Memoirs of a journalist visiting Sa’ada [Archives:2007/1063/Last Page]
For the first time since the fourth war erupted in mid-January, Yemeni government authorities allowed a group of representatives from local, Arab and foreign media outlets to visit war-afflicted areas in Sa'ada following an approximate five-month complete media blackout.
I was hoping to visit Sa'ada to see firsthand what has happened there and to what extent the war has affected citizens and the environment there. Certain images ran through my mind and I thought differently about the visit. In fact, I had a different picture of Sa'ada and I thought that Sa'ada locals are happy about the signed peace agreement with Houthis and the halting of military operations.
My dreams began to vanish as soon as we boarded the bus. Despite the fact that I was among my colleagues and therefore, wasn't lonely, I felt something strange within me, but I didn't know what it was. There was something dubious, beginning with taking different routes than those decided upon before the trip. At that point, I sensed the mistrust that still exists between both warring sides, despite the formal truce.
As soon as we reached the borders of Sa'ada, the war's effects were everywhere, as wreckage and ruin were evident wherever one directed his gaze in nearly all of the governorate's districts. Everything beautiful had lost its beauty and the region's fruit farms, which used to produce the sweetest fruit, were no exception.
Contrary to my expectations, Sa'ada locals weren't happy and sadness was evident on their faces, especially those of children and the elderly. Their looks seemed uninviting and somewhat aggressive; however, I told myself that this could be the residue of their bad and catastrophic experiences from the war, which now had stopped.
Shivering and trembling with fear, a young soldier began narrating his story and the scenes of blood and torment he had seen, something his immature mind was unable to understand.
He added that he still feels insecure and he can't forget the bloody scenes constantly churning in his mind. He remembers his friends' last calls for help, as well as their blood and their bodies, maintaining that such images will never depart his mind.
Another young soldier, whom I think was just 14 years old, said the Sa'ada war was catastrophic and although he was lucky enough to escape death, he too is unable to forget the scenes of war he experienced when he faced possible death with every passing moment.
He went on to say that Houthis used to take them by surprise and that most of the young soldiers were the victims because they were inexperienced and not trained sufficiently for such battles.
Furthermore, he complained about the toughness of land and the hot sun, as well as the longing for home and family, indicating that local residents received them with an unwelcoming attitude. “They wouldn't give you a cup of water, even if you were on the verge of death,” he said, describing the attitude of locals toward them.
However, such an attitude can be excused when we consider that the Sa'ada war has destroyed their homes, halted education in their schools – which became barracks for both Houthis and the army – disrupted and ruined their businesses and generally turned their lives into a living hell.