This is what it’s like to be a student in a besieged Yemen
“When the warplanes left, I tried to force myself to study, but the planes returned to bomb the same place again. Oh heaven, I have a final exam tomorrow — what can I do?”
by Qasim Alshawea, from Yemen, Sana’a
Yemen faces a heavy bombing campaign led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and carried out by a coalition that includes nine other countries. The coalition’s objectives are to defeat the Houthi militants and their allies loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and to install an illegitimate government, the leaders of which are today living luxuriously in Riyadh’s hotels, in Sana’a.
Over the past 18 months, Saudi-led and US-backed warplanes have dropped thousands of bombs, used internationally banned weapons such as cluster bombs, and targeted heavily populated residential areas, universities, schools, hospitals, elderly homes, and wedding parties. In their wake, they have left thousands of people dead and tens of thousands wounded, including women and children.
Global humanitarian organizations have described Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today. More than 14 million people suffer from food shortages, and 7 million are severely food insecure. 23 million Yemenis, more than 80% of the country’s population, are in dire need of basic aid. More than two million Yemenis are internally displaced persons (IDPs). Despite all of this, Yemen receives far less aid than necessary, and is not covered in the media very often.
In an environment like that, how can someone remain breathing, let alone study?
I could write an entire book about students’ experiences trying to study under these conditions of bombardments, war, and siege, but I will highlight only one anecdote.
“I wanted to study for my classes, but the sky was full of Saudi warplanes hovering and making noise. I could barely focus on what I was doing with bombardments so close to my home. When the warplanes left, I tried to force myself to study, but the planes returned to bomb the same place again. Oh heaven, I have a final exam tomorrow — what can I do?
During the exam, we were all focused on our tests, but the warplanes didn’t leave us alone until they damaged our minds by bombing near the university. My female classmates were afraid, so I comforted them by saying that nothing would happen to us and that they should focus on their papers.”
When the warplanes left, I tried to force myself to study, but the planes returned to bomb the same place again. Oh heaven, I have a final exam tomorrow — what can I do?
That’s one day of fear and restlessness out of 18 months under the Saudi bombing campaign.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign will never stop me from getting high marks in my studies. The difficult situation that our country faces due to the Saudi-imposed siege will not stop me from succeeding. Despite it all, I graduated from my school’s English Language & Translation Program a few months ago, and I always get high marks. Doing well in school has become for me an act of resistance against this bombing campaign that targets institutions of learning.
A child from the northern city of Saada told me a moving story. When he arrived at school one day, he found the building completely destroyed. He cried all morning for the loss of his dream to be a doctor or a teacher. What will his future be?
Originally published at progressmemag.com on October 2, 2016.