Ongoing War on Yemen: What I have Learnt and What Stays

I have learnt that out of all the wars this is one of the most unjust.
I have learnt that there is no such thing as collateral damage the very moment you decide to drop a bomb as the aim is simply to harm, kill, destroy and bring inconceivable pain.
I have learnt that bombs come in all shapes and sizes, with a light during the trajectory and a travelling sound which gives you the shivers.
I have learnt there are sound bombs which can break your ears, enter your bones and make you think the earth is breaking to engulf you, that there are no banned/illegal bombs as they are still produced, used and sold. That the shock wave of each explosion leaves your soul scarred and your heart bumping.
Of this war, I have learnt all the numbers by heart: the dead, the injured, the maimed, the starving, the displaced, the children out of school, the infrastructure pulverized, the hospitals attacked, the missing in action, the dates of each massacre, the number of NGOs operating inside/outside/for Yemen/only for some parts of Yemen, the orphaned, the widowed, the flights cancelled by the imposed blockade (land, air, sea).

Yet, this is neither what will personally be defining my narrative of war, nor what will remain.
It cannot be the legacy of the past 19 months as each devastating moment of the aggression has been outnumbered by events, acts and deeds transcending war.
I have witnessed courage, resilience, virtually every day. The best reply to each act of violence, bomb dropped, has been fought back with a life lived as close to normality as possible.
Every problem presented, such as lack of water, gas, electricity, has been solved with an in-house solution and endless solidarity. No, in Yemen you are never alone. Neighbours help. Friends call, relatives sustain. It’s the fabric of the nation, notwithstanding the big divide each war brings.
There have always been open doors to those in need. Communal life, sharing, weddings planned and celebrated (which better way to prevent war: love).
Generosity and life conjugate throughout the day in Yemen.

It is true, something is lost forever. Nothing will replace the historical sites bombed, the shrines and mosques destroyed, the ancient houses collapsed. Thousands of innocents have lost their lives or are slowly dying in a gripping famine in what is now considered to be the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the planet.
Yet, something is keeping us together: the love for the country. Whether stuck inside Yemen or abroad, we all convene we can only fight back by working hard and loving, even more, our land.

(photo taken from home in Sanaa: we are all neighbours)

‘I have a dream for Ethiopia and beyond’

Things are not going well in Ethiopia.
The country is witnessing a malcontent and Ethiopians are pessimistic: things can only get worse before they get any better.

Graham Peebles, Director of The Create Trust, a UK registered charity supporting fundamental social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need, in his article ‘Ethiopians are crying out for Freedom and Justice’ writes that the movement for democratic change – composed of people from all walks of life – is constantly being crashed by violent means.
Peaceful protestors are being shot at, confined in stadiums, arrested, intimidated.
”Human Rights Watch (HRW) says they receive “daily accounts of killings and arbitrary arrests”, and estimate that up to 500 protestors have been killed since November 2015, although many inside the country put the figure higher.
Thousands have been arrested and falsely imprisoned; young people – who are leading the charge for democracy – are being specifically targeted. Torture is widespread in Ethiopian prisons, and for those detainees who have expressed political dissent, it is virtually guaranteed. Witnesses have told ESAT News (an independent broadcaster based in Europe and America) that some detained protestors have died as the result of torture, and are buried in the prison grounds.
The ruling EPRDF party (in power since 1991) was not democratically elected, and has remained in power by stealing one election after another. They demonstrate no concern for democratic principles or human rights, and like all dictatorships, will do anything to remain in power. They seem unable to grasp the severity of the current situation, or understand the feeling among the population, the vast majority of whom despise the regime and are desperate for fundamental change. Protestors are calling on the government to step down, and for real and honest democratic elections to be held.”

