Friday, 11 September 2015

What now for Yemen?

The war in Yemen has been raging now for 6 months.  The destruction across the country is incalculable and the official death toll stands at more than 4,000 but a lack of water, food, fuel and medical care has killed many thousands more.

Following the 'liberation' of several key southern states and the strategic port city of Aden in particular, the Saudi coalition is now focusing its attention on Sanaa and the North.  They are intensifying their bombardment to push the Houthis and the followers of former President Saleh into a political resolution to the conflict and reinstate exiled President Hadi.

In Aden, the clean up has begun and families are beginning to return and rebuild.  One might think that the success in the south of the country bodes well for the coalition and that those forces who bravely ousted the Houthis from Aden can continue north and repeat that success in Sanaa and elsewhere.  Unfortunately, its not as simple as that.  As the map below shows, the coalition have succeeded in securing the majority of southern governates.

They did this through the fighting force of the southern separatists who have been campaigning for a separate South Yemen along the lines of the former Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen, ever since unification in 1990.   You can see from the map below that the recent successes shown above match almost exactly the split between North and South Yemen that existed before unification.

Now heres the thing….in order to ask someone to lay down their life and fight for you, they have to believe in what they're fighting for.  The southerners just won't fight for the north.  They despise the north, they were betrayed by the unification process and by former President Saleh and many of them felt similarly betrayed by the current exiled President Hadi, even though he hailed from the South.  They weren't fighting for him in this conflict, they were fighting for an independent South.  And since their victory, it is their flag that is raised aloft, not that of the unified Yemen.

This leaves the coalition without a significant group on the ground to continue the fight against the Houthis in the north.  Thats partly because the Houthis are one of the biggest factions in the north and it is their stronghold.  So the coalition are now relying on ground troops from outside Yemen to support their aerial bombardment.  Troops are being drafted in from the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and even Egypt, in addition to Saudi Arabia of course.

With the south now almost completely liberated and the Houthis having alot more support in the north,  Al Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula now running the governate of Hadramaut and countless other tribal factions having their own interests to fight for, one has to wonder how the coalition see this playing out?  Sending in further foreign ground troops is a significant escalation and is bound to increase the number of casualties on all sides, let alone the rising number of civilian casualties.

Last week, 60 coalition solders were killed in a single Houthis rocket attack.  45 of them were from the UAE, and since then, aerial bombardments in the north have intensified and a military ground offensive into Sanaa is imminent.

Even if the coalition manages to weaken the Houthis and troops allied to ex President Saleh, and push them into talks (which still looks a long way off), how could Hadi possibly be reinstated with Yemen's fractures widened and deepened.  People have now given their lives, have lost loved ones, have been severely injured, have lost homes and livelihoods.  In most cases, they didn't do that for President Hadi or even for Yemen.  They did it in defence of their own children/family/tribe/region and their feelings are now stronger than ever.  For many, they simply have nothing left to lose.

Any hope of bringing the country together in a national dialogue is surely lost.  For southerners at least, they will settle for nothing less than a separate southern state as it was between 1967 and 1990.   Even if the common enemy of the Houthis are beaten, it won't be the end but merely the beginning of a new and more complex conflict.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Born free and equal

I don't often start my blog with a quote from British Prime Minister, David Cameron, but bear with me on this one.  After the horrific attack on tourists on a Tunisian beach in June, David Cameron was quick to reassure the British public of his resolve to tackle terrorism….

"We can only defeat terrorism by promoting the British values of 'peace, democracy, tolerance and freedom".

We've become all too familiar with the subject of terrorism at the top of news agendas on an almost daily basis;  the dreadful Charlie Ebdo attack in Paris, the murder of soldier, Lee Rigby in Britain, the terrible recent events in Tunisia and the coverage of Islamic State activities in Iraq or elsewhere, not to mention the re-emergence of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as  a threat.

It appears to be a clear cut case of the good guys vs the bad guys… Or more eloquently put by Mr Cameron…..

"They are cowards who murder defenceless people on a beach. They stand for oppression; we stand for freedom, and a peaceful, tolerant way of life."

Here are some descriptions of just a small number of innocent, defenceless people, killed by violent acts of terrorism as they went about their daily lives….

