“Our Present Is a Nightmare”: 100 Yemenis Speak Out Against the U.S.-Saudi War
As the Senate takes an unprecedented step towards ending the Yemen War, here are the voices of the Yemenis bearing its brunt.
Update: On Thursday, the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, with a vote of 56-41, instructing President Donald Trump to end U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war on Yemen
On Wednesday, the House faced a setback when representatives voted 206-203 to strip the House version of the War Powers Resolution of privileged status, with the help of five Democrats. Despite the loss in the House, peace activists say the Senate momentum is turning against the war — and they’re determined to continue the fight to end it.
Yet the Yemenis who have been living through nearly four years of a devastating U.S.-Saudi war do not get to participate in these U.S. political debates — and are rarely heard in the American press.
The war is responsible for taking the lives of at least 57,000 people and starving to death nearly 85,000 children under the age of five, according to a conservative estimate by Save the Children. With extensive military support from the United States, the war and blockade, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have also led to the near collapse of the economic, health and educational sectors in Yemen, with half the population—14 million people — now facing famine.
In These Times asked Yemenis in Yemen to describe to the American public their own experience of the war and analysis of the overall situation in Yemen, using a word or a sentence. Responses were overwhelming, with nearly 900 public replies to the tweet and dozens more direct messages (WARNING: graphic photos were also provided by many respondents):
Most respondents tweeted about the impact of the war on their country and its devastating impact on their daily lives, and I translated their testimonies from Arabic to English. Below are the messages of 100 Yemenis living in Yemen, in their own words.
Dr. Ammar Ali, a computer specialist living in Sana’a with his wife and two daughters, noted that “the forgotten war in Yemen must be known to all.” Mohammad Lotf, an engineer also living in Sana’a with his wife and two boys, began with, “God is with us,” a sentiment expressed by many respondents, along with his gratitude to those who speak out against the war. “Thanks for every free voice and every one with a conscience who speaks out, defends, and rejects injustice and aggression on Yemen,” he wrote.
Respondents like Yasmeen Ali, a woman living in Sana’a, directly addressed the American public: She tweeted, “Dear American people, we speak with you in the name of humanity. Help us to stop the war in Yemen. Your great country America is the one that sells weapons to the Coalition to bomb Yemen. Your great country is the one that gave the green light to strike Yemen.” Others, such as Dr. Ashraf Alkebsi, asked, “Why must the beautiful American dream turn our lives in Yemen into an ugly nightmare in the depths of hell?” Others also addressed the American public in their tweets:
Abdulghani Hussein: Your government is killing us and the price of your welfare is our blood…
Abdulsalam Alwagih: Yemenis know very well that America is the main driver and the first partner in the aggression on Yemen, and no matter how it tries to improve its image through deceit and misleading the media and calling for false peace, it will never succeed. Tell the Americans that all the values and principles they claim to uphold have been cheaply sold to the most despicable of people, the Family of Saud and the Family of Nahyan.
Imran AlKafi: The situation in Yemen is very desperate. We need help. [There’s] unemployment and poverty and disease with the siege. Yemenis are forced to live in poverty. Is there any assistance for Yemenis? Will you have mercy on them, O’ you who have blockaded them by land, sea and air? Relieve them of their pain. Relieve them of their situation. Help them.
Gamal Asad: Tell the American people that their economy is built upon the blood of the innocent people of Yemen. Does this satisfy them?!
Abu Nasser: We have no place on this planet. Please tell them if they have discovered life on another planet, allow us to live on any piece of it in peace.
Others addressed the international community’s inaction — and complicity — regarding the suffering of Yemen.
Abu Hussein Almuayyad: Hello world. Do you still remember Yemen? We are sorry to bother you but we have to inform you that Saudi-American jets bombed a popular neighborhood, massacring and wounding 28, all of whom are civilians, mostly women and children.
Algriri: The world has lost humanity towards the Yemeni people.
Jalaladdin: Yemen is the place that was once called the Happy Yemen but it is no longer happy after being bombed by Saudi Arabia and its coalition. The children of Yemen die every moment because of hunger while billions are spent to buy weapons that destroyed everything. The world does not see the tragedy of Yemen; we don’t know why. We want nothing but the sovereignty of [our] country!
Badr Alkasm: Money and oil buys the world to destroy and kill Yemenis.
Ghaleb Alfaqih: All the world kills and besieges and invades a people in which the elements of life have ceased.