Demelew is a young man from Bahar Dar. A young and strong man who sells fruits and vegetables at the main market of the city. Although at first glance he may seem one of the many farmers coming from the countryside, as soon as he starts talking, Demelew shows a deep knowledge of the history of the Ethiopian people and seems quite precise on the subject, so much into it that we begin a conversation with very folkloric tones (a mixture of English-Italian-Amharic -Italian Genovese dialect).
We talk about anything, but we always end up there: what is happening these days around Ethiopia.

“A few months ago skirmishes and tensions broke out in the area south of Addis Ababa, where the Oromo ethnic group felt cheated by the new development plan of the Ethiopian government”.
The look of Demelew starts to become severe  A grimace crosses his face and the lines of the skin tracing his face seem to be getting  deeper. He is transforming.

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“They have taken away large swaths of land from the Oromo in favour of the Shoah (the region of the capital), literally invading areas sitting on a vastitude of natural resources … But the game was obvious even before: we started having a clearer picture when in Addis itself an area as large area as the whole Bahar Dar was razed by Chinese bulldozers. Thousands of people lost their souks (local survival store), tucul, mud and corrugated iron shacks: abodes of men and women who found shelter there!!!”.
I am interested in what he has to say and I see that Demelew lives his words with anger and passion.  His sincere empathy emerges in connection to the thick, unbreakable fog which is engulfing Ethiopia these days.
I realise he still wants to talk.

“Explosions of revolts and protests were drowned in the blood of hundreds, both civilian and military … But it was not enough. Five months ago the government decided to expand the ‘area of Tigray’  (northern Ethiopia) annexing a wide area of Gojam border up to a few kilometers from Gonder. To do so, however, it was necessary to neutralize organised social dissent which all converted in a Committee.”
”The Committee, for the rights of the Amhara people was headed by officers of the local army . One night, last June, teams of government federal police came to Gonder to arrest some members of the committee and its leader, who had sensed the danger and barricaded himself home. It simply took  word of mouth to have Gonder people take to the streets to claim its pride and dignity … “

While talking, Demelew  waves his clenched fists firmly, as if to give an additional punch to his speech.  Then, outside the white blanket enveloping his body, his hands open and close rhythmically with his words.

“Inevitably there were more deaths and a wound difficult to heal. The confrontational path now will continue to expand and will not be solved in a short time. Because, you see, it seemed to end there, with a trace of a heavy silence enveloped by fatalism typical of my people, relying, at the end on God’s judgment and the good intentions of  the Almighty .”

At this stage I I have a start ! For the first time in nearly two and a half years I hear a local uttering these words . I understand the depth and intellectual greatness of my interlocutor, a man who can see with clarity and foresight what is happening in this corner of the world. I light a cigarette, ask  for a break, in order to scribble down some notes.  “Cigher iellem …”, no problem, he utters quietly.

With a look of mutual understanding, we continue.

“But this time the Almighty God decided to show solidarity with the people of Gonder, having awakened the spirit of pride of Amahra people who felt cheated … and Sunday, August 7, a huge demonstration was announced. In solidarity with Gonder. On Friday 5 Gojam was disconnected from the internet … Bahar Dar, roughly at 9 am was invaded by thousands of people who travelled from South to North, until they all reached the bridge over the Nile, the only connection between the two parts of the city.”
He clears his voice.
”The procession headed towards the government building and people started throwing stones. The reply came from automatic weapons … then weapons appeared from all sides and the carnage started. Yet if you asked anyone about the situation, the candid answer would be ‘No, no problem. Everything is quiet.‘ Some would say they fired into the air to “disperse” the people ”
”The next day, one of those  who had gone “missing” was delivered to my home. In a wooden box made of remainders of few pallets and nails. He was a young friend, 25, who was caught up in the middle of the unrest – a series of gunshots – while trying to escape.  The city was deserted: offices closed, shops, banks … no means of transportation operating. Just a display of special security forces through the city .”
”Now Bahar Dar is besieged. You cannot cross the bridge over the Nile ; in the suburbs there have been episodes of citizens daring to express verbal protest against the police and in return they just receive beatings. “

