Who besieges who in Yemen?

Who besieges who in Yemen?

2020-02-07

Op-ed

By Sara Hassan

Western media often portray Yemen as besieged by the Arab Coalition, and the word 'Yemen' in their writing is used in the sense of Houthi-controlled territories.

The outlets present the Arab Coalition's closure of Sana'a Airport in particular as the core of the tragedy.

The fact of the matter is quite the opposite: The government-held cities, heavily populated with IDPs, are the only ones besieged .

The Houthis control Yemen from the Red Sea in the west to Al-Beidha in the center and control Saada and parts of Aljawf in the north. The southern separatists control Yemen from the southwestern province of Lahj through Aden to parts of Abyan in the southeast. Although there are four provinces left (Abyan, Shabwa, Marib and Aljawf) where the government can exercise authority and people can publicly voice their recognition of it without fear of reprisal, this eastern corner is besieged by Houthis and separatists from the north and south respectively. Taiz city, in the country's center, is besieged by enemies from all sides: Houthis in the north and east, separatist militias in the south and west. 

The Shia extremist Houthi theocrats recently advanced further from Sana'a in the west and cut in between Marib, the de facto government capital, and another government stronghold of Aljawf isolating and besieging the latter from all sides.   

With this, the government is left with control over cities disconnected in ones (Aljawf and Taiz) each one encircled by enemies from all sides, and a clump of three cities (Marib, Shabwa, Abyan) besieged together by Houthis in the north and separatist militias in the south.

Six years into the conflict, the capital Sana'a is still under the control of Houthis. And Sana'a still monopolizes the country's exports and imports, internal merchandise and the country's telecommunication.

As the Houthis control the country's telecommunication, the militia often keep government-held territories offline and unable to communicate with the outside world.

As the outcry of the UN and western media has been only about the closure of Sana'a Airport by the Arab Coalition, the campaign has managed to end the closure and allow Houthis a luxury the government does not even dream of.

Hundreds of Taiz injured soldiers and sick civilians are trapped in Taiz not able to travel for treatment overseas for the Taiz airport is damaged and under the control of Houthis. And separatist militias in Aden arrest anyone from Taiz who comes to Aden to travel through the city's airport.

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