Yemenity2010's Blog

Another Terror Alert in Yemen – How Serious This Time?

Posted in Blog Entry in English, Tema: Politik by yemenity2010 on 06/08/2013

kullarnaharögonTerror alert in Yemen – again. Apparently there is a threat real enough that the US strongly encourages its own citizens in Yemen to leave the country. It’s not the first time, or the first time several embassies close down temporarily. But some reports suggest the capital Sana’a ”is experiencing unprecented security measures” (BBC).

It reminds me of the time I spent there, and maybe most of all the very first week, in the beginning of 2010. The so-called underwear bomber from Nigeria had tried to blow up an American plane in late december, instructed by Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen, it was reported. There had also been strikes from government forces (or someone supporting them from the outside, possibly) against suspected terrorists in Yemen.

I was just settling into the situation and risk assessment was not really up to me at that point. I simply didn’t know enough. But my superiors in Taiz had to start interpreting the signs and possible evacuation was discussed when several embassies in Sana’a (as I remember it, the US, French and British ones) closed down. As it turned out, they opened again within a week or so. But it was enough time that I began to realize that this project could prove to be the shortest job I’d ever had. That week hundreds of mostly young people lined up to register for new courses at the institute where I was expected to eventually add some more cultural activities (the job description was vague, but also intriguing). There were probably no direct threats to the institution itself, though it was one of the foreign installations in the city. But there were rumours concerning a young man, reportedly carrying some kind of explosive device in a belt, walking around town but no one seemed to know if he had a specific target in mind or not. Happily, things calmed down and things gradually took on a rhythm with daily routines; planning, buying groceries, doing laundry, trying out the Yemeni cuisine, visiting the prison and trying to realize different creative ideas little by little. And getting to know people, not least.

Something I realize clearly while re-reading my blog posts from that time, is that I was reluctant to deal too explicitly with sensitive political issues. Simply put, I was advised to be cautious and it was common sense to follow that advice, especially at these early stages. Yemen is really not a place you can easily sum up and evaluate in a short while. And a lot has happened these last years, such as the ‘Spring’ process taking off soon after I left in January 2011. Sadly, the Taiz area which a few years ago was considered one of the safest in Yemen, doesn’t seem so secure anymore, at least not for foreigners – according to most available sources I know of.MoskéSanaa1

So, how serious is the terror threat this time? We’ll see. I will definitely not try to make any predictions, especially not from a distance… Or to quote the final sentences of the book ”The Woman Who Fell from the Sky” by Jennifer Steil: ”The only way to stand a chance of knowing what is really going on in Yemen is to be there. And even then the truth is elusive”.

More on the topic can be found at Al Jazeera English, Al Arabiya, CNN and Yemen Times.

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