‘We can’t afford to give up’: the Yemenis keeping hope alive

时间:2019-11-16  作者:微生疴夼  来源:betway必威体育  浏览:195次  评论:164条

Yemen is marking a grim anniversary this week: it has been four years since a western-backed military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in its civil war, a move which has led to the deaths of at least 60,000 people and caused the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

As the conflict enters its fifth year, diplomats are struggling to rescue a three-month-old ceasefire which has been threatened by heavy fighting in the cities of Hodeidah and Taiz between rebel Houthis and forces loyal to Yemen’s government. At the start of the rainy season, the UN has warned of a sharp spike in cholera cases.

Many Yemenis speak with anger at the international community’s inability to broker a political solution to the conflict, which began in the aftermath of the Arab spring. But the thousands of people who took to the streets in 2011 in peaceful protests – among them human rights activists, students, journalists, doctors, teachers and development workers – are still working hard to keep their country together and maintain hope for a better future.

Hisham al-Omeisy, human rights activist

Hisham al-Omeisy. Photograph: Supplied

Omeisy, one of Yemen’s most prominent political analysts and activists, had long been a rare voice on the ground, unafraid of criticising both sides in order to bring the conflict to the outside world.

For his trouble, he was arrested by the Houthis in Sana’a in August 2017 and kept in solitary confinement for five months, where he was regularly tortured and threatened with the death penalty.

Since his release he has continued to raise the profile of other Yemeni prisoners of conscience, push for a political solution to the conflict and work on breaking down the stigma of mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It is difficult and dangerous to be independent anywhere, but especially in ,” he said. “I was warned: ‘If you keep stepping on people’s toes, no one will be able to defend you if you get into trouble.’ But the tradeoff for that is that I would lose my credibility, and I refuse to do that. We can’t afford to give up.”

Fatima, aid worker

Fatima, who asked the Guardian not to use her real name to protect her organisation’s work, works on food distribution programmes in Houthi-held Saada province, where a coalition airstrike hit a school bus last August, killing 40 children and 11 adults.

“The work is very difficult. Many tribal communities are afraid to give location coordinates because they think the coalition will use it to target them,” she said.

“What gives me hope is seeing the impact we have. We help people get back on their feet with work programmes and they tell me they feel like they have their dignity back.”

Fatima is a divorced single mother, which she says makes her life more complicated in the deeply conservative country. “I could leave. But if I run away, then who will stay? In the end it is men who created this war. I work with lots of inspiring women. This is our chance to show that women can make the decisions, we can make things better. I am proving that to myself and to society.”

Jaclin al-Batani, university lecturer and political activist

Jaclin al-Batani Photograph: Supplied

“Aden is my home. It has its problems, but so does everywhere. To me it is the best place in the world.”

Jaclin al-Batani, from Yemen’s south, teaches English at Aden University and is a member of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a movement seeking renewed independence for the south of the country.

Her work focuses on social affairs projects designed to help low-income families and women who have lost their husbands and sons in the war start their own small businesses such as tailoring.

She says the war has taken a huge toll on Yemen – but it has also allowed people in the south, who have long felt marginalised by the government, to become active in the political process.

“I keep politics out of my classroom but my students are aware they are the future for Aden and the rest of Yemen. Teaching them is a delight. It gives me so much satisfaction.”

Dr Amin al-Kamali, neurosurgeon

Yemen’s crumbling health infrastructure is one of its major problems: the targeting of clinics and hospitals by both sides as well as the Saudi blockade on the country which limits the import of medicines has left many facilities unusable.

Dr Amin al-Kamali was the first Yemeni neurosurgeon to qualify in the country 25 years ago and he refuses to leave his patients at his hospital in Sanaa.

“Most of my patients are now lacking the transport to get to Sanaa and to pay for treatment. I don’t take money from them, I do as much as possible to keep the hospital going. But there’s only so much we can do with a shortage of medicine and equipment. I now treat trauma and gunshot wounds and spinal injuries too.

“When a patient does make it to Sanaa from a distant place though and leaves the hospital able to stand on his own two feet again, that makes me the happiest person in the world.”