Abdulkareem Ali: The people live in pain because of the failure of the international community and its lack of interest in Yemen’s hunger, disease, instability and lack of salaries.
Enough wars, destruction and conflicts fueled by international actors. We want to live in dignity like all human beings.
The worst torment is to see your country ruined in front of you while you’re unable to do anything.
Some respondents tweeted short phrases or words that captured the humanitarian nightmare they are living through. Sukaina, a communications officer for Save the Children in Yemen and a mother of a two-year-old, simply noted, “Nightmare.” Similarly, Alshami said, “Yemen is unwell,” while Mohamed Alhemyari, who says in his Twitter bio that he “speaks for the poor and oppressed,” responded with a series of words: “Death, hunger, fear, disease, cold.”
Nour: This isn’t the life I deserve to live.
Zaid Al-Thairi: Humanitarian tragedy.
Faisal AbuRas (in English): Fed up. Our lives are difficult.
Abdullah bin Mohamed: Yemeni children are killed by epidemics.
Mansour: Yemen has become a vast prison.
Rehana Sabr: Hunger.
Khaled Alaqel: The smell of death and destruction is everywhere. Suffering, continued hunger, and unemployment.
Yahya Solah: Yemen is slaughtered from vein to vein.
Bashir Alrayashi: Yemenis live between life and death.
Ahmed G. Almohammad: Yemen is miserable.
Ahmad Ghanem: They’ve destroyed [Yemen].
Among those who replied are people who have experienced personal loss. Ibrahim AbdulKarim, who lost his infant daughter, Zainab, in a Coalition airstrike in 2015 and has since been looking for a lawyer to represent his case against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, noted, “Innumerable crimes are committed by Coalition aircraft against human beings and stone [alike]. Widespread famine and a suffocating siege is killing 27 million women, children and the elderly. Chronic diseases are widespread, [all] with an American international cover for this criminal Coalition. This is the condition of the wounded Yemen.” Ali AlShathami responded to the tweet with a heartbreaking firsthand account of the day his family of 11 was bombed by the Coalition: “Personally, Saudi and UAE aircraft struck my family, killing my children and my wife.”
A number of respondents underscored their resilience in the face of such overwhelming suffering, and their resistance to foreign occupation. Ahmed Munif wrote, “Yemen refuses submission and slavery. It upholds its right to live a good life like the rest of the world. What do the aggressors want from their unjust war?” Similarly, Mohamed AbdulQuddus, a writer and journalist, wrote, “My beloved Yemen is in general a state of legendary steadfastness, despite the immense suffering resulting from the brutal military aggression and the unjust siege imposed by the Coalition countries 3 years and 7 months ago, which resulted in the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. More than 20 million people under the poverty line suffer from famine.” Others tweeted along similar themes of resistance to oppression:
Abujibril Alwazir: Yemen is still steadfast and resistant after four years of unjust aggression, despite the intensity of the military, economic and media war waged against it by the American and Saudi regime.
Mohamad Al Shami: Faithful, strong, steadfast, defensive, honor, hopeful for peace.
Alhassan Alhomani: Yemen, despite the bombing, hunger, and death, will remain proud, refusing the humiliation and the breaking of this unjust world.
Shihab Ismail Jahaf: Human Rights Council. UN Security Council. Lies and nonsense. There are no human rights or international security. We live in a jungle. The strong eat the weak. In conclusion, we will defend ourselves or we shall die as martyrs with pride.
Hamza Almawri: Resistance is accompanied by pain.
Zahra: Steadfastness, patience and endurance amidst poverty and hunger and Coalition airstrikes and its destructive war.
Hussam Al-Sanabani, who penned an open letter last year urging American lawmakers to end the war in Yemen, wrote, “Our lives have been destroyed, but we are still alive. We live without hope and we watch as human values lose their meaning: democracy, human rights, equality, justice … these words and others have become, in our view, an absurd propaganda, as ridiculous as describing Mohammed bin Salman as a reformer.” Like Al-Sanabani, most respondents highlighted the immense humanitarian suffering experienced by everyone living in Yemen. Tweeting in English, Abdullah Tamesh wrote, “Urgent message. STOP THE WAR IN YEMEN.” Other tweets highlighting the humanitarian toll are below:
Tweeting in English, one person noted, “We lost our jobs. We can’t complete our postgraduate education. We need to live safely and build our country.”