  • A father of 3 and primary school teacher
  • A 40 year old of father of 7
  • 3 generations of the same family - father, grandfather and nephew
  • A midwife and 67 year old grandmother of 9
  • A church going couple
  • A university student who ran his own taxi service
  • Grandparents of 10 children
  • A 24 year old photographer
  • A 26 year old traffic cop

What do you see when you look at this list?

These could be generic descriptions - maybe you know people who fit some of these descriptions?  However, they are all real descriptions of innocent people, dying at the hands of a killer who didn't know them and didn't care about their loved ones left behind.

All ordinary people with families, responsibilities, hopes, dreams, ambitions, struggles,   some having lived long and seen their children and grandchildren come into the world.  Some just starting out, with hope for their future careers and a long life ahead…..  But all taken too soon.

And the devastation for those left behind - parents losing an only child,  families losing a breadwinner, children orphaned, communities losing those important to them.

When you look at each description, perhaps you try to imagine the person's life?  The school teacher surrounded by excited children in a leafy suburban primary, or the 67 year old midwife who didn't want to retire because her community relied on her.  The young traffic cop catching speed freaks on the motorway or the 40 year old father of 7…. trying to squeeze all his kids into his VW Touran for a weekend trip to grandma's.  Or maybe you can relate to the university student who ran a small taxi service in his spare time to raise money for his parents who are suffering ill health?

It is a natural reaction to relate to victims because in finding a connection, we develop empathy.  This maybe then explains why so many people were ready in January to sign up to the collective cry of "I am Charlie!" after the horrific terrorist attack in Paris, but weren't so interested in the fact that 2,000 innocent civilians had been massacred by Boko Haram in one town in Nigeria that same week.

So what don't you see when you look at this list?  

You don't see names, you don't see faces and most importantly, you don't see their nationalities.  You also don't have information about what happened…  Were they victims of Al Qaeda, ISIL, or some affiliated group?  Maybe they were victims on 9/11 or 7/7 ?

One big difference is in the media coverage they received.  Half of the tragic victims on this list received a great deal of media coverage on TV, in print and online for what happened to them because in this list are indeed descriptions of just some of the victims of the Tunisia attack.

The rest have received almost zero media coverage at all…...In fact, to be precise…..the school teacher, the midwife, the traffic cop, the father of 7 and the student. You won't have heard about them or about what happened to them, despite them also being "defenceless people" similarly murdered by cowards.

Why?  Because they were victims of US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.   They were killed in their own countries, by bombs dropped by unmanned drones, operated by people they'd never met who, after they've done their 'days work', get to go home every day and live a normal life, never knowing the carnage they've inflicted on families and communities far away.

They were victims of the US' so called 'war on terror',  using drones to 'target' key terrorist operatives, predominantly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.  Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, John O Brennan said "The purpose of these actions is to mitigate threats to US persons' lives".  But statistics from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism indicate that only 4% of victims so far named in Pakistan were found to be Al Qaeda members.

Their project 'Naming the Dead' seeks to identify all those killed in Pakistan by US Drone strikes.  One of those identified was the 67 year old grandmother of 9 - Bibi Manama, who was picking Okra and tending to livestock outside her family home when the drone struck.  Her grandchildren were injured during the same strike which used several missiles and directly struck Bibi, blowing her to pieces.

Statistics shared with the Guardian by the human rights group Reprieve last November, stated that 41 men had been targeted but 1147 people had been killed in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan up to that point.

A recent case in Yemen, which killed Waleed, the 26 year old traffic cop (left) and 40 year old father of 7, Salem (below right), is gaining a little more media attention because their family is taking out a federal law suit to seek the truth and an official apology from Obama.

All they are asking for is the same treatment given to the families of two western hostages (an American and an Italian) who were mistakenly killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in January this year.

Following that attack, the President made the following statement:

"I profoundly regret what happened.  On behalf of the US Government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families… I directed that the existence of this operation be declassified and disclosed publicly.  I did so because the Weinstein and Lo Porto families deserve to know the truth.  And I did so because….. the US is a democracy committed to openness in good times and in bad."  

So Western families deserve the truth, while the families of Bibi, Waleed, Salem and hundreds of others  must wonder why their loved ones were murdered by a distant government with no care for the consequences.

Article 1 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".

Isn't it about time we started putting these ideals into practice universally rather than just wheeling them out in defence of our own?

