Bayhan Shabwa Two Years Under Siege
Bayhan and Usylan districts in Shabwa province southern Yemen have been besieged by Houthi rebels and security forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh since march, 2015. Citizens’ ability to move freely is restricted and suffering has increased as result of the siege, daily armed confrontations, blocked roads and landmines.
Blocked and destroyed roads make it very difficult for residents to leave the district and for aid organizations to bring relief to the besieged areas. Medical facilities have also stopped functioning due to lack of supplies and frequent power cuts. Many are forced to seek medical attention in Ateq the capital of Shabwa province- making a dangerous journey that could cost the citizen his life. Because the road connecting Bayhan to Ateq is blocked, residents have to use different routes such as ‘Al-qunza Ramp’ a treacherous road via Albayda province known to local travelers as “the ramp of death” because of the large number of accidents that happen there, or have to use desert routes via Marib province. What was usually a two-hour trip to Ateq is now a ten-hour dangerous and deadly journey.
Thousands have been displaced in Bayhan and Usylan due to indiscriminate shelling on residential areas by Houthi forces and continued clashes between the Houthis and forces loyal to the legitimate president Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi.
Bayhan is the only part of Shabwa province still controlled by the Houthi rebels after the Southern Resistance forces supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition last year expelled them from five southern provinces. Even though the Southern Resistance liberated Shabwa in a short period and have recaptured some areas in Bayhan from the Houthis, they have not been able to break the siege of Bayhan.
When speaking with local activist Mokhtar Al-Awlaki about the situation in Bayhan and reasons why the district is still under Houthi forces’ control, he explained that militarily Shabwa of southern Yemen is linked to Marib of northern Yemen which goes even against the six region federalism and outcomes of the National Dialogue. Al-Awlaki also added that the 19th Infantry Brigade which is made up of all southerners fighting to liberate Bayhan are being deliberately sidelined and deprived of their salaries and military equipment support by Major General Muhammad Ali Al-Maqdashi, chief of staff of the Yemeni Army, simply because they are southerners. Houthis continue to send reinforcements while Al-Maqdashi stops pay and supplies for the southern fighters battling the Houthis at the Bayhan front and that has kept Bahyan and Usylan under the control of the Houthi rebels and their allies.
Members of the 19th Infantry Brigade have protested against Al-Maqdashi and called on President Hadi to bring Shabwa under southern Yemen command. They said that the Saudi-led Arab Coalition provides all the support necessary but Al-Maqdashi refuses to pay or arm them in which they resort to buying their own ammunition and request support from other southern provinces.
As the war in Yemen enters its third year and the United Nations warns of famine the people most affected are the ones who live outside major cities with very little aid delivery and media attention.