There is an old saying that the definition of madness is to do the same thing again and again, expecting a different result. Yet this strategy seems to underpin the Saudi-led Coalition’s approach to its war on Yemen.
SANA’A, YEMEN — “I struggled for 30 years to build a house and an airplane comes and destroys it in seconds,” 55-year-old Ahmed al-Sulmi al-Hubeishi told MintPress. Ahmed lost four of his children last week — Seham, Abdul Rahman, Khalid, and Waseem — when Saudi airstrikes targeted a residential neighborhood in Sana`a’s al-Ruguss district. “Now, there is nothing left — even the games that remind me of my children have been destroyed.”
During Friday’s funeral procession, mourners vowed not to allow the blood of the Yemeni victims to be wasted and that those responsible for destroying Yemen would be punished sooner or later. The mourners laid to rest the bodies of Ahmed’s four sons, as well as the two sons of the head of Yemen’s journalist syndicate, who were also killed in the attack.
“The Saudis killed my four children for no reason — may God take revenge upon them,” Ahmed said. According to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, thousands of Yemeni families like Ahmed’s have lost their loved-ones since Saudi Arabia began its war on the country in 2015. Estimates place casualties from the Saudi-led war at over 60,000 since January 2016 alone.
There is an old saying that the definition of madness is to do the same thing again and again, expecting a different result. Yet this strategy seems to underpin the Saudi-led Coalition’s approach to the war. Four years and tens of thousands of airstrikes have netted little in the way of tangible battlefield victories for the Coalition, but the staggering cost of the war in terms of both human life and treasure has done little to push the Coalition towards a peaceful solution. In the past two weeks alone, nine civilians have been killed and several others wounded after Saudi jets targeted what they claimed were drone storage facilities in Sana`a and a civilian petroleum-derivatives plant in Taiz.
So far the Coalition — armed, trained, and protected by the United States — has provided no evidence that any of these targets, which often exact a heavy civilian death toll, were legitimate military objectives. The Coalition repeatedly claims that it takes necessary precautions to minimize civilian deaths, yet still insists on calling its deadly attacks on civilians legitimate.
Needing medical help, Abdul Rahman got an American bomb
Standing atop the rubble of what was once his home, Ahmed searches for any remnants of his children’s toys; he clutches a photo of his sons in his hands. “This is Abdul Rahman,” he says with pride, indicating on the photo which of his sons is Abdul Rahman. “He was disabled and very helpless — what he needed was medical help, not an American bomb.”
MintPress documented the rescue efforts as victims, including Abdul Rahman, were pulled out from the rubble. “Since I lost Abdul Rahman and my other sons, I am not able to sleep,” Ahmed said, “all I do is look at these pictures and cry.” Four days later, MintPress accompanied Ahmed as he visited his destroyed home.
Ahmed is not associated with any political party. He is an ordinary Yemeni citizen and, like other Yemenis, he grapples with how the United States continues to support the Coalition’s campaign: “They did not pity Abdul Rahman — they killed him with an American-made aircraft and an American-made bomb and nobody cares.” Yemenis feel ignored by the general public in the United States, and they plead for those outside of the country to see their suffering at the hands of foreign weapons.
In March of 2015, the Saudi-led Coalition began a campaign to return its ally, deposed President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, to power after he was ousted following Arab Spring-style mass protests. The Coalition quickly set its sights on the Houthis, who declared a revolution following the protests and demanded an end to Saudi interference in Yemen’s domestic affairs. Since the fighting began, UN investigators have repeatedly warned of the heavy civilian death toll from the Coalition’s bombing campaigns, which use almost exclusively U.S.-made munitions. Yet the U.S. has continued selling arms to Saudi Arabia, resulting in the massacre by Saudi-led airstrikes of tens of thousands of families like Ahmed’s.
Nowhere is “safe”
In the al-Ruguss district, where airstrikes have shattered the windows and blown out the doors in most homes, most families have already fled to the homes of family members or friends. Others, unable to flee as a result of poverty or simply because they have nowhere to go, hide in basements.
Mohammed al-Mansour fled al-Ruguss with his family to a rented home in southern Sana`a. “We fled because we were sacred, and our children were scared. My wife had to sell her jewelry just so we could escape,” Al-Mansour said. “My family is still terrified — even by the sound of thunder — thinking it is from airplanes coming.”
Even in Yemen’s “safer areas” families live in horror. “We are living in constant fear — my children are so traumatized, they are wetting their beds at night,” Ahlam, a mother of six, told MintPress. Ahlam lived in al-Ruguss for twenty years; now she lives with a relative of her husband in Qabil village outside of Sana`a. “The children are sent running for cover even by the sound of a door slamming,” she says.
Saudi-led Coalition attacks have displaced more than 2 million people and terrorized the population. Bombed-out roads and bridges make travel difficult and in safer areas displaced families face shortages of shelter, food, and water.
So much is wrong
Ahmed’s wife suffered fractures in her legs and of her skull following the airstrike on her Sana`a home. She is very ill and every few days needs blood work, but without fuel the hospital’s labs are unable to operate. Yemen is suffering from an acute lack of diesel fuel, which is used to transport medicine and patients, operate factories, and run generators at the hospitals. Many people, especially in outlying towns and villages, have had to resort to using firewood and charcoal to cook meals. This comes as Yemen faces a crisis of acute malnutrition.
Then, at least 8,100 dialysis patients lack treatment owing to a lack of dialysis equipment and supplies amid the ongoing Saudi blockade, according to Yemen’s health minister, who added that the number of cancer patients has also increased following relentless bombardment and use of internationally banned ammunition.
Nearly 400 hospitals and medical facilities in Yemen have been destroyed during the four-year war, most the result of Coalition airstrikes. Health Ministry spokesman Youssef al-Hadhri told MintPress that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has led to the deaths of more than 700,000 people.
No breadwinner, no help — only a will to keep fighting
Ahmed has been unemployed for 12 years. His son Waseem — who was killed in the airstrike on Ahmed’s home — was working in a desalination plant and was the sole breadwinner for the family. “Now we do not have a breadwinner and I am unable to work,” Ahmed said. The Saudi blockade on Yemen has relegated most of the population to poverty, leaving most of Ahmed’s neighbors, relatives, and friends unable to render financial help.
Five million Yemeni workers, 60 percent of the overall workforce, have lost their jobs as a result of the ongoing war in the country, according to the ministry of social affairs. Most of them lost their jobs after local and foreign companies ceased operating in the country. Yemen was one of the poorest countries in the world even before the war began.
According to a recent report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Yemen ranked 153 of 177 included countries on the Human Development Index, 138 in extreme poverty, 147 in life expectancy, 172 in educational attainment, and was already in the World Bank’s low-middle income category.
“Now I’m wounded and I can’t fight, but I hope that the Yemeni army will take revenge for my sons,” Ahmed, who sustained injuries in the attack, told MintPress. Ahmed’s wish is not driven by anger or even by a sense of oppression — rather it’s rooted in a sense that fighting back against the Saudi Coalition is the only option to stop the madness.
Feature photo | People inspect the site of an airstrike by Saudi-led coalition in Sana’a, Yemen, May, 16, 2019. The Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes on the capital, Sana’a on Thursday, targeting the Houthis and killing civilians. Hani Mohammed | AP
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.