‘Why is the world looking away’? Gisela Hofmann on Yemen

Gisela Hofmann is a German friend who, literally, lives for Yemen. Throughout the years, she lived in the country, learnt Arabic and has become a peace advocate.
Gisela sent me a letter asking to publish it. It is her cry, the cry of a woman who has loved ones under constant bombs and castrated by a siege. Gisela cannot visit her ‘family in Sanaa’ and dreams of the day she will be reunited with them.
In the meantime, eight-hundred days have passed since that first bomb dropped on Yemen in the night of March 26 2015. The country has been totally destroyed, official figures estimate over ten thousand casualties, a child dead every ten minutes succumbing to preventable diseases, over fourteen million food insecure, three million internally displaced, a third cholera outbreak which has claimed lives of over six hundred people with a skyrocketing seventy thousand suspected cases.
Yemen has collapsed, Gisela dreams of peace and writes:

”For more than fifteen years, we have been personally associated with Yemen enjoying a close friendship with a family in Sanaa.
Throughout these years, we were able to stay with our friend-family twice a year, every year. We also lived for several months in Sanaa in a rented a flat.
Our visit in November 2014 would be the last for a long time. We did not suspect this at the time. Since then, we are only connected via internet, though this is not continuously possible for a variety of reasons but, basically, our friends have no electricity and have no money.

We are suffering, we feel helpless: we cannot do anything for our beloved family.
Since the beginning of  the Yemen-war and the suffering of the population, this country has been in the shadow of all other political “proxy wars”.
I would like to talk about my friends and family members, I want to describe their current life situation.
My heart is heavy when I think of them. Especially the children and my warm-hearted women-friends. I know how they feel, although I never hear complaints despite the very difficult situation. The humility and pride of these generous people does not allow it.
The following lines are dedicated to Mohammed, Latifa, and Safia and their families (how much I miss them):

“Why  is the world looking away?
I’d like to write  about the current life of the citizens in Yemen. I can report what I am constantly being told by my friends as, for myself, it is not possible in the current situation to return to Yemen: Sanaa airport is under  Saudi-led Coalition imposed blockade and it has also been partially destroyed by airstrikes..
The biggest problem posed by the siege is that for Yemenis there is no way to let vital relief supplies and aid be brought into the country.
If you run a finger on the map, throughout the whole country, you realise that the important main roads, transport routes and sea ports have been destroyed. This means that the urgent transport of aid and relief supply to the suffering people, to hospitals and distribution of safe, drinking water to villages is impossible or extremely difficult.
People outside the cities are abandoned and can depend exclusively on themselves.
Nobody looks, takes care of the population as military strategies are in the foreground. With few exceptions, there are no foreign embassies and/or diplomatic representatives in the country.
It is close to impossible for the  people of Yemen to  flee elsewhere. Even for families living abroad it is difficult to care for the loved ones gripped in the famine-cholera-aggression- torn homeland. Flights to and from Yemen are virtually close to zero and escaping to neighboring countries requires money which Yemenis do not have.

It is neighboring Saudi Arabia leading the war on Yemen. Since 26 March 2015, the Saudi led Coalition has kept Yemen under continuous military attacks.
Like in any given war, the simple, common people are those suffering the unthinkable.
Primarily children, sick people and the elderly.
The children of our friends-family have been out of school for months in a row out of fear of air-raids, or because schools were closed or teachers on strike having received no salary for over eight months.
A friend’s daughter contracted hepatitis caused by contaminated water. In order to receive immediate medical treatment, the family had to sell the last personal possessions. The treatment lasted longer than normal because the child was malnourished. Malnutrition maims the immune system of weakened children making them more prone to diseases.
The father of the little girl  had to donate his own blood to treat her and has, since then, been donating regularly to help others in need.The current situation allows many families to virtually just vegetate, exist, nothing else. A graceful life is no longer possible.
Schools, hospitals have shut down: government personnel have been out of salary for eight – nine months.
In the meantime, prices are soaring. A bottle of gas costs five times as much as compared to the beginning of 2015. Most people cannot afford it any longer: they use what they can to make a fire.
Speculation is rampant: some much-needed items must be bought exclusively in dollars cutting off most of the population.

There are those who have lost everything because of an airstrike: home and loved ones. Yemen is in a constant mourning.

The world is wrapped in silence, passively supporting these eight-hundred days of war crimes against the Yemeni population. Syria and Iraq have overshadowed the plight of Yemenis.
In spite of pain and suffering, there is life, though. There are tireless people, fighting with heart and intelligence for the future of Yemen. These people fight  with peaceful means vehemently against Yemen’s unjust, forgotten war.

A termination of the aggression is imperative. If I look at the situation of Yemen I feel anger along with an inexpressible sadness, because I see what  this country has become.

In the 1980s, at the time of  Ali Abdallah Saleh’s leadership, perhaps the country began slowly to open and move forwards. Yemenis saw progress in their own land and enjoyed international recognition.  After the Unification of South and North Yemen in 1990, a flourishing period began, starting from tourism. People from all parts of the world visited the long closed, untouched, historical country. Tourism became the largest employer of Yemen. Now even archaeological sites have fallen victim of indiscriminate air-raids, even towns and monuments protected by the UNESCO. Treasures of mankind have been lost, forever.

An immediate halt to the inconsiderate arms deals and sales to those aggressing Yemen, would represent a huge step towards the end of the war  on my second home. It would push the sides involved in the conflict to find solutions, involving only diplomatic means.
Had it happened before, many Yemeni children would still be alive and the homes of countless Yemenis would not be in rubbles.

Last February there was a defence and arms exhibition, ‘only’ 2500 km from Yemen. Weapons worth billions of dollars were sold while back in Yemen a nation was and is starving to death.
This forgotten country needs more attention. It is important tell to the world about the suffering of Yemenis who are at their limit. They cannot take it any longer.
The first article of our German basic law states: “Human dignity is untouchable”.
It should apply also to Yemenis. ”

Gisela Hofmann

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