Demelew stops talking . He wipes his swollen eyes regurgitating tears and continues: “They killed over a hundred people Sunday, August 7th … but do not believe for a second that this will stop us from claiming our pride and our dignity … “

Without contradiction there is no life.
Just a few months ago Ethiopia signed its adherence to the International Committee for the protection and recognition of human rights.
The Ethiopia of the majestic Blue Nile , of the grand mountain range of Rash Dashen. the Ethiopia of its mysterious monasteries on lake Tana, the sacred beholder of the ‘ark of the holy alliance’, the birthplace of Lucy, the eldest known daughter of humanity.

I invite Demelew to a beer, just to loosen a little  the tension. He welcomes the idea and after a cool sip of lager starts talking again: “Maybe you have never realised, but I have a dream … I’m carrying a big dream for all peoples of the earth .. . that all may be custodians of their own destiny, the destiny of self-development and the peaceful pursuit of their dignity … “

By now the sun is about to fall, now is the time to return home. In the night only patrolling military vehicles are in action.
Getting up from the chair, Demelew accidentally stumbles upon the coffee table and many bottles of beer crash to the floor
He looks at me with a wink and cheerful eye, we embrace tight and he whispers in my ear: “Ayzoh Daniye … Ciger iellem …”, Do not worry Dear..No Problem

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(The Government has, in the meantime, declared the State of Emergency and immediate arrest with 6 months detention for anyone crossing the arms in sign of protest)

Photos and reporting: Demelew

 

Tannery in Fez & the Leather Makers

Amusing Planet website describes the work under the sun and in the stone vessels of the tanneries in Fez, Morocco, as follows:

”(…) a vast range of dyes and various liquids spread out like a tray of watercolors. Dozens of men, many standing waist deep in dyes, work under the hot sun tending to the hides that remain soaked in the vessels. The tanneries processes the hides of cows, sheep, goats and camels, turning them into high quality leather products such as bags, coats, shoes, and slippers. This is all achieved manually, without the need for modern machinery, and the process has barely changed since medieval times”
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The article proceeds with the naming of the soaking agents:
”..a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt. This caustic mixture helps to break down the tough leather, loosen excess fat, flesh, and hair that remain on them. The hides are soaked for two to three days after which tanners scrap away excess hair fibers and fat in order to prepare the hides for dyeing. The hides are then soaked in another set of vats containing a mixture of water and pigeon poop. Pigeon poop contains ammonia that acts as softening agents that allows the hides to become malleable so they can absorb the dye. The tanner uses his bare feet to knead the hides for up to three hours to achieve the desired softness.”

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The odour is unbearable.
 Houses and buildings where people live, have their windows opened on the vapours of soaking agents and leather goods shop assistants just smell this, day after day. Yet, adorably kind.Workers breathe the unthinkable under the scorching sun, work barehand-barefeet in what becomes an ammonia solution and corrosive, skin bending, smoothing agents.
Unbearable is seeing kids on the stone vessels trying to learn the job.

The tanneries are abodes where life span can only shrink with consequent dreams undreamt.
One of the hardest and saddest places to cope with.

photos: Beatrice De Filippis

Just another message from Yemen

‘Good morning.
We did not sleep last night from the noise of warplanes and rocket explosions..
Sanaa’s sky has become a hotbed for the alliance of evil aircraft and our land is the final destination of missiles.
This is a war of extermination. It is a really a disaster sent from heaven to all of us.
The ambulance cars have become like taxis, driving around in the streets of Sanaa, moving the wounded and dead bodies, from one site to the other. Hospitals and graves.
And digging graves has become a profitable industry and business.

You know, my Dear, the Alliance of evil these last days has been using,  in their air raids, a new kind of missile. Never used before. Never seen before.
We, somehow, know quite a bit about weapons (you know our history).
We never used it in our wars. It is different in the magnitude of the explosion and ability to destroy.
 
