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We Can No Longer Turn a Blind Eye To the Suffering in Yemen

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 30/09/2015 Rasha Mohamed

A man shows fragments of a bomb from the rubble of houses destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen. © AP Images A man shows fragments of a bomb from the rubble of houses destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen.
Anxiety, frustration, pain, helplessness, anger. I was overpowered with a mixture of all these emotions as I stood by Mohamed's side, only one hour after the aerial attack that destroyed his home in Sa'naa, Yemen's capital. I was dumbfounded. He was overcome with pain and remained silent, sitting in his underwear in front of the piles of rubble that his house had become, his face smeared with blood and specks of dirt.
Mohamed had just lost his eight year-old son, Sami, in an aerial attack by the Saudi-led coalition's forces.

The attack took place only one hour before I arrived on the scene, on July 2. His 14 year-old daughter, Sheikha, and his six year-old son, Hamoodi, were still alive then, but they were trapped under the debris. I went into the skeletal structure that was once their home, and I followed the scraping and shuffling sounds, until I saw a group of men working hard with levers. Six men were struggling to lift up an enormous chunk of the fallen roof, under which Sheikha and Hamoodi were trapped. They screamed their names, in vain.

I felt completely powerless; I couldn't do anything to help rescue the two children from the ruins. I was breaking down. I felt like I wanted to become Superwoman, as their father wept in the background, and the house crumbled all around us. I heard coalition airplanes hovering above us, in an almost triumphant manner. At whose expense? At the expense of these poor children who were pulled from the debris, lifeless, 15 hours later. It was too late.

The truth is raw and horrible. Civilians pay the price for all armed conflicts, and Yemen is certainly no exception to the rule. However, I think that politicians and other relevant parties often don't want to broadcast these images in all their gory detail, so they confine themselves to general statements. In reality, for a large number of Yemeni people, all the details of this war cause pain. Take, for example, the young Hamada, aged 14 years-old, who had his entire leg amputated due to a shell strike in his neighborhood of Inshaat, in Aden. He told me that he thinks he will never be able to play again; he will certainly never see life the same way again. When I walked up to his bedside, he was embarrassed, and he wanted to cover up his amputated leg. I felt ashamed and guilty for putting him in this situation, and for forcing him to relive the moment with all my questions.

However, he still opened up to me. He told me that a shell had landed in his neighborhood at the same moment he went out to look for water, and that a splinter had made its way into his leg. His family had to move to another neighborhood to escape the clashes between rival armed groups. While we were sitting there, in their new house, I could hear the sound of combat in the distance. I knew that they were not much safer here. As I looked into Hamada's big, expressive eyes, I wondered what such an innocent child could have possibly done to deserve such a fate.

When you're on the ground, you are overcome with a rush of adrenaline. We see bodies, amputated limbs, infected wounds, sick, homeless people, but we keep ourselves from reacting, because our suffering is minuscule, compared to what we are looking at.

When I met Anhar Najeeb in an intensive care unit in Aden, she looked at me pleadingly. Her eyes were clouded with tears. She couldn't move; a piece of shrapnel had left her completely paralyzed, following a Grad rocket attack on her neighborhood of Block 4, in Aden. She told me that they had just moved to escape the fighting and dengue fever that had taken over their old neighborhood of Crater. But that didn't seem to work out too well.

"Who will take care of my mentally disabled brother now? Who will take care of my deaf and dumb son? Look at me! I can't move!" she said, tearfully. This time, I was even more submerged in my own feeling of helplessness, and all I wanted to do was wrap my arms around her and tell her that everything was going to be ok. But I was frozen by reality and by the truth. I felt mentally and emotionally paralyzed while I was leaning over her bed.

In Yemen, suffering is plain to see, everywhere. Bombs continue to fall from the sky, fierce battles play out on the ground, bringing along sickness, famine, lack of shelter, terror and death. But still, the world decides to turn a blind eye. It is pathetic and sickening to see how little human life means to the international community.
Civilians in Yemen deserve better. Maybe I can't go around saving all the children trapped under rubble, or perform miracles to bring people back to life, or give limbs back to people who have lost them. But I can, at least, let people know what is going on.

This post originally appeared on HuffPost France and has been translated into English.

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