In Pictures: Yemeni government targets civilians in Sa’ada


WARNING: some of these images are graphic in nature. Click to view images of the Yemeni military’s attacks against civilians in Sa’ada.

A four-year war in northern Yemen between the government and the Zahid Shiite civilians has been called a “near genocide” by some. Armed clashes began in 2004 when a small group of Zaidi rebels clashed with security forces. Since then the conflict spread though the Sa’ada province where 700,000 civilians have been caught between the warring sides. A province-wide survey found 92 percent of sampled children witnessed armed conflict. An estimated 100,000 citizens are internal refugees as families flee fighting and bombing.

The government’s tactics in attempting to subdue the rebellion appears to have swelled the rebel ranks. Food, medicine, and cooking oil are blockaded and malnutrition is evere in Sa’ada.

The military bombed cities and villages with mortars, rockets, and Katyusha missiles, damaging thousands of homes, mosques, and schools, sometimes without warning. Communications are cut and journalists barred. The Yemeni military deployed several thousand irregulars including tribal fighters, Afghans, Arabs, and local jihadists in the region populated by primarily Zaidi Shiites.

The following photos are among the first photos to emerge from the troubled region in years. These photos were taken in Sa’ada and smuggled outside the region. The Long War Journal obtained these photos from contacts in Yemen.

The photos show civilian homes and infrastructure damaged by government bombing, as well several children killed in their homes. Despite international protests, last week journalist Abdulkarim al Khaiwani was sentenced to six years in jail for possessing similar photos. Some of the images are quite graphic.

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  • In photo 19 or 19, the youths employed by the Yemeni military all have a bulging cheek of something. Are they being given khat or something similar, like the Somali and Afghan fighters of yore? Or are they just chomping on a large wad of Bubbalicious or Red Man?

  • Jane says:

    Yes. The entire nation chews kat daily, something like 80% of men and 35% of women. It pacifies the people who are in miserable conditions.
    Negative conseqences nationally include heightening a severe level of water scarcity, the move from grains to qat has also increased food insecurity, the financial transactions increase the cash flow from the poor to the rich and foster malnutrion by diverting householod funds. The use of banned pesticides on qat plants accounts for the high rate of throat, mouth and digestive cancers in Yemen and the poisoning of ground waters.

  • adel ahmed says:

    I am from yemen and I would not need war in my country but the report mentioned that the government figting shiite civilinces as genocide ,the reason of the war shiite killed security forces and civiliances wich they disagree of thier creed and government has agreed qatar ,s country mediator as peace maker but siite unfortunatly refused that and disarmy wich theyv resieved arms from Iran like siiate in Iraq and lebanon against their country .now they are considering yemeni forces ass un occupation and need to return yemen back to the backward like Taleban in afganistan.

  • Jane says:

    The reason some observers call the regime’s response to the rebellion “a near genocide” is because of the military blockade on food and medicine to the people and the random bombing of villages and urban areas. Prohibiting international aid to the area is especially cruel. It is the government’s response which turned the Houthis from 400 students in 2004 into many thousands in 2008.
    There’s no credible report of the rebels targeeting civilians in four years since the war started. The residents of the area are also Zaidis, which you know is an entirely different sect than the Shiites of Iraq and Iran. The regime has a good relationship with Iran.
    A governemnt sponsored fact finding committee found that the reason for the failure of the second mediated agreement (2006) was in part because the military failed to abide by its terms. (Then the committee was imprisoned.) Currently many of the rebels homes and farms are still occupied by the military months after the Qatari mediation team required them to be vacated.
    Yemen is already turning into a Taliban state. One example of this trend is the move to establish a commission of Virtue and Vice. Another is the repressive moves against reformers and democracy advocates like al-Khaiwani and Fahd al-Qarni- a comedian jailed for a funny song.


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