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Wednesday, 25 March 2015 was a regular night for me in in Beirut, Lebanon, where I was attending university. But, things back home in Yemen were hectic. A military group had taken over the capital city and the President had gone into hiding.
During my university days, I called every day to let my family know what was happening in Beirut and how great I was doing in class, even if I wasn’t.
That night was the night military operations began in Yemen. The attacks started, and have continued, in heavily populated areas. Neighbourhoods, hospitals, schools and markets were all hit. Since that night, landmines have been laid out in the streets I used to know.
When I think of Yemen from my childhood, I remember our family’s house and all sweet memories and holidays. I remember the streets where I played football games, the source of joy and sometimes cries of the unlucky ones slipping on the tarmac. I remember the busy humming sounds of people bargaining in the old city markets, the smell of the grinding of fresh coffee beans in the land of mocha. I remember buildings and cities which defined the origins of Arabia, some standing tall for up to 3000 years. Growing up in Yemen, and like many children around the world, I used to look up to the sky every time I heard a plane. It always brought me happiness and a sense of wonder in what lies beyond, and where it might be taking me one day.
Today my family and friends tell me that children run and hide every time they hear a plane. The hum of the market bargaining has been replaced by sounds of explosions. The smells of coffee replaced by fire and smoke. Children who run after a soccer ball may step on a landmine. Ancient buildings have been reduced to ashes.
My family were near many of the targets in the capital Sana’a on that first night. I called, texted, tried reaching out to friends and relatives in efforts to reach my mother and sister with no response, imagining the worst.
Fortunately, I did hear back that night. My family reassured me that they were fine, but that the strikes were still taking place, and no one knew what was being targeted. And they warned me that communications might be down for hours or days very soon. Shortly after that night, I got word that my grandparents’ home in our village was blown to pieces. Thankfully they weren’t there, but it buried all the memories under the rubble.
Every family in Yemen has been touched by this violence and, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, if Yemen was 100 people:
- 80 need aid to survive.
- 60 have barely anything to eat.
- 58 have no access to clean water.
- 52 have no access to health care.
- 11 are severely malnourished.
But Yemen is not 100 people, it’s 27 million people. And that is the reality of Yemen today.
Read more about international humanitarian law (IHL)
International humanitarian law (IHL) is a set of rules that seeks, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. Since the 1860s, the Red Cross Movement has worked to develop and uphold the law, raising awareness and strengthening implementation.
Read more here