OP-ED

Investigating Sa’ada’s Six Wars

National Yemen

Houthi’s graveyard in Saada

By Asma al-Mohattwari

Until recently Sada’a was an unknown mystery. Six wars took place in the mountains and villages of Sada’a. The government didn’t allow the media to be there to reveal the truth and directed all media sources to justify the war in Sada’a. Yemen was living in deadly silence, and no one could express his or her opinions for fear of the government.

Sada’a’s land and soil was colored with the blood of innocent people. In the wars, everything was targeted, including children, women, the elderly, homes, service facilities, mosques, markets, refugee camps, farms, schools, health facilities and shops. There was no safe place citizens could hide from the aggression. Every inch of Sa’ada bore the hallmarks of this aggression and witnessed heinous massacres.

On Saturday March 15th 2015, a media delegation visited Sada’a to see different places that reflect the injustice suffered by the people of Sa’ada during the six wars, including Ketaf, Maran, Hidan, Salman and the tombs of the martyrs. Their visit ended by meeting the leader of the Houthis, Abdulmalik al-Houthi.

In the meeting, al-Houthi praised the official media. He said, “We do not want you to glorify, praise, or defend us but talk about the nation and to prevent fragmentation and sedition. We want you to explain the truth to the people about what is really happening and stop the sectarian struggle. Let the country be your first interest.”

Al-Houthi said that the coming period will be dedicated to treating the effects of the political crisis on all political and economic levels, as well as construction and reconstruction to catch up with producing countries and take advantage of oil, gas and mineral resources to build a new Yemen.

In 2001, the founder of the Ansar Allah movement Hussein Bader Aldine Al-Houthi expressed his rejection of the violation of Yemeni sovereignty by America and raised the slogan called the Sarkhah, which goes “Allahu akbar, death to America, death to Israel, curse on Jews, victory to Islam.”

The previous regime tried to silence him and started to arrest anyone repeating the Sarkhah. It continued to practice these violations until these punitive measures failed, then it started its armed aggression in Sada’a. On June 18, 2004 the bombing in Maran started. Maran was besieged and people were prevented from accessing food and medicine; some were forced to eat tree leaves.

In the first war against Sada’a, Hussien al-Houthi and some of his family escaped to the Salman cliff in the mountains of Maran, and the shelf became a target for the army. The siege of the cliff continued for 2 months, accompanied by efforts to prevent the media from covering the war and denying them access to Maran. Citizens were besieged with aircraft and artillery bombing. The government also cut off the water pipes and poured gasoline onto the cliff, then they bombed it and set fire to it.

In spite of all that, Al-Houthi remained alive and after authorities promised safety to him, he came down from the cliff wounded. According to some of his companions, the authorities broke their promise and shot him from every side.

After killing him, the war stopped and both parties signed an agreement called the “Shuja’a agreement”. The ceasefire didn’t last long and it was renewed at the end of 2005 because the government broke the agreement.

The third war lasted from late 2005 until early 2006, but this time tribal elements participated. The fighting began with clashes between tribal men loyal to the government and tribal fighters supporting Houthi gunmen. This time, Abdulmalik al-Houthi led the wars.

The fourth war came after the government accused the Houthis of threatening to exile Jews from Sada’a. The Houthis refused that and said that they only exiled one family because it was practicing corruption there. Despite the denials from the Houthis, the war started.

The fourth war was ended by a Qatari mediation after the visit of Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani’s to Yemen in May 2007. The government and the Houthis reached an agreement for a ceasefire on June 16, 2007, and then signed the Doha Agreement on February 2, 2008, despite some clashes between the two sides.

In March 2008, the fifth war broke out not only in Sada’a but also in Sana’a and Amran. The government accused the Houthis of violating the Doha Agreement, claiming that they had carried out two attacks. On July 17, 2008 Saleh announced a unilateral ceasefire. Analysts said that such a decision was for fear that the situation was out of control, combined with American and European criticism about the humanitarian situation in Sa’ada.

On August 11, 2009 the sixth war began after the Houthis were accused of kidnapping a group of Germans. The Houthis denied this and after the war, the government found the German’s car at the house of Saleh.

The war ended but left a lot of destruction and damage. The total casualties were 6,531 dead, 2,852 injured, 3,971 detained, 209,000 displaced, 15,384 destroyed houses and buildings, 3,242 disabled, 353 missing people, 3,679 destroyed farms, and 111 destroyed mosques.