OP-ED

Yemen’s Virtual War

Fakhri al-Arashi

Virtual war is the appropriate description for today’s Yemen political war. Actors have used the media as a frontline to obtain certain political and individual interests.

The civil war of Yemen, which nearly everyone believes to be coming, is only a war on newspapers, blogs, social media networks and TV news broadcasting. This prediction has cost Yemen time and money. People have tried to create falsehoods and spin them as fact. It is about rumors and misleading publicity. Yes, there is a certain threat in the country, but not all threats are based in truth.

I have been to Aden this past Thursday and fortunately arrived at the Aden Airport 20 minutes before the Popular Committees (PCs) took full control of the airport as well the Special Forces Camp (SFC) headquarters in Aden. The SFC was the main target for the PCs, more so than the airport and other organizations in Aden.

The PC was backed by military forces, and the battle was settled in less than half an hour and ended with escape of AbdulHafed al-Sakaf, the chief commander of the SFC. The battle remained on people’s minds and on news agencies and social media networks for more than a day. The same was true with the al-Qaeda news story in Lahaj governorate, which is 30 kilometers away from Aden.

Rumors were leaked hours before al-Qaeda took control of the capital of the governorate. Unfortunately, tens of soldiers were killed by the Popular Committees and later tens of soldiers were slaughtered by al-Qaeda just a few hours after al-Qaeda announced responsibility for attacking the mosques in Sana’a.

To understand more about the issues of al-Qaeda, I decided to travel with my friend by his private car from Aden to Sana’a on Saturday early afternoon. It was an adventure and curiosity to see al-Qaeda members and talk to them.

I found them on the main road at a checkpoint on the center of the asphalt road between Aden and Lahaj. All of them were masked but talked politely. Before and after their checkpoint, there were hundreds of Popular Committees loyal to President Hadi. On the way from Aden there were hundreds of armed tribesmen at the main access of the military camps of Ya’afa. In between, there were still some checkpoints of the Hirak movement. None of them bothered us, but we were questioned at the Hirak checkpoint. They asked us where we came from, where we were going, and if we had seen Al-Qaeda.

Out of these questions, we understood that different players are moving those people into the unknown for no clear reason. The distribution of guns and buying loyalties in Sana’a over the past three years by the Saleh regime and the Houthis is happening now in Aden by President Hadi trying to maintain his power and fight for his legitimacy. Within this deterioration there is a virtual war bringing fear and little fact. The victims of this virtualization are many and the beneficiaries are the three major players: President Hadi, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and AbdulMalik al-Houthi.