 
People in Yemen are being killed and destroyed with weapons, with hunger, disease and our poor country’s infrastructure is destroyed under the supervision of the United Nations, who are immoral international entrepreneurs at the end. Ours continues to be a forgotten war.
 The world’s richest countries forming the richest Coalition fighting and annihilating the poorest country in the world.

Before writing to you I went to the cemetery to pray on my Father’s tomb.
Can you see the hill on the background of the image? This hill is part of the Presidential Palace (residence of Ali Abdullah Saleh ). The squadrons of aircrafts bombarded it as there is a  mountain camp of the Presidential Guards and weapons storage.
It all happened after I left the grave, my Dear. A few minutes later

Take care, Dear. See you soon.
MN’

We all know the numbers of this war: for the wounded, the maimed, the hungry, the internally displaced, how many people have died in action. We have a pretty accurate idea of the number of civilians (far from the figures reported by the UN) killed. We have a very controversial databank comprising cases of new-born babies born with birth-defects caused by the war (horrifying).
We are even so smart we estimate how many will perish under the bites of famine.
What I do not know is if later, tomorrow, I will receive another message from my friend.
This war is not sparing anyone.

(picture sent by MN has been blurred and altered for security reasons)

 

Ahmed Nusfaleal: Sanaa through my eyes, for you

Our friend Ahmed Nusfaleal travelled more than 10 hours to reach Sanaa.
One hundred and fifty km, in times of war and road blocks, check-points and madness of these days, meant a detour of additional, tiring hours. With no certainty to reach, safely, the Capital. Literally, a trip into the unknown.

Still, when Ahmed reached Sanaa, he took these pictures to share with the world.
He invites everyone to see Sanaa through his eyes: the people, the Old City, the markets, the sellers, the smiles. The herbs, the flowers, goat milk, As-Saylah (the wadi which – in monsoon season becomes a river), the centuries old architecture, people getting ready to celebrate weddings and that strong, unbeatable will to accept anything which happens and might come with dignity and strength. With a humble acceptance. Yemen is stronger than any war. Yemen will overcome difficult times because, as Ahmed says: ”On the occasion of weddings, we are dancing in the streets. We are the people of happiness. We are the people who dance and overcome anything, the difficulties and the crisis and the war without worry or fear. Twenty four hours after twenty-four hours, we fight back and accept. And carry on.”
He ends with a message of hope: ”It has been raining a lot this season and our land has been blessed with rainbows. Rainbows will bring peace.”

Sooner or later, they will Ahmed.

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Souqh al Mihl, Old City of Sanaa

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Souqh al Mihl, Old City of Sanaa

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Souqh al Mihl, Old City of Sanaa

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Bab Barrum Quarter and Saylah after the rain – Old City of Sanaa
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In front of Al Qasimi quarter, Old City of Sanaa . The area was hit by a Saudi missile in the first hours of June 12 2015. Nothing stands any longer
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Music at Bab el Yemen, Old City of Sanaa
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Music in the Old City of Sanaa
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Souq al Milh, Old City of Sanaa
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Souq al Milh, Old City of Sanaa
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Herbs and flowers sellers, Sanaa
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As-Saylah, just after a night of rain. Old City of Sanaa
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Sanaa, after the rain and Saylah turnt into a river

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Never forget the smiles from Yemen

All pictures: Ahmed Nusfaleal

Update on: ”Missing Moldovan anesthesiologist in Yemen”

We have been informed, just now (26 August 2016), that Valentina has sent a message to her family. She is safe in a secure place in Yemen.
The family and friends extend their gratitude to all who helped tracing her.


Original post, published on August 20, reported:
”We have been approached by friends of  Валентина Раю (translitteration: Valentina Raui), a 55 year old anestesiologist who came to Yemen in 2014, under contract, to work in a hospital (no name provided).

