Would you put Yemen at the top of your list of tourist destinations? It should be, were it not for the conflict that is dragging on. The old part of the capital city, Sana’a is a network of beautiful square gingerbread houses complete with white icing decoration and coloured glass qamariya in the windows. Steep hills are terraced with ancient water collection systems. In the south, ancient frankincense trees grow and wonderful honey is collected. The island of Soqotra has unique flora such as the dragon’s blood tree.
All a far cry from the pictures on our screens of starving and suffering children and adults as the war continues inexorably. It’s believed as many as 70,000 people may have died since Saudi Arabia led a coalition to try to defeat the Houthis who took over much of the country in 2015, some killed in bombing campaigns, others falling victim to cholera, dengue fever, measles, malnutrition and the impossibility of travel abroad for life-saving medical treatment. Many of the population of about 28 million are food insecure and dispossessed. Children’s growth is stunted and schools and medical facilities are not functioning.
Don’t rely on the simplistic analysis that it’s a proxy war between Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia). The conflict is much more complex and deep-rooted. However, at last the world seems to be turning the spotlight onto the dire situation in Yemen, and we have to hope that pressure will be brought to bear on the various factions to cease their conflict and that arms sales and logistical support to all sides will be halted. Britain has been complicit in supporting the war and must now show leadership in negotiating a lasting peace.