Everything here is expensive except suffering and sickness and poverty and death - [they’re] for free.
The US-Saudi coalition killed and murdered the Yemeni people and destroyed their property.
Hashim AlLahji: The houses were bombed upon the heads of their inhabitants with American weapons and complicity.
Mustafa Almaghriby: Yemen is war, killing and starvation. Yemen is a real tragedy in the present world.
Saleh Alsarafi: Expensive living conditions.
Ali Abu Munqidh: The most important issue is the denial of salaries; [it’s] the biggest crime against the Yemeni people. Imagine an employee who has performed his duty in any field of service for forty or fifty years and in the end found himself without a source of livelihood.
Yemeni children die of hunger, disease and rockets due to US-Saudi-Emirati alliance
Abdullah AlNasiri: Our situation is miserable national and stolen every day it destroys tens of souls no freedom we have no security and no safety we live
All the instruments of war are being tried in Yemen and on real people. There are so many victims without any account for human rights. If a citizen is not killed by a weapon, he’ll die of hunger or disease or cold or psychological conditions. Yemen’s people are sentenced to death, without exception.
Mohamad Ali Almamari (in English): Yemen is going through the worst phase since it found famine, killing, displacement and obliterating something called education and health.
Najmaldin Alrafai: Yemen is subjected to an unjust aggression that kills civilians, destroys all elements of life, occupies the land and loots wealth under false pretenses.
Zakarya Aljabree: …We live in fear and doubt, and we no longer find safety in anything.
Nagwa Ahmed: The Yemeni citizen is experiencing the worst stagnation in employment and education.
Magd: The Saudi aggression on Yemen is fueled by the poor citizen and the spread of poverty, hunger, disease and unemployment.
Abrhim: Yemen has become like an abandoned land. No electricity. No food. Only bombing and killing and the coverup of those crimes by politicized media.
Ali Alyamani: The Yemeni citizen suffers from the lack of electricity, the lack of water, the lack of oil derivatives, diseases, especially malaria dengue fever.
Hussein Sarrar: We are denied basic services, salaries and everything.
Um Hussein: The situation is terrible and people want to emigrate.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen has deteriorated - a total interruption of salaries for over two years until citizens no longer find means of purchasing food.
Ali Alhasani: The Saudi-Emirati-American Coalition has killed everything in Yemen.
Citizens suffer a slow death without salaries or work opportunities for over two years.
Faisal: Yemeni people are killed by bullets and starvation.
Abdulrahman Kohlani: Yemen suffers from a complete lack of food security. The purchasing power of the currency is also very weak due to the lack of oil exports and the benefiting from its revenues. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading their aggression against Yemen under false pretexts…
Others, like Maha Nagi, an MBA student who now works in the humanitarian sector, could not find the words to express the suffering: “Unfortunately, the situation cannot be described.”
One person asked, “What have the Yemeni people done to deserve the killing and siege and starvation and the great oppression? What is the big crime that caused all these countries to wage a third world war upon them, devouring the green and the land? What [crime] have Yemenis committed?”
Similarly, Abo Yasen included a picture of a smiling child and asked, “What did this child do for him to die in a raid and be under the rubble?”
ما اقترف هذا الطفل بان يموت بإحدى الغارات ويكون تحت الانقاض pic.twitter.com/nT9FflkbD4— Abo Yasen (@aboyosef0000111) December 1, 2018
Respondents also used the word “genocide” to describe their condition:
Malek Hasan: In the war in Yemen, all laws were violated; the world ignored the genocide of the Yemeni people and consciences died.
Zaha: We call for an end to the Saudi aggression against the Yemeni people. We call for an end to the genocide of Yemeni children and women. We call for an end to the sale of conventional and non-conventional weapons to the bloody Saudi regime We call for the boycotting of the Saudi regime until it stops and ends the war and aggression against Yemen.
Abu Ibrahim: Our children in Yemen are being killed by US-backed Saudi planes. Those who survive the missiles will die of hunger because of the siege. Yemen is being subjected to genocide.
Many respondents referenced the aerial, naval and land blockade specifically, and noted its devastating impact on life in Yemen.
Alawi Farag: Saudi Arabia’s arbitrary and inhumane practices against the Yemeni people continue uninterruptedly around the clock. The Coalition’s practices and its land, air, and naval blockade for four years completely contradict all international conventions, international humanitarian law and all international protocols.
