled Bahah.

Several international organisations and media organisations have tried to avoid mentioning this short and important period in the history of the Yemeni trauma and claim that the true beginning of the conflict was in March 2015, when the Arab Alliance intervened and the war against the state of Yemen ended.

The war for the aforementioned actors began when the Arab Coalition’s bombing campaigns commenced, not when the Yemeni state was under attack by the Houthi insurgents on September 21, 2014.

I have witnessed a lot of discussions that were conducted in an impassioned manner to reveal the picture in Yemen in several international and regional forums given my title position as a minister in previous governments and my participation as a member of the negotiating delegations that started at the June 2015 Geneva conference, then in December 2015, and then in Kuwait in April 2016.

The main concern in all of these talks was to stop the air bombardments, however, no one seemed to care about the war raging on the ground that has been creating victims and casualties daily.

It is also painful to ignore the casualties coming from the attacks on Yemeni cities and the blockades set up by the Houthis on the roads connecting them to each other. There is also the destruction of the state’s institutions to take into account, which is tearing the country apart and destroying its social cohesion more than any air bombardment, however destructive it may be.

The minefields laid by the Houthis continue to be more dangerous to the reality and future of this country than all the painful battles and deaths, and the growing strength of militias within cities and the rampant chaos are disasters that threaten the future of the nation on an everyday basis.

The world, however, cares more about public relations than it does about human life, and it continues to be more concerned with stopping the noise of passing aircrafts as opposed to taking an interest in a conflict that has been raging for seven years.

I recall one international official’s comment about the lack of pressure on war militias regarding the bombing of citizens’ homes or terrorising villages with minefields: “It is an undisclosed death, and it does not disturb the media and the public in European capitals — who don’t feel concerned — it is a Yemeni matter.”

As long as this war remains within Yemeni territory and does not cause non-Yemeni casualties nor compromise the interests of the international community, the world will remain ambivalent to the situation in Yemen, regardless of how many Yemenis are affected by it. To them, it is simply an insignificant chapter in history that is slightly regrettable.

If the world had dealt with the matter more seriously — as well as with Yemeni society, its parties, intellectuals, and various social figures — the collapse of the Yemeni state may have ended a long time ago, and the largest abduction of a whole country may have been avoided.

Had this social vigilance taken place at the very first moment, all this would have ended, and the country wouldn’t have become an arena for resolving regional and international conflicts.

What took place is a disaster — an end to the Yemeni state. It is not just a coup d’état to change governance, but an adventure to abduct a country and destroy a society; and it is this very same point that must be resolved before any solution to the conflict can be implemented.

This arduous task isn’t impossible for a nation which has re-established its place in history so many times. Today, by evoking the rhetoric of this country’s intellectuals and young people, a painful breakdown can finally cease.

This beautiful country has seen the last of its tragic falls, and it is high time for it to rise again. As for how… That question opens a gate of hope and a way to start the work by sharing the idea of restoring the homeland and building a modern Yemeni state that believes in all the potential of the huge diversity that is an intrinsic part of the society of Yemen.

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