And more information is coming out from GCHQ documents revealed by Edward Snowden which expose Britain's role in the drone war.  As published recently by the Guardian, its clear that Britain is directly involved in intelligence gathering and information sharing leading directly to the murder of people outside "recognised war zones", declared as illegal in a published opinion by a leading QC in Britain last year.

Senior Tory MP and now Deputy Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, David Davis has gone as far as to say Britain is "one removed from an internationally illegal act in terms of providing information (for drone strikes) to the Americans".

In an interview with the Bureau of Investigate Journalism, he described Britain's involvement in drone strikes as being "in the same moral space…. as collusion in torture".  Is that what David Cameron meant by "promoting British values of peace, democracy, tolerance and freedom" ?

When Obama and Cameron preach of British and American values while they drop bombs on innocent men, women and children in far away lands and hope you won't notice,  is it surprising that the communities on which they inflict terror might get a little angry?  It certainly doesn't serve the purpose which the US Government would like to believe, that drone strikes help to keep Americans safer.  In fact a former State Department official in Yemen was quoted as saying that every US drone strike in Yemen creates another "40 - 60 new enemies of America" because they take so many innocent lives alongside those they target.

As the new leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula, Qasm al-Raymi has confirmed in his first speech since his predecessor was killed by the US in Yemen in June, it seems drone strikes have only served to increase the likelihood of further terrorist attacks, rather than defeat them.  One of his first acts as leader was to call for further attacks on America and the west.

If we really "stand for freedom, and a peaceful, tolerant way of life" perhaps its about time we start to challenge our western democracies to live up to their values instead of falling for the platitudes, and sucking up the lies and fear mongering.   Because when those self proclaimed good guys start inflicting terror on innocent "defenceless people",  it becomes difficult to distinguish them from the 'bad guys'.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Road to Sanaa

So here's the thing…….

President Hadi flees to Saudi Arabia following a coup by the Houthis in Yemen.  But did he in fact allow this coup to take place because he wasn't in control of Yemen at all?  Was Yemen being run in the background by the ousted former President Saleh, who was kicked out in 2011 following arab-spring style demonstrations?

An Al Jazeera documentary, The Road to Sanaa, has shed light on what led up to the apparent 'soft coup' in September 2014 when the Houthis took control of the capital Sanaa without any real opposition from the Government.  I remember at the time being mystified by this turn of events.  What kind of Government simply opens the gate like that unless there is something more sinister going on behind the scenes?

The Al Jazeera investigation centres around the fight for Amran, a city north of the capital and a key gateway to Sanaa for the Saada based Houthis.  Lead by General Al Qushaibi, the Yemeni Army brigade sent in to defend the city, against the Houthis, was actively betrayed by Hadi and his government who, despite a personal pledge to the General to send additional weapons and reinforcements, never did.

In fact, the supply line to the brigade was cut and forces allied to the former President Saleh even switched sides to join the Houthis.  After several months of a long and bloody fight with the brigade's stocks of food and arms dwindling, morale was low and suspicions about what was going on growing.  This was heightened when the Yemeni Defence Minister visited the besieged city…… but instead of visiting General Al Qushaibi and his troops, he visited the Houthis instead!   A clear snub to both Al Qushaibi and the tribal leaders fighting alongside him, and an indication as to which side the government were really on.

The Presidential commission ordered a ceasefire, told Al Qushaibi (pictured left) to leave the city and surrender his weapons to military police.  He refused.  With a ceasefire still in place, the Houthis were tipped off to attack the brigade HQ where Al Qushaibi was holed up with 3 of his officers, after telling his young soldiers to save their lives and flee.  The General was killed and his body not released to his family for another 12 days.  There was clear evidence that he had been gruesomely tortured and brutally killed.

Only two months later in September 2014, the Houthis entered Sanaa and took control of the city.  6 months after that in march 2015, a full scale civil war broke out, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia and invited the Saudis to launch air strikes on the Houthis with catastrophic consequences for the Yemeni population.  Only 8 months previously he had sacrificed a General and his entire brigade to allow the Houthis to gain ground.

Many of my Yemeni friends are members of the Southern separatist movement, the Hirak Janoubi.  They always told me that Hadi was simply a puppet of former President Saleh.  I often wondered if this was true or their understandable suspicion of a Sanaa north-centric government elite.