Unfortunately Ms Валентина Раю / Raui , who is 55, has lost contact with her family.
Last time her brother and friends heard from her was for Easter. On the occasion, she promised to return to Moldova on August 15 for the summer holidays.
Her home and Yemeni numbers are disconnected and Ms Валентина Раю / Raui has never made it home.
Due to the current conflict, Moldova has no diplomatic mission in Yemen.
If anyone recognises her or is aware of her whereabouts, if anyone has recent information, can help, please contact, on Facebook, one of her concerned friends here

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Original message
Прошу помочь с поиском человека!ЕЕ зовут Валентина Раю,ей 55 лет.Она медработник,анестезиолог.Наша семья дружит с ней вот уже лет 10.В 2014 году она уехала по контракту на работу в Йемен,в госпиталь.Мы общались с ней по скайпу,писались по мылу.Родни у нее нет.Есть брат в Страшенах,они редко общались, адреса не знаю,есть домашний номер-он отключен.С Пасхи 2016года она на связь больше не выходит,обещала приехать 15 августа 2016года,мы переживаем почему ее нет на связи столько месяцев.Общих знакомых у нас нет.Может с помощью ваших постов найдутся люди кто с ней общается,может она кому звонила по телефону??Одна надежда что она появится 15 августа здесь….Прошу перепосты.Любую информацию пишите в коменты.в личку,звоните по моему номеру 068156448

Yemen, where schools are bombed ‘just because’

A friend writes: ‘Before war, Yemeni children were still studying here. They had a place to study at, a tree, a straw bale house or just whatever it was.  9
After Houthi came to libe
rate us from corrupt and incompetent government and after Al Saud came to help us build a better country without militants, our children lost everything schools, trees, caves etc. Dangers are surrounding them everywhere. Go to hell, all of you.’

 

 

The war on Yemen, commenced by the Saudi led Coalition has brought us all to provide numbers, like automatic machines: 3 millions internally displaced, 9 million with no access to water, 21 million underfed and with no access to food, 10.000 killed (mainly civilians), 16.000 maimed for life: there is a number for everything and a name to accompany each case. And numbers skyrocket from one week to the other.

 

According to Unicef, over 3000 schools had to close doing to the ‘ongoing conflict’  (why no one calls it an aggression is still beyond comprehension) leaving almost 2 million children with no education.

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On Saturday, August 13, a school (private home-school) in Juma Bin Fadhel  area of Saada was purposely airstruck by the Saudi led Coalition, leaving 10 children dead and over 20 injured.
Saada, declared military zone by the Saudis, has been a target of every single bomb available in the 21st century. Everything has been dropped on its soil, something close to nothing still stands.
Saudis claim there was no school there: only a children-soldiers recruiting and training centre, hence, bombing justified.

In a week filled with Saudi’s war crimes – at a rate of 1-2 per day – we just want to reitarate that Kudos go to the population: those teachers who never gave up on Yemeni children and parents who continue to send their kids to ‘school’ (whatever that means now).
What the world does not get is the vastitude of this war: schools are considered recruitment places for child soldiers, hence, bombed.
Schools are bombed just because everything else has already been bombed. Schools are bombed because the uncle of the cousin of someone whose relative teaches in the school is Houthi or has a drop of Iranian blood in his veins.
Schools are bombed as collateral damage.
Schools are bombed because the carnage of the innocent hurts more and there is a pleasure in breaking the spine of Yemen.
Schools are bombed because the ‘taking of Sanaa’ the media keeps on filling its mouth with, passes through war crimes. One after the other, one filthier than the other.
The vast majority of Yemeni children goes to school empty stomach because 80% of the population is food insecure (famined), still, teachers are there and children walk to whatever stands as a school.
A paranoid urge to bomb has pervaded Saudis: something unseen before in history. Satanic.
But Yemenis continue to teach and children being educated. What is left of them, that is.
Resilience and courage are Yemeni.
The rest is understood.
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