STUCK IN YEMEN: A PERSONAL HISTORY

BY CASEY L. COOMBS – 05/04/2015

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“You will not be traveling tomorrow.”

That was the last message I received, a week ago, from the International Organization of Migration, which is supposed to be helping Americans get out of Yemen.

I was scheduled to leave Sanaa the following day, but I had my doubts. There have been many times I was supposed to leave Yemen: two days ago, a week ago, two weeks ago, and so on. It never happens.

Like the hundreds — and possibly thousands — of other American citizens stuck in Yemen, I’ve been trying to leave since the Saudi-led air campaign started last month, compounding an already chaotic situation that resulted from the collapse of Yemen’s government in January.

Initially, I bought a ticket on Turkish Airlines, but the flight was canceled amid the continued Saudi air strikes. Then Sanaa’s international airport was bombed, and it became clear commercial flights wouldn’t be resuming anytime soon.

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Photo of a Felix Airways plane, a domestic airline, destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes, at the Sanaa International airport, in Yemen, Wednesday, April 29, 2015. (Hani Mohammed/AP)

HOW AL QAEDA’S BIGGEST ENEMY TOOK OVER YEMEN (AND WHY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IS UNLIKELY TO SUPPORT THEM)

BY CASEY L. COOMBS AND JEREMY SCAHILL – 01/26/2015  the.intercept
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Sanaa – Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, his prime minister and entire government cabinet resigned en masse today, just 24 hours after Houthi rebels occupied the presidential compound in Sanaa. The resignations give unprecedented power to the Houthis, a Shiite minority from the country’s isolated northern highlands.

The political crisis also opens the door to an all-out war over control of the Yemeni capital, involving Sunni political factions and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The conflict could also draw in Saudi Arabia, the United States and Iran.

The streets in Yemen’s capital are now a maze of checkpoints, a few still manned by government forces wearing military uniforms, but most these days are controlled by Houthis. Unlike government forces, the Houthis are typically dressed in tribal garb–a shawl wrapped around their face and a skirt known as a ma’awaz.

Armed with AK-47s, the Houthis are primarily looking for members of AQAP.

The Houthis, however, are quickly proving that the old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is not always true. While they are bitter enemies of AQAP, the Houthis manning the checkpoints often adorn their AK-47s with stickers bearing the group’s motto: “Death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory to Islam.”

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Photo: EPA/Landov

Anti-corruption agenda struggles in Yemen

Casey L Coombs / SANA’A, 29 April 2014 (IRIN)
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…more than two years into the process and despite the impetus given to the new democratization era by interim President Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi, the anti-corruption agenda is still grappling with a culture of impunity in which people are reluctant to blow the whistle out of fear of losing their jobs, donor funding or worse.

The founder of a local human rights foundation, who requested anonymity, said Saleh’s overthrow dismantled one patronage system only to create a plethora of opportunities for new actors to exploit, increasing the competition.

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Is AQAP to Blame for the String of Assassinations in Yemen?

CASEY L COOMBS HANNAH POPPY | CTC SENTINEL Vol 7 Issue 1
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Qa`ida recruit Abyan March `12 – Casey L  Coombs

In the last two weeks of September 2013, al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) executed a series of     complex attacks on Yemeni army installations. AQAP claimed responsibility for the operations in a stream   of online media releases, one of which pictured al-Qa`ida’s amir of Abyan Province, Jalal Muhsin Balidi   al-Murqoshi (also known as Abu Hamza), warning special forces soldiers captured in the raids against cooperating with the U.S.-backed counterterrorism alliance in Sana`a.[1] “There is no issue between the soldiers and us, except when they have made themselves armors for this oppressive lackey government,” al-Murqoshi said. “This soldier is the one who has lured himself into a protecting vest for the tawaghit (tyrants).”

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Migrant voices – Ethiopians in Yemen describe kidnapping and torture

Casey L. Coombs / Sana’a | April 11, 2013                                         Image

SANA’A, 11 April 2013 (IRIN) – Record numbers of migrants from the Horn of Africa are crossing into Yemen, most of them on their way to find better opportunities in Saudi Arabia and other rich Gulf countries. But many do not make it any further. Seeking a new life, they end up unwitting victims of a smuggling racket designed to exploit the migrants at each juncture of their journey.

Recent years have seen Ethiopians make up the majority of these migrants: Of the 107,000 recorded migrants crossing the Red Sea/Gulf of Aden into Yemen in 2012, around 80,000 were from Ethiopia.

Four irregular migrants with diverse backgrounds, all from Ethiopia, told IRIN about their journeys to Yemen.* While their stories differ in details, they all share a similar set of experiences: brutality, broken promises and extortion.

Marta, mid-30s, from Dire Dawa, eastern Ethiopia:

Photo: Casey Coombs/IRIN
 
Marta, mid-30s, from Dire Dawa, eastern Ethiopia

Marta says she fled Ethiopia in 2010 when she and her family were accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a state-designated terrorist group. “The government said, ‘You are with the party of OLF,’ and chased us out of country. I don’t know where my family ended up.”

“I spent a year and a half in Djibouti, where I gave birth to my daughter. After her father disappeared, we left for Yemen. I paid a broker 10,000 Djiboutian francs [about US$55] to ride in a boat with 15 others from Djibouti to Yemen.

“Our night-time crossing of the Red Sea was calm until the end. As we neared the Yemeni coast, the owner of the boat, who was part of the smuggling operation, threw us into the sea. No one knew how to swim because in Ethiopia, we don’t have a sea, just lakes. The brokers and their thugs were waiting for us as we came ashore. They raped me and the other women. I’m 9 months pregnant with a child from that night.

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