The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office Declares: “Random Armed Killing is Common in Yemen” [Archives:1999/19/Front Page]
The very first sentence of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office ‘travel advisory’ on Yemen reads: “Random armed killing is common in Yemen”. The British authorities thus renewed their strong advice “against all travel to Yemen on March 5th.” They especially warned against travel to Abyan, Al-Jawf, Al-Mahara, Marib and Sa’adah. The text can be read at www.fco.gov.uk/travel
The British government’s assessment of conditions in Yemen matches the reality. Over the last ten days, over 32 incidents of shooting were reported. Most Yemeni cities sleep under the sound of gunfire every night. A Western ambassador in Sanaa stated that the authorities have lost control over the situation in the country. He added that individuals and groups regularly engage in various violent confrontations leading to armed killings every day.
The authorities routinely turn a blind eye to these killings, provided they do not affect the power division in the country. People often take the law into their own hands to settle differences. Therefore, individual and group showdowns became a recurrent phenomenon involving guns, kalashnikovs, bazookas and other light arms.
The main loser from these developments has been the middle class. The well-to-do and powerful have made fortresses of their homes. They also move around town only with hordes of bodyguards – either officially sanctioned or otherwise.
The penniless poor and low-income individuals offer little incentive to be targeted by armed marauders.
Thus, it is the middle class, the professionals – like medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, journalists, accountants, small businessmen, artists, etc. – who have been forced to live under very insecure and unsafe conditions. They are the ones who suffer from different forms of intimidation, blackmail and harassment by armed thugs.
Foreigners who used to visit the country have decided to basically stay away. Those who live in the country, whose numbers have been dropping drastically, keep a low profile and follow painstaking measures when they have to travel. Even then, they have been subjected to kidnapping.
No wonder, therefore, that the foreign office of the UK, and many other countries, continue to advise against coming to Yemen.