18 Apr

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

War News

As a voluntary agreement is struck for forces to withdraw from the port city, two friends recount the horror of conflict in their neighbourhood in Yemen

Karl Schembri in Hodeidah and

Four of the six daughters of Majed Al Wahidi, a teacher, who died during an attack in Yemen: from left to right, Rufaida, 16, Amat Al Wahhab, 9, Amat Al Salam and Amat Al Hakim, 12.

Four of the six daughters of Majed Al-Wahidi, a teacher: the four children died in an attack in November 2018. From left: Rufaida, 16, Amat Al-Wahhab, 9, Amat Al-Salam and Amat Al-Hakim, 12. Photograph: NRC

Friends Majed Al-Wahidi and Ali Al-Zazai remember the constant buzzing of drones overhead in Hodeidah on 18 November last year.

Majed, a teacher and father of six daughters, had left Ali’s house to return to his home nearby, but went back because he had forgotten his lighter. It was about 5pm and Majed’s daughters were in their bedroom, having taken a break from studying to pray in their modest, corrugated iron-covered home.

“The drone kept hovering above us. I was asking myself what on earth it was doing there,” says Ali.

Ali’s daughter Sonya, 16, was walking along the street towards home. “I looked up at the sky and I saw a flash,” she says. “I didn’t feel anything. I heard an explosion and felt something hit my body, then I got scared. I was screaming that my sisters were killed, but the shell had hit our neighbours’ house.” Smoke was coming from Majed’s home.

“The street was full of shrapnel. My legs were getting heavier. I couldn’t utter a word,” says Majed.

At Majed’s house, two of his daughters, bleeding heavily, were frantically asking people to come and help their sisters. “When we entered we saw two girls half dead, the eldest one about to die. They took her outside the house but there were no ambulances. By the time she reached hospital she had died,” says Ali.

In November 2018, a shell hit Majed Al Wahidi’s house in Hodeidah City, killing four of his daughters and seriously injuring the other two.

The ruins of Majed Al-Wahidi’s house in Hodeidah City. Photograph: Karl Schembri/N

Four of Majed’s six daughters were killed. Rufaida, the eldest, was 16. He describes her as having taken on the roles of “mother, father, comrade and friend” since he and his wife divorced. The youngest, Amat Al-Wahhab, was nine. She was found holding on to Amat Al-Salam, 14, one of twins, and besides them Amat Al-Hakeem, 12.

Nazeeha, 13, suffered major injuries. Still in hospital four months later, with more than 30 pieces of shrapnel in her body, she remains unaware that her sisters were killed.

Majed Al Wahidi at his destroyed house in Hodeidah, where four of his daughters were killed and another two injured in November 2018.

School teacher Majed Al-Wahidi at his destroyed house in Hodeidah. Photograph: Karl Schembri/NRC

“I’ve been telling her that three of her sisters are being treated out of the country, and one of them is in Sana’a,” Majed says.

Keen not to set back her recovery, Majed keeps up the pretence. “I disappear for two days, then see her on the third day, to make it look convincing, as if I went to Sana’a,” he explains.

Surviving twin Amat Al-Malik discovered the truth in hospital. She saw a poster bearing her twin sister’s photograph, customary now for the victims of the war in Yemen.

“I didn’t tell her because we were trying to protect her while she was undergoing treatment and surgery,” says Majed. “But when God wants things to happen, they just happen. She saw her photo in the hospital and took it down. That was painful. Everyone was looking in surprise, as she was kissing the photograph and crying.

“This was such a shock for my daughter, losing her sisters and getting to know in this way. Thankfully she was only able to attend [this] hospital after she recovered. It’s as if her sister was alive in the photo waiting for her to recover and come and give her the one last kiss.”

‘They were children’: Sonya tells of the day her friends were killed in an air strike in Yemen

The port city of Hodeidah has experienced some of the fiercest fighting since the conflict in Yemen began four years ago. Now, for the first time, residents have told outsiders their stories of air-raids, tanks and gunfire, death and once-loved homes left as mounds of rubble.

Majed and Ali and their families lived just a few hundred metres from 22-May Hospital in 50th Street, which became a frontline as the fighting escalated.

“The girls who died were like my daughters,” Ali says. His daughter, Sonya, also needed surgery. She still feels pain in her leg but is now able to walk. With their house destroyed, Ali now rents two rooms for his family.

Sonya struggles with the death of her friends. “There was no reason to attack and wound them. They were innocent people in their house. Why attack them? They’re just children” she says.

The World Food Programme estimates that 20 million people are facing hunger in Yemen.

“My daughters died hungry, they hadn’t eaten anything,” says Majed. “I gave all my life to my children, to raise them, just like anyone who puts all their hopes and dreams in their children.

“It is the innocent, simple, vulnerable, poor people who are paying the price. We haven’t seen any minister or people from the high-class affected by this war. Only those who can barely make a living.”

On Monday, Martin Griffiths, UN special envoy to Yemen, announced the first voluntary agreement between pro-government forces and Houthi rebels to withdraw from the port of Hodeidah. If successful it could allow vital aid supplies back into the country.

Ali and his daughter Sonya, 16, who was injured in the attack on their neighbours’ house.

Ali and his daughter Sonya, 16, who was injured in the attack on their neighbours’ house. Photograph: Karl Schembri/NRC

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has put the number of civilian deaths between March 2015 and 14 March 2019 at 7,072, with 11,205 people injured, although it concedes the numbers are likely to be far higher.

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (Acled), which is evaluating data on the conflict, suggests that there have been more than 69,000 conflict-related civilian and combatant deaths since 2016 alone.

Majed, a teacher for more than 20 years, feels deeply aggrieved that some of his former students might be involved in the fighting.

“What did I do to deserve this? My weapon is education. Throughout my life, I haven’t held anything but a chalk. I teach children. Thousands of students graduated under my supervision. I’ve been invested in teaching for a good society, not just for Yemen, but for the good of all humanity, so that they can coexist with the rest of the world …

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