Abdulaziz Dhaifullah: Yemen defends its national sovereignty for the [right] to an independent political decision and the lifting of the guardianship of the Family of Saud, the Family of Zayed and the American regime. They imposed a blockade and targeted women and children. [They’ve committed] serial crimes and moved the Central Bank to Aden, and cut salaries for the purpose of starving and forcing the people into submission. Is it not our right to be free from foreign guardianship?
Abunasser Alsadi (in English): Yemen is suffering from a land, sea and air blockade, and no one can leave and food and medicine enter through humanitarian aid organizations
Aqlan: Lift your hands off Yemen. Lift your siege from the airports and ports.
Many spoke about the U.S. government’s complicity in the war. One woman, Lames, noted, “The unfortunate situation of Yemen is the biggest and most important consequence of the true face of American policy in the region and its ambitions. Without the American support for Saudi Arabia and its allies, Yemen would have not reached this situation.” Another person echoed the widely-held view that the war cannot continue without U.S. support: “If America wants to stop the unjust war on Yemen, it will stop it within hours.”
Abulhussein Alsaqqaf: What can a U.S. citizen do when the U.S. administration decides to maintain its [arms] deals with Saudi in total disregard of humanitarian principles?!
Abdulkarim AlTaban: The White House is the one running the war in Yemen and making it a test field for new U.S. missiles on the bodies of children and women.
Abdu Ali: All members of Congress in both chambers are well aware that the Coalition countries in the war on Yemen have committed extremely heinous and ugly crimes. They themselves are the members who vote to sell arms deals that commit such crimes.
Nour: The American government supports the criminals Al Saud and Al Zayed in the killing and siege of the Yemeni people.
Abdulhameed Abdo: We’ve learned that [U.S.] participation without congressional authorization is contrary to the Constitution. But it seems that the administration does not place any weight on this violation.
Abdullah Mufdhil Alwazir: Our blood, for the Trump administration, is just arms deals. There is no value for the human being at a time when you talk about animal rights while you commit the most extreme terrorism against us.
Alhamdi Muhsen: Dogs tear the flesh of Yemenis. An unjust cruel oppression. Led by America.
Zakaria Amer (in English): The Yemeni people live in very difficult economic and humanitarian conditions, all due to the American support for the Saudi aggression against the Republic of Yemen.
Abu Qased AlSalmi AlYafiee: Saudi Arabia, the greater ISIS, and the ones who killed the Americans. And the disaster is that Americans are the ones who support [this] and by all means for killing Yemenis. In other words, Trump has become in the pocket of the criminal bin Salman.
America is the one who created this war, the siege, and slaughter of Yemen.
Referencing journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, one woman noted, “Describe Yemen’s situation like that of Khashoggi - everyday for four years, the Saudi saw cuts it with U.S. support in front of the world.” Similarly, Senan Alsaidi asked, “Do you want to know what’s going on in Yemen? Look at the brutality of the Saudi regime’s assassination of the journalist Khashoggi and you will know what is happening in Yemen closely. That brutal regime is supported by the American government.”
Finally, respondents discussed their hopes, or lack thereof, for the future:
Abood: We are tired of war and destruction. Enough shedding blood of the Yemeni people.
Dr. Ali Alzanm: Yemen needs a lasting and genuine peace and the rebuilding of the nation on a national basis that includes all Yemenis, and this will only be by the pressure of the major powers on the countries that have used Yemen as a field to settle their scores, and not for Yemen and Yemenis.”
Our only dream is that the war in Yemen ends. American citizens are good people who are capable of pressuring [the government] to end the war. We will be grateful for their sympathy and assistance to us.
Abu Mohamed: We’re living a tragedy. In some areas, there’s no drinking water. We only want life.
Omar Alabasi: People in South and North Yemen face hunger, poverty and unemployment. There’s nothing in Yemen other than war. We want to stop the wars in Yemen. People want peace. People pay the price of wars. Enough destruction. Enough war. There’s no road to peace. People are mentally, economically, and morally exhausted of war.
Mansour Alsayadi: The future of youth is lost in the midst of their suffering.
Our present is a nightmare and our future is wasted.
Shireen Al-Adeimi is an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University. Since 2015, she has played an active role in raising awareness about the Saudi-led war on her country of birth, Yemen, and works to encourage political action to end U.S. support.