Tanks which we can barely see traveling across mounds of sand, soldiers fighting from afar, footage of Huthi fighters, and a few refugees that are languishing in misery in the refugee camps…
This short description is all we have seen of the scenes of the battle between the Yemeni army and the Huthi rebels in the town of Saada in northern Yemen.
This is a real war that first broke out in 2004 and which faded and then re-ignited suddenly just a few weeks ago. This is a war in every sense of the word, and can be seen in the horror of the killings which reminds us once again how easy it is to slide towards carnage and violence in our region as the only means of expressing our division.
This is a war. Perhaps we should repeat this is a loud voice in order to awake from the daze that we fall into whenever we hear news from Yemen…this is a war whose news we receive daily but we deal with this news as if we are oblivious and barely pay attention to the news of the deaths of fighters and victims, and the displacement of thousands of Yemenis. Here we can see the direct impact of the fighting on the civilians, and this reflects from anew our media failure, as well as our failure as a society and a political system. The [international] relief organizations are warning that there are signs indicating a humanitarian crisis, and the denial of the responsibility over the continuing plight [in Saada] has become normal.
The war between the Yemeni governmental forces and the Huthi armed rebels does not seem to have any clear goals, and it also does not seem to be near an end. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that he was ready to fight for years rather than back down to the Huthi rebels.
Therefore it is difficult to estimate the extent of this open crisis, or determine its conclusions. A media blackout has surrounded this war, in other words complex procedures are being taken to prevent journalist from gaining entry into Yemen, and the media’s movement is being restricted on the ground. There is also probably false information being broadcast by the Yemeni government and the rebel forces over the number of people killed and injured, as well as the outcome of the battles. Independent journalists are being stopped from gaining entry into Yemen, and international instates which are able to present a clearer picture of the war in Yemen are similarly being prevented from entering the country.
There are many circumstances surrounding the war in Saada, which has certainly taken an external dimension that is inseparable from many of the crises in the region. It is clear that the Huthi insurgents are trying to take advantage of non-traditional media, and hundreds of statements have been released from the media office of Mr. Abdul Malik al-Huthi. At the same time, statements from the Yemeni army fill the traditional media, namely the Yemen News Agency [SABA]. And so once again we are faced with an equation where one party excels in the media while another has the military advantage, and the outcome of this is that the reality of what is taking place on the ground remains unknown.
The Yemeni government’s claims of Iranian interference in the advantage of the Huthi rebels are perhaps logical, but in the media we need more than mere allegations, in order to clarify the scene to the audience. The media needs to be up close and personal with what is going on in order to report what is taking place, and most importantly visit the refugee camps, for the story of the refugees takes precedence over any other considerations.