However you see it, its an extraordinary about-turn!  After Hadi fled to Aden earlier this year, he held a meeting with tribal leaders at which he told them that Saleh's alliance with the Houthis, backed by Iran, had been responsible for the fall of Sanaa in September last year.  Hadi also accused his predecessor (pictured left) of trying to scupper the transfer of power to him which was backed by the international community, by conspiring with Iran and the Houthis.  

Not only a gateway to Sanaa, Amran was a key political battle ground.  It was a stronghold of the Al-Ahmar family and Sunni Al Islah (Reform) party, who as well as being key opponents and rivals to the Houthis, also participated in the ousting of former President Saleh from power in 2011.  

One of the founders of the Al Islah party was one of Saleh's own cousins, General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, a Major General in the Yemeni Army, whose relationship with the former President had deteriorated over the years, culminating in his pledge to protect the 2011 anti-government demonstrators, alongside General Al Qushaibi.  After Hadi became President, one of the first things he did was to sack Mohsen as part of a military restructuring plan.

Hadi may have been the front man but clearly Saleh was still exerting significant influence over him and the government and military.  Its now widely acknowledged that Saleh's intent was to destabilise Yemen in an effort to remove Hadi and regain power.  Indeed this is why the US imposed sanctions on him in November last year.  

Sadly it came too little too late and we are where we are now - with Yemen in a catastrophic state of crisis, cities completely destroyed, thousands dead and millions now facing famine.  What price the hunger for power?  What and who will be left to rule?  And how, if the country ever finds peace, will the people re-build?

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Commuting in Qatar…pedal power!

When I first came to Qatar, one of the things I missed the most was cycling.  I'd been a committed commuter cyclist in London, loving the daily weave and dodge through the London traffic, literally going into battle with taxis, buses and delivery drivers, all vying for position at traffic lights, cutting the corners of junctions, driving and parking in cycle lanes and trying desperately to prove their wheels are faster than yours…….. until they're stuck in an endless jam along High Holborn and I go sailing past, victorious and not to mention just a little self righteous ;-)

I got to the point that I would cycle every day no matter what the weather -rain, snow, ice…. bring it on.   I loved it.  Loved the challenge, loved the adrenalin, loved the change in my body - id never been so fit, never felt so energetic.  It was fabulous…… and then I moved to Qatar.

Doha is a relatively small, flat city, compared to London of course, and the roads are good and well maintained, although there are endless roadworks everywhere as they try to upgrade, remodel, widen and re-route to keep up with the pace of progress and construction of all things world cup related.  The weather is great pretty much all the time - little rain and certainly no snow or ice.   With the exception of  summer heat, occasional strong winds and the odd sandstorm, its perfect cycling weather for at least 9 months of the year.

So, one might think its the perfect cycling city….. until you venture onto the roads for real and experience the driving.  Only after a couple of days travelling in a cab to work, I decided - theres no way Im cycling here.  Crazy, nutty fruitcake speed freaks who pay scant attention to rules of the road, even less to other drivers, even less to pedestrians and then….. cyclists?!….. what are they???   For the first few weeks I didn't see one cyclist and then occasionally I'd see one - usually of South Asian origin, no helmet, no hi-vi, no lights, and seemingly no fear!!…… but actually more likely simply no car.

Public transport here is almost non existent - no metro (they're building it) and a only a few buses but the car is king - well, the Toyota Landcruiser is king.  Mobile phone use while driving is a national pastime and driving decisions are made at the latest possible moment…… one doesn't plan ahead… if one wants to turn left cutting across other lanes of traffic, one will simply close ones eyes and do it.   

Wearing seat belts is the law here but again, not universally seen as necessary…. I've been driven by several locals who don't use their seatbelt.  When I protested, the response varied from… "its uncomfortable and doesn't look cool" to "If I have an accident, God will save me, not the seatbelt."  So lets just say its not a mature driving nation and throwing myself into this mix on two skinny wheels,  with only a layer of lycra and a honeycomb of polystyrene strapped to my skull for protection, seemed beyond bonkers and I'd never do it because I valued my life way too much.

So here I am now, officially bonkers, after having spent the last 6 months cycling to work a few times a week.  I brought my lovely Grey Legs back with me from the UK on my flight after the Christmas holidays.  And I have to say Im totally loving it, but they key has been to find a route to work which doesn't involve too much on-road riding!  And what a lovely route it is.  

