A heartening process for the prisoners’ swap in Yemen, ravaged by over nine years of war, vengeance, hunger, disease and devastation, at last commenced on April 13. and the exchange of 869 captives was completed almost within three days. On fourth day, 96 more prisoners were similarly flown from Saudi Arabia to Sanaa, the rebel held capital in the North Yemen capped by a flight of another eight captives to Aden, the government’s capital in the South. This swap sweetened with a humanitarian Eid bonus of these captives, not covered by the original agreement, evidently heightened the hopes of a new span of peace, relief and respite with the optimism of reconstruction in a land ruined by the recurring spate of strife and civil wars, worsened by the tribal feuds, fights, factions and the proxy ambitions and manipulations of Iran, Saudi Arabia and some other global powers.
Yemen, once known as the Arabia Felix or the happy and prosperous Arab country, has even two Surahs of the Holy Quran named after it and about 40 hadiths related to its land and culture plus the prayers for its prosperity. Presently, however, it suffers as the poorest Arab country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, surrounded by Oman in the east, Saudi Arabia in its north and Red Sea in the west. About 65% of its over 33 million population, comprises the Sunnis while the remaining are mostly the Zaydi Shia Muslims with fractions of some Ismaili and Twelver faiths. A curious aspect of this variation is that the Shia segments are generally concentrated in the north along the once strict Wahabi Sunni Saudi stretch. With an area equal to about two third of Pakistan, it is ranked at 114 position, on the basis of GDP, that drops to 198, if the production per person is considered. The land, however, despite its meagre oil and gas reserves, had a quite rich and variegated plant and animal life including the Ostrich, frankincense and myrrh trees. Its GDP similarly was also at the highest during 2014, the year it sank into the present civil war.
This war, in a way, may be taken as yet another spell of the sectarian strife, tribal tensions and the proxy manipulations that have long divided Yemen. The socialist and secessionist surge in the South even made the British to declare it as an independent country in 1967. The bickering and border clashes between the South and North continued, their unification was, however, attained in 1990 leading to the first ever presidential elections conducted on the basis of universal suffrage. Ali Abdul Saleh, already a President of the North part since 1978, became President of the united country. The resentment against rule alienated the South but the union was retrieved in 1994. The Arab Spring in 2011, however, once again exacerbated the situation forcing Saleh to resign ceding the reins to his Vice- President Abed Mansour Hadi. A conference sponsored by the Gulf States in 2013, even ventured a new constitution for the country. Yet a year later, the protests against Hadi’s Sunni government also erupted as the economic constraints and the IMF compulsions, led it to slash the fuel subsidies and raise prices. The protesters rather blamed it on the corruption and mismanagement.
Houthi rebels linked to Iran and leading the assaults, captured the capital and Hadi, hounded by them fled to Saudi Arabia. Houthis dissolved the Parliament in February 2015 constituted a Presidential Council instead that was even rejected by the UNO. Saudi Arabia, despite its traditions of friendly relations and economic and strategic association with Yemen, was also quite moved by Hadi’s calls for military support and the mounting Iran’s influence at its borders. Supported by some Gulf States and various western powers, it initiated air action against Yemen on march 26, 2015.
The war, raging since then, is claimed to have created the worst ever humanitarian crisis in history. Yemen over all these years has fought and suffered the cruel combo of the aerial and land bombardments, assaults and blockades of the air, land and sea arteries of access, aid and supplies. Most of the blockades were enforced by the coalition partners. The global observers, however, also reported how some Houthis, the coalition forces and other factions carried out some deliberate actions that evidently constitute the war crimes. They ranged from abductions, arbitrary imprisonments, torturing and killing the civilians to impeding and interrupting the health and emergency services, supplies and hospitals. The list even includes the destruction of a hospital operated by the Doctors Beyond Borders. The interruptions also forced some donor countries and global aid agencies including the United Nations, to reduce the supplies of their essential food, medicines and other vital items when they were rather more desperately wanted during the Covid contingencies. This evidently spiraled their scarcity and prices. The dread of death, disease, displacements, disruption of life, supplies and movements, malnutrition and hunger, was worsened by endemic and pandemic afflictions including the Covid vagaries. Over 150 thousand persons were killed and four million displaced. About three fourth of its entire population, needs some form of humanitarian help and protection while about 80% has to struggle hard to find food and the bare basics.
Children have been the worst victims of this war, as over ten thousand of them lost their lives or limbs, about two million were dislocated from their homes, hearth, relations and environment and over thirteen million still crave for some form of care and protection. The realisation and truce trickling in this tragic trail of horror and the tempest of the sectarian passions and proxies evidently inspire the hopes for a new era of realistic passions for tolerance, coexistence, continuous and sustainable spans of peace, preeminence of the care and concern for human life and happiness and reconstruction of the infrastructure and innovative projects for further progress and development.