Living through war…from afar

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It’s been almost 6 months since it all began, 160 days to be exact. We were on holiday in a remote area of France and it was late at night when my husband came to wake me up to tell me the news.

My heart skipped a beat then started racing, my mind was trying really hard to find another meaning to the words that were coming out of his mouth. But he seemed certain, the war had started.

I suddenly felt angry, angry at him…it wasn’t logical I know, but I blamed him for being the bearer of the horrible news.

His voice jolted me back to reality and it took me a few seconds to register what he was saying “we have to call your mother” I eventually heard him say, “um… yes yes of course” I replied, but the truth was calling my mother was the last thing I wanted to do. I wasn’t prepared to let that reality sink in and talking to my mother meant I had to.

But there was no escape. As he dialled her number I sat on the steps, still in shock. It must have been the early hours of the morning in Sana’a. I wondered if she would pick up and then I started to panic, what if she doesn’t answer, would that mean something had happened? For all I knew Saudi Arabia had secretly acquired a nuclear bomb and had dropped it on Yemen killing every soul there.

There was no reasoning with my mind, it was heading to a dark place.

Thankfully she picked up her phone and my husband spoke to her as I sat there looking at him with envy. I envied him for being able to express his worry and love through his words and prompt action while I sat there paralysed. My mind was racing… ‘I need to take deep breaths’ I kept reminding myself, ‘everything will be ok’ I reluctantly lied to myself.

Then I started thinking, the last time I saw my mother…no no I won’t go there, I won’t think of any ‘last times’. But who was I to try to reason why my irrational and unkind mind.

It was six months before the Saudi-led coalition started its military offensive on Yemen that I last saw my mother. Six months since I was last in Yemen. Six months since I last felt at home…since I had a home.

‘Yes, she’s here next to me, she wants to speak to you, you take care of yourself’ I heard him say as he handed me the phone. I felt mixed emotions then. Partly relived that she was ok and sounded calm but terrified at the thought of what could happen. ‘Can you leave?’ I asked her naively…’no habibty the airports are closed’ she replied ‘we’ll wait and see what happens but don’t worry we’re all fine’ she tried to reassure me.

We hung up and I thought to myself, if my mother can be this calm then I have no excuse to fall apart.

It took us two months and several panicking calls from my sister to my mother to get her out. After we convinced her it was time to leave I was faced with a bigger problem, how the hell will I get her out? Airports, embassies and borders were closed and the roads were unsafe. But eventually it all worked out and we got her out.

I won’t deny the sense of relief I felt when we got her out of Yemen. She was safe and nothing else mattered. Here I was lying to myself yet again.

For those who haven’t been following what’s been happening in Yemen I will spare you the details, but suffice to say that the destiny of the 25 million people living in fear of losing their homes and loved ones at the hands of their own people and their mighty neighbour is sealed by this poor country’s insignificance to the world at large.

There are certain realities you know and accept. Wars will happen and innocent people will die, good people will face cruel and undeserved destinies and tragedies will not change their course to spare a child.

You also learn there is no good and evil, only us versus them.

You realise despite not advertising itself well humanity does exists, but in a selective form.

And yet none of this changes the fact that when it’s your own home that takes the hit, when it’s your generous and warm people who are suffering…all the certainties you took for granted take a whole new meaning.

And it takes you a while to realise it but one day you see it. You have also changed.

You bottle your feelings and learn to hold back your tears. You’ve got no other option because really, what’s the use of falling apart. But the worst part is knowing that the pain you feel is nothing compared to what people who live there have to go through day and night until god knows when.

So you’ll wake up every morning and get ready for work, you’ll wish your husband a good day and on your way you go. You’ll walk down the street carrying your purse and in it all the things you need for the day, but for a moment you’ll stop to ponder, what would you carry in your bag if you were forced to flee? You come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be much more than what you’re already carrying, because ultimately the things that matter the most you carry in your heart. And so with a heavy heart shouldering the weight of your memories you are so scared of losing, you get on the train and head to work hoping and praying that today won’t be the day when the ruthlessness of this unreasonable war will finally overpower you.



These are some links to the latest news out of Yemen:

BBC: How bad is the humanitarian situation in Yemen?

Yemen crisis: How bad is the humanitarian situation?

Qatar deploys 1,000 ground troops to fight in Yemen


BBC: UAE launches fresh Yemen attacks


The Guardian:

The Guardian: There are 21 million in need of humanitarian aid in Yemen – please listen

Photo credit: Reuters

To find shareable infographics on the impact of war on Yemen follow 

Yemen in Numbers by Ruba Al Eryani

And if you are interested in following what is happening in Yemen here are some of the twitter accounts you should follow:


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