My hotel is on the Corniche in Doha which is a promenade which encircles the waters of the Persian Gulf, from the Museum of Islamic Art at one end to the Sheraton Hotel at the other - approximately 5km end to end. 

My morning cycle takes me just over half way around the bay, past the fishermen who are there from before sunrise, the palm trees bending in the regular shamaal wind, Dhows waiting to take random visitors on a 10 minute spin round the bay and the ever present labourers who toil in the hottest of temperatures to keep Doha looking good - especially this particular stretch which is right opposite the Royal Palace.

Some days Im busy in thought as I cycle (not having to focus on duelling with taxis and buses as I did in London) and some days, I take in the view and have to pinch myself when I realise this is now my commute to work!!  Its definitely a change to the Stroud Green Road!!

 And then…. I have to cross an enormous junction of two six lane highways,   where my attention must resume to the road and my focus must be 110% if I want to survive and reach the other side intact!!    The golden rule with these junctions is not to take the sort of calculated risks I did in London, trying to beat the lights, skip across red ones when it was safe etc.  

Here, even crossing when the green man is lit, isn't a guarantee of safety, as drivers regularly jump red lights here.  No, this requires absolute concentration and complete caution!!  Once safely across, I resume my journey up Khalifa Street on the pathway beneath the trees to Al Jazeera.   I have to be a little careful here because Im cycling on block paving, which hasn't been perfectly laid and little bricks pop up unannounced at random intervals just to keep me and Grey Legs on our toes/tyres!!  Get it wrong and it could be a puncture or worse.  When I said Doha was flat, its all relative.  Khalifa street is uphill in the mornings and when there is a headwind (and its always a headwind), it can be a bit of a struggle, especially in 38 degrees and 60% humidity, which it was last week!!!

We pass the beautiful and grand Abdul Wahhab Mosque (the Qatar State Mosque) every day.  It covers an impressive 175,000 sq metres and has 28 domes over the central hall and 65 domes over the outer quadrangle.  It can accommodate 11,000 men in the central hall and 1200 women in the adjacent female prayer room. But the total congregation space can potentially take 30,000 people!  It was officially opened in December 2011 by the then Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. 

And during the winter, when the nights draw in, I still get a thrill seeing the Doha cityscape lit up in different colours every night!!  I often stop and sit, and take a moment to reflect and keep my eyes peeled for the Corniche police - lets just say its not officially sanctioned bicycle territory!! 

But Grey Legs and I don't just commute together - we've taken a few leisure trips too - such as Qatar Sports Day.  The one day each year where Qatar gets healthy - to the point where even shisha is banned for the day!!  It is a national bank holiday and the nation is encouraged to engage in a sporting endeavour of some kind.  

All along the Corniche and at other venues across Doha, people are running, cycling, stretching, bending, playing football, netball, handball, and even -would you believe in 30 degrees - even skiing.  Here we are queuing to ski down the smallest ski slope Ive ever seen - mind you by the time we got there, most of it had probably melted!!

And we go for coffee together in the Islamic Museum park, a favourite place to relax, read, unwind from the week's craziness and take in the city skyline and the boys on jet-skis who enjoy racing past and soaking unsuspecting onlookers with their spray!   And its one of the few places where bicycles are encouraged and in fact, they even have bicycle rentals here too.

But Grey Legs' proudest moment came when we spent the day with the Tour of Qatar on its final leg along the Corniche.  It was incredibly thrilling to be at such close proximity to the energy and speed of the world's cycling greats. And after the race had finished, we cycled around the course and even got applauded by a family who were picnicking beside the road.  Not sure if they were just excited to think there was another event, simply getting into the spirit of it all, or genuinely thought I was a poor straggler who they were willing along to the end!!  Either way, it was fabulous, just having our wheels on the same tarmac as the great Wiggo!!!  who didn't place anywhere in the end!

As Ramadan now approaches and the temperatures are soaring into the 40s daily and the humidity increasing into the 70%s and more, the time has come to give Grey legs a well earned rest from the commuting for a few weeks, but we'll be back, Inshallah.

