How can those who plant mines in Yemen be equated with those who remove them?
Yemen has a long history with mines. During the North-South conflict in the 1970s, armed groups situated in the central regions planted hundreds of thousands of mines they got from Libyan leader Muaamar Kaddafi as support for the National Front. Over the decades, some of these mines have been removed while a vast majority remains unearthed to this day, according to government statements.
When the Houthi rebellion began in 2004 in the Saada governorate, mines were one of the most important weapons the Houthis relied on during their wars against the state. The Houthis have had a penchant for obtaining and manufacturing mines of various types and sizes. In fact, the militia set up a mines’ factory in the city of Saada, which was targeted by Arab coalition forces in May 2015.
A few weeks ago, I visited Midi city in the province of Hajjah, which was recently fully emancipated from Houthi control. We had only one way to reach the city and we couldn’t take different routes. Mines were heavily planted in every corner within and around the city, except for areas that the engineering teams had cleared of mines. Those who visit the city and adjoining areas where the Houthis were must move in a restricted, narrow and known path in order to remain safe from the mines the Houths left behind and which has made those who resided there refrain from returning to their homes.
Mines planted by Houthis have claimed 639 lives and injured 704 others in Yemen between July 2014 and March 2018.Hamdan Alaly
Some of the inhabitants of the city said that “many people have been killed by these mines. Even though war has ended in these areas, landmines still surround them and suffocate (their movement). There are no exceptions as (the Houthis) planted mines on roads, in heavily populated neighborhoods, farms, beaches and even inside houses.” The Houthis produced all kinds of mines, ranging from large mines that target tanks and big vehicles to small-sized ones that target individuals and which are internationally-prohibited.
Midi is not the only city riddled by the bane of Houthi mines. The Houthis have planted internationally banned mines everywhere they passed, such as in cities of Taiz, Marib, Al Bayda, Sanaa, Hodeidah, Saada, Aden, Lahij, Dhale and the rest of Hajjah. All of these areas are filled with mines. Mines are the friends of Houthi fighters wherever they set foot and Abdulmalik al-Houthi’s gift to the children and women of Yemen!
According to the latest report by the Yemeni Coalition for Monitoring Human Rights Violations, mines claimed the lives of 639 Yemenis and injured 704 people between July 2014 and March 2018. By the way, only the Houthi militias have planted mines in Yemen since the first war in 2004.
Statistics reveal that Yemen, which signed the Ottawa treaty that forbids the use of anti-personnel mines in 1997, has been booby-trapped by more than half a million mines planted by the Houthi militia in the past few years. Director of Yemen’s Executive Mine Action Center Brigadier General Amin al-Ogaili said: “Yemen has been affected by the largest mine-laying action since the end of the World War II, and today it is the foremost country in the Middle East and North Africa region that has been affected by the disasters of these widespread mines.”
Mines are the Houthis’ gift to the people. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making great efforts to confront this disaster which threatens the Yemenis’ future and present, and it’s doing so via the MASAM project that was launched by King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid and that aims to remove all forms and shapes of mines that were planted by the militias in Yemeni territories, especially in the governorates of Marib, Aden, Sanaa and Taiz. This project will be implemented with Saudi human resources and international expertise. This abundant Saudi generosity makes me, as a Yemeni, wonder whether those who plant mines and those who remove them can be deemed equal by the world.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hamdan Alaly is a Yemeni writer and journalist.