October 1, 2015
Experiencing street wars of Aden was not something I planned, but had happened anyways. I wasn’t prepared for what I experienced and I don’t think anyone would have been either, especially those who come to Yemen to visit family and dear friends. We plan on how to spend our days in beach locations and local shops, not plan to fully protect our family members from potential bullets. We plan to have gatherings and see loved ones, not plan an evacuation route. We plan to be happy and enjoy our time during vacation, not plan to be terrified by the sounds of cries in the streets.
This “vacation” that I had planned turned to be a plan from the deepest of Hell.
How does it feel when you have to constantly be awake to make sure that your property and your home isn’t being used as a location for a potential gun show-down? How does it feel when you have to stay next to a weapon so that you may defend your family from a potential intruder? How does it feel when you are the only one who is responsible for your family during a challenging and dangerous time? How does it feel when you have to make your 3 yr old sibling feel safe when safety isn’t around? How does it feel when you believe that your location is becoming enclosed by groups of armed men who want to forcefully take over Aden? How does it feel when you want to leave your home and evacuate, but you choose not to because you may be a sniper target when you step out of your door? How does it feel when the homes of your neighbors were hit by an RPG and your home was lucky enough to not get hit? It feels like world is crashing on you, entrapping you, suffocating you. It feels like death, but just a million times over.
The sufferings of those who have to deal with street wars are tremendous. We don’t get breaks. It’s constant. Its not a few air strikes at night or jets hovering for a couple of hours. It’s the sound of explosions, shelling, gun shootings, grenades, cries of children all day and all night. Its the feeling of chaos and immense nervousness that cripples your mental and physical health. It’s the feeling of starvation, but from fear, can’t eat. It’s that time when you ask for forgiveness from God because you know that at any second during the day or during the night, your life ends.
It’s that moment when you evacuate and you notice, the only people trying to kill you are your own Yemenis, in army wear, with the same flag that you raise as a symbol to your country – your roots.
Evacuating to Sanaa, when you realize that the malls are open and life is normal, but only at night is when you may occasionally hear a few ‘booms.’ When you wake up after those few booms and you find everyone out, eating at restaurants, shopping and you think to yourself, “Wow, its heaven here”. It’s when you see and hear air strikes a few times a day at night as a piece of cake compared to the dreadful consistent booms you have heard during street wars. It’s when you can eat again, after losing weight from stress and worry.
This is the reality of Yemen: Two sides of the country facing two completely different situations.
It wasn’t an experience I would like to go through again. I and other families survived, but many weren’t as lucky. If they did survive, their homes were either shelled or occupied by Houthi men.
The hovering of planes at night a few times a day is not as terrifying as 24/7 sounds bullets and tank artillery.
I will always say, “Street wars are ten thousand times worse than airstrikes alone.“