Friday, 8 May 2015

The War in Yemen - its personal

The war in Yemen has raged now for 6 weeks and is only intensifying in ferocity, but given the lack of time given to the story by the English speaking media (with the exception of Al Jazeera), the narrative has slipped into describing the division along sectarian lines - Shia (Iran/Ex-President Saleh/Houthis), vs Sunni (Saudi Arabic/President Hadi & rest of Yemen) - with the main story focusing on Saudi Arabia and Iran - the proxy war which could explode into a regional conflict, perhaps drawing Russia and USA in on opposing sides.

It is of course a lot more complicated than that and many of the guys fighting on the ground aren't the least bit interested in the bigger picture.  And when the press keep repeating that those fighting in Aden are forces allied to President Hadi, this also isn't wholly true.   Most of the guys who are opposing the Houthis are not soldiers.  80% of the Yemeni army is apparently not involved.  Yemen's armed forces were allied to the ex-President Saleh who remained in the background in control, and the Houthis commandeered their weapons and infrastructure and sent them all home.

So who are those guys we see on the TV in Aden in particular, fighting against the Houthis?  They are guys mainly in their teens, 20s and 30s who have had little or no education, no hope of work and a rage inside them against the marginalisation of South Yemen.  They are members of the Hirak Janoubi - the Southern Movement.  A secessionist movement, formed in 2007, with the aim of re-dividing the country into its former Yemen Arab Republic (North) and Peoples Republic of Yemen (South).  

The Country was unified in 1990 but the power sharing didn't work - it lasted only 4 years until tensions boiled over between North and South, and a civil war erupted.   Troops from the North eventually seized complete control of the country, and southerners in positions of power fled and were sentenced to death in absentia.  Any southerners working in state run institutions in the south lost their jobs and were never reinstated, leaving the south unrepresented in Government.  

The asset rich south was stripped of resources but received no investment, no compensation and no representation, and I could see this when I travelled to Aden last year.  A crumbling infrastructure, rubbish piling up in the streets, people desperately poor and simply calling for the right to self determination…… peacefully I might add.  Their modus operandi for years has been regular peaceful mass protests in the streets of Aden…. tribes joining from all corners of South Yemen to make their presence felt and call for independence.

To repeatedly claim these guys are fighting on behalf of President Hadi is a misrepresentation. The Hirak vehemently opposed the one party election of President Hadi in 2012 and my friends in the Southern Movement consistently tell me they never supported him, he is weak, they don't trust him and they do not fight for him.  They don't seek his return, despite the fact that he is from the South, because he has done little to address their concerns during his Presidency.

So who are these guys and what of their personal stories?  Many of them come from the rural, mountainous area of Yafea, but have gone to Aden to join the fight against the Houthis.  The close friends Ive made are mainly still in Doha,  or in Malaysia (where many Yemenis study English) and they feel helpless,  unable to return to their country to help their families and friends.

Every day they lose loved ones; brothers, uncles, fathers, friends in the fighting.  One friend who is out of the country in Malaysia lost his 19 year old brother who was shot defending a friend against the Houthis.  Another friend in Doha showed me photos of his cousin who had been killed and his 15 year old brother's x-rays after he had been shot in the knee while fighting in Aden.  He may never walk again because the hospitals cannot undertake operations due to fuel shortages.  

They've also lost other family members in related tragedies.  An Aunt of one of my dearest friends was staying with family in the mountains of Yafea to keep her safe from the fighting in Aden.  One of the cousins was also staying in the house to take a break from the fighting and left his gun on the chair.  The Aunt's 5 year old son started playing with the gun and shot and killed his Mum by mistake.   A most horrific accidental consequence of the war with the terrible irony that she was taken to the mountains, out of harms way.  

The photo above shows a group of friends who were killed in Aden in the early days of the conflict.
I also ask my friends about their mothers and fathers and sisters - they tell me they're OK for now in the mountains, but they have very little food, no water  and no fuel - with the summer coming and the temperatures rising now into the 30s and 40s, humanitarian aid agencies struggling to get aid in to the country and certainly not to isolated rural areas, this is a disaster and they cannot leave - even if they had fuel, there is nowhere to leave to.  No gulf countries are offering refuge - the only option is to flee by boat to Djibouti !!!  And last week we saw what happened to one boat of refugees who were shelled by the Houthis, killing terrified women and children who were just trying to seek safety.

For all the talk of regional, sectarian conflict,  proxy wars of Saudi vs Iran, USA vs Russia, power struggles between the current and ex-President of Yemen - it is the civilians of Yemen who are suffering and there is no end in sight.