Monday, 13 April 2015

Leaving Yemen, suffer the people

Caspian Report: Origins of Crisis in Yemen

CR does a fantastic analysis of Yemen's chessboard like politics and players involved in the current war

#KefayaWar: Yemenis have started their own homegrown peace movement to put a final end to the war through the voices of ordinary people across the country. Its a combination in person, physical movement and through social media. 

Panoramic view of Aden, Yemen and its port on the edge of the Gulf of Aden

Before we get to the crisis, remember that Yemen is in a unique and strategic part of the world. Yemen is nearly attached at the hip to Djibouti and Eritera. It is located at the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The long coastline includes the Read Sea, Gulf of Aden and the ports of Aden, Hudaydah and Taiz as well as the Socotra Island closer to Somalia in the Arabian Sea bordering the Indian Ocean. To the West of the country is the Red Sea where the Suez Canal receives many of the world's products and crucial shipping tanks rely on for exports/imports to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. Even with the chaos in Somalia and Yemen, ships still pass up and down the Strait of Bab al Manab to the Suez Canal. The Suez is the lifeblood of Egypt other than the Mediterranean and the Nile. Yemen is considered to be the original homeland of the Arab people. It also home to the Yemeni Jews one of the oldest and unique Arab Jewish communities in the Middle East. South Arabian culture and peoples existed in Yemen prior to Islam and Arabization. For centuries, Yemen has been connected through trade, culture and intermarriage to its East African neighbors Djibouti, Somalia and Ethiopia. Ethiopian kingdoms and empires had traded and kept in contact with Yemen for hundreds of years. Ethiopia still keeps trade relations and people going back and forth to Yemen. Yemenis have settled in Djibouti for decades and are currently fleeing to Djibouti and Somaliland for safety. Somaliland in Northern Somalia is a defacto independent region with its own self government and has maintained a peaceful existence compared to the rest of Somalia and the capital Mogadishu. Somalis share some cultural ties with Yemenis and have been migrating to Yemen in hopes of better job opportunities. There are Yemenis of Somali and mixed Arab and African descendant living in Yemen, Somalia, Saudi and elsewhere on the Peninsula. Yemenis relationships also extend to Egypt, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Oman has been observing and offering humanitarian aid in the recent Saudi-US led offensive against the Houthi rebels. Oman has been cautious while Somalia, Djibouti and maybe Ethiopia braces for large amounts of Yemeni refugees in the coming weeks.

Yemen's place in the world. At the crossroads of a maritime superhighway.

My Beautiful Country Yemen by Ymnheart: The Yemen we never see on TV

Yemen is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Its a mountainous country with diverse landscapes and vistas from green terrace fields, coffee and beaches. The first modern skyscrapers in the world were built at Shibam, a UNESCO heritage site in the 16th century. Sana'a is famous for its fantastically decorative ornate mud brick buildings and houses. The Socotra Archipelago has unique umbrella like trees aka Dragon Blood Trees not seen anywhere else in the world. Aden was the jewel of Yemeni ports for ships docking at it and passing through the Gulf and Bab Al Mandab. Yemenis from the Hadramaut region interacted with and migrated, East African coast, Saudi and Asia particularly Malaysia and Indonesia some 500 years ago. Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and Yemen is one of the first place to drink coffee outside of Ethiopia. Both Yemeni and Ethiopian coffee are enjoyed across Bab al Manadab. If it wasn't for the current circumstances, Yemen would be a great place for tourism.

The otherworldly Dragon Blood Trees of Socotra Island. See more pics here.

Americans Stuck in Yemen & BRICS citizens evacuated 

The United States has been slow to evacuate American citizens out of Yemen. Russia, China and India were among the first countries to not only evacuate their citizens but Yemenis with dual nationality and other foreign nationals unable to evacuate. The Chinese navy has been praised for evacuating 900+ people both Chinese and multinational citizens to safety. Russia has airlifted many Russians and other nationals, Westerners and Yemenis included to international acclaim for the quick response. have brought nationals to safety to neighboring countries. India is currently working to airlift 1,900 nationals back to India. Even Pakistan is evacuating its citizens due time. Ironically, Pakistan is also debating whether to join Saudi Arabia in bombing Yemeni rebels. Pakistan has been suffering drone strikes and low intensity warfare in its own backyard aka Warizstan and weekly terrorist attacks in mountainous regions and Karachi.

