Yemenity2010's Blog

New Map Showing Drone Strike History in Yemen

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 08/08/2013

Drones. Or, if you use a more formal term, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, have been a topic of discussion for some time now. The reason being its frequent use by primarily the United States in its so called ‘War on Terror’. Yemen is one of the places where the method has been employed most of all. How much, exactly? There is a recently published interactive map of probable US ”drone, missile and other air strikes” against suspected terrorists in Yemen since 2002, as reported by PBS Frontline News, an American public service broadcaster. Red dots are indicating where the strikes are believed to have been carried out. There are 98 of them, so far. The accompanying blue dots show suspected terror plots, attributed mostly to AQAP, the branch of al Qaeda operating in Yemen from the year 2000 and on. There are 19 of those on the map. So far.

Interactive Drone Strike Map from PBS Frontline News

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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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Aftermath of Assassination in Taiz

Posted in Blog Entry in English by yemenity2010 on 27/03/2012

There seems to have been a series of reactions in Taiz and around the world since what happened a little more than a week ago, when a teacher and assistant director of a International Training & Development Center was shot to death while driving to work. Including protests by people in the city, not least young people, demanding that the killers be brought to justice. Some public reactions can be found on YouTube and have also been reported by Wall Street Journal, other news outlets and blogs like The Wadi or Freedomnjusticeseeker. Last Tuesday hundreds of people are reported to have marched through the city, condemning the murder.

Some of them can be seen in this YouTube clip where ”Sons of Taiz” give their condolences to the family of Joel Shrum.

– He came all the way from America, with nothing but good intentions, to help and teach the people of Taiz. He was working for a non-profit organization, not for the US Embassy or the US Army. He was there when we needed help, says one former student at ITDC (formerly known as the Swedish Training Centre).

Here’s a summary from American Christian news outlet CBN Online. And according to the likewise American blog Forum of the Nation, an activist named Radwan al-Qadri ”several lawyers and protesters met with the Taiz police chief to demand an investigation.”

There is also a statement from representative Joseph R. Pitts in what appears to be the United States congress, emhasizing that Joel Shrum was not in Yemen to proselytize but to serve the people, and also that the centre is staffed by both Christians and Muslims.

– The people of Yemen are appalled by this violence, said congressman Pitts.

For me personally it’s still sad to think of this happening to someone I met a couple of times, although I didn’t get to know him that well. This was also a place where I spent one year working, meeting a lot of good people, having a lot of interesting discussions with students and colleagues, and learning a great deal about a culture I previously really knew precious little about.  Joel was part of the new managerial team gradually taking over the running of the institute during the last months I spent there in the fall of 2010. What will happen now with the education programs and other activities at ITDC seems uncertain at the moment.

In the wake of the tragic events, the governor of Taiz, Hamoud Khaled Al-Sufi, has expressed outrage, saying:

– Shrum loved Yemenis, and his murder is an insult in the face of humanity, according to the Yemen Times.

The local Security Committee has also introduced a new security plan, including the banning of carrying weapons in the central parts of the city and regulating the movements of motorbikes (which are very common in the city, and were also used by the assassins in this case). Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the killing, but no one has yet been arrested for it.

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