Now in its second month since the Saudi-led war coalition of Arab states launched a military campaign against Yemen, Yemenis are still facing the horrors of war in the country, while others are facing hardship and humiliation seeking refuge abroad. These are some of the stories that have been shared on social media that would not be heard otherwise.
Thousands of Yemenis are stranded abroad, unable to return home, since Saudi-led coalition forces started bombing the country on March 26. Another 300,000 are internally displaced in Yemen, with little to no help. Yemenis who were out of the country for medical treatment and other reasons when war broke out in their country, were prevented from returning to their homeland for a whole month, by order of the war coalition on Yemen. The imposed embargo on Yemeni air, land and sea, caused Yemenis to be stranded overseas. With new visa requirements imposed on them by countries that previously welcomed them, and no resources to support them.
Arab coalition forces have been pounding Yemen with airstrikes since March 26. Their assault has not been limited to military sites or the main target of the campaign, the Houthis, who had taken control of Yemen's capital Sana'a in January.
There is also massive destruction in the beautiful southern port city Aden, where the Houthis have been launching their response along with militias loyal to Yemen's former president, Ali Abdulla Saleh, who was forced to step down after three decades in power, following popular protests in 2011.
Fahd Aqlan, a Yemeni who has been living in Egypt for eight years and considers it his second home, was in Yemen to attend his brother's wedding before the war broke out. He writes on his Facebook page the story of his agonising and humiliating trip from Yemen back to Egypt through Djibouti in four parts.
The first part describes how he struggled to get to Taiz safely by land after his flight landed in Aden, with the Houthis advancing, just a few days before the airstrikes began.
The second part was about planning his trip to leave Yemen back to Cairo through the only means possible, by sea from the port city of Mokha, on a boat that transports herds, to Djibouti and from there on to Cairo.
The third part was about his struggle to get a fair treatment and take his passport back from the port authorities in Djibouti. Although he was just transiting with security clearance from Egypt and an air ticket to Cairo, instead he was treated as a refugee because there was nobody from his embassy to help him and was about to be deported to a camp before he managed to escape. He writes:
كان مندوبوا السفارات البريطانية والأمريكية والمصرية والاردنية يعملون كخلية نحل لإستكمال إجراءات الدخول لمواطنيهم وكنت
اشعر بالأسى لحالي كيمني حيث لا احد من السفارة اليمنية
Delegates from the British, American, Egyptian and Jordanian embassies where abuzz working to complete entry procedures for their fellow citizens and I was feeling distressed for my condition as a Yemeni where there was no one from the Yemeni embassy
The fourth and last part was about finally making it to the flight out of Djibouti heading to Cairo, having to purchase another ticket to Jordan, yet fearing rejection of entry at Cairo Airport because he was still missing the visa. Fahad was eventually admitted and was given a temporary visa valid for six months only. He concludes:
وصلت بيتي وانا غير مصدق ان كل شيء انتهى اخيرا ، ونمت كما لم أنم من قبل .
بعدها بأيام ذهبت الى مجمع التحرير لتسوية وضع اقامتي انا وأسرتي ، وضعوا على جوازاتهم اقامة غير محددة المدة وانا اقامة مؤقتة لمدة ستة أشهر فقط لأنني لم اكن داخل مصر عند تغيير القوانين !
I arrived home not believing that everything is finally over and I slept like I have never slept before.
A few days later I went to the Mogamma (an official building in Egypt) in Tahrir to legalise the situation of my stay and that of my family, they put on their passports a residency for an indefinite period and on mine a temporary stay for only six months because I was not in Egypt when the laws changed!
A similar story was also shared on Facebook by Nina A. Aqlan, who recounts the humiliation she faced during her trip out of Yemen. In her own words she describes the transit stop on a Saudi military base:
I couldn't believe my eyes, besides the desert that surrounded us, the military men and scorching heat of the sun. We stood there, outside the plane waiting on the bear grounds of the airport…We were in a military airport. Our baggage was all taken out of the plane and laid on the ground. The back door to a black SUV that was parked near us opened and one of the Saudi military men pulled on a leach of a German shepherd leading him out to sniff our bags. The majority of us, women and children, stood there. Watching. The sounds of children crying from the heat, the uncertainty and worry.
Yemenis are now being stranded, displaced, starved, killed, mentally sabotaged, humiliated, and terrorized. Enduring inhumane conditions, no access to fuel, water, poor to non existent medical services, official warnings that telecom maybe suspended soon due to lack of fuel, not being able to leave and now major airports in the country completely destroyed, not able to even receive money transfers from abroad, no foreign hard currency except for Saudi Riyals, Yemenis stuck abroad not able to return back to Yemen, and not even allowed into any Arab country without a visa.
These stories are just two examples of lucky people, who had the means and managed to get out safely. Others face harsher and more terrifying experiences. With a war tearing their country apart and conditions imposed on them beyond their power, Yemenis are forced to face hardship and humiliation as refugees.
A heartbreaking photograph was posted on Twitter of an old Yemeni man sleeping on the sidewalk in Cairo. Most probably who went to Egypt for medical treatment and was humiliatingly stranded in the streets of Cairo after his money ran out.
#Yemen nationals stuck in #Egypt due to #Saudi imposed air blockade forced to sleep in streets. #اليمن pic.twitter.com/8hC7tuP3hc
— Yemen Post Newspaper (@YemenPostNews) April 24, 2015
Yemen_updates tweeted about Yemenis who were sick and denied entry to neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which is leading the military operations in Yemen and imposing sanctions:
#Saudi humiliates the #Yemenis by sanctions and at borders. We know families that are waiting for days in Tiwal border town to get access.
— Yemen Updates (@yemen_updates) May 3, 2015
Sick people who need urgent medical help at the #Saudi borders were not allowed in. They returned back to #Sanaa. pic.twitter.com/QV7kFf22NV
— Yemen Updates (@yemen_updates) May 3, 2015
When will Yemenis be treated with dignity, let alone as refugees by other Arab and neighbouring countries?
Read also: War Has Left Yemenis Stranded Abroad and Displaced at Home