The United States has been shamed by its own citizens who have criticized the state department and even filed a lawsuit against it and defense departments. For neglect of its own citizens. Yemeni American citizen Jamal al Labani from Oakland, ca was killed during a rebel attack to the horror of his family in Oakland and Yemen. For Americans who have family and friends trapped in Yemen the emergency contact site StuckInYemen has been created by CAIR and Asian American Advancing Justice to aid stuck Americans to get in contact with stateside family and friends to finally be evacuated. A San Francisco man was able to flee Yemen back home to the US. He first traveled by speedboat to Africa than Amsterdam and finally to SFO. Many Yemeni Americans still remain trapped under the bombs.

A tainted reputation

Yemen's reputation has been one of war and conflict. Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East. It has no natural resources but sits next to one of the wealthiest and resource rich neighbors Saudi and UAE, Qatar and Bahrain. Yemenis have put up with corrupt governments for decades. The same complaints by Egyptians Bahrainis and Saudis can be found in Yemen. Yemenis condemned former President Abdel Salah not only for corruption but centralizing power (political and economic), concentrating wealth and prosperity in Sana'a at the expense of the rest of the country. Until 1990, Yemen was split into two countries the Democratic Republic of Yemen including Sana'a and South Yemen with Aden known for its Socialist politics and leanings. The two Yemens were played against one another in proxy wars and conflicts throughout the Cold War by the United States, Saudi and Soviet Union. Like Vietnam, far seeing Yemeni nationalists wanted to overcome separatism to unite Southern Yemen with the North. The flag of Southern Yemen Republic can be seen in Aden and other Eastern Yemen cities where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have their base. The South Yemen separatists have reemerged alongside the Houthis to fight against Al Qaeda in Yemen and government. The majority of Yemenis are fed up with the low intensity warfare carried out by the Saudi-US backed Yemeni government against Houthi rebels and by extension Al Qaeda in Yemen that left a hundred plus civilians dead over the past decade. Many Yemenis want to live in peace and not continue to be the center of an isolated designated pariah state scorned and ignored by the wider world. Yemeni history and culture says otherwise.

Language of division: Sectarianism cometh

Against the wishes of ordinary Yemenis, Saudi government and its allies are dragging the Sectarian poison and casting it upon Yemen. Saudi is battling Iran's influence in Yemen, Syria and Iraq where Shia minorities live. For decades now, Saudi has pushed a rigid "Sunni only" interpretation of religion that ignores Islam's diverse roots and dimensions of Shias, Sufis and Ismailis. Shias are said to make up 15 percent of Saudi Arabia's population and like many Saudis have been marginalized, face high unemployed, repressed, treated as an existential threat and condemned as terrorists by the government and live in the poorer towns and villages in Eastern Saudi Arabia. The euphoria of the 2011 Revolutions and feelings of marginalization, unemployment and corruption was the breaking point for many Saudis in Eastern Arabia were they make a sizable portion. In its foreign policy, Saudi Arabia has eyeballed Iraqi, Yemeni, Syrian, Lebanese and Iranian Shias as political threats to Sunnis in their respective countries or as a menace to Saudi regional influence in politics, culture or religion. Both Shia and Sunni have participated in government and human rights protests in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to fight against sectarianism and encourage national and religious unity. The fact that Iran inspired an Islamic Revolution and has supported Shia political movements that advocated for national unity or sovereignty, keeps the House of Saud on edge. The sectarian poison has reared its head in Yemen as Saudi and Western media coat the fight between Houthi, Al Qaeda and Presidents Hadi/Saleh and the political bickering between Saudi Arabia and Iran on issue of Yemen as Sunni vs Shia in a brutal proxy war between rebels and government bombers. Inspite, Yemenis are working to keep the country and people from sliding into a Pandora's box. While the United Nations, Pakistan and Iran ahve called for a Yemeni Peace Process.  

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