Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ramadan ‘full of mortar shells’ in Yemen

Ramadan ‘full of mortar shells’ in Yemen

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A Yemeni vendor sells grain in a market in the old city of the capital Sanaa, ahead of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP

Ramadan ‘full of mortar shells’ in Yemen

MOHAMMAD Abkar thought he would be home by the time Ramadan rolled around, but the Yemeni father of three will spend the Muslim holy month in a camp – displaced.

The fasting month began on Monday amid a war that has triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis pushing millions to the brink of famine.

Abkar and his family were driven out of their village of Al-Munther in June last year when government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition launched a fierce campaign against Huthi rebels in the nearby Red Sea city of Hodeida.

Hundreds of families were forced to flee the port city and its surrounds.

“We have been here for about a year. A whole year, and we’re still displaced,” Abkar tearfully told media from a camp in government-controlled Khokha, about 130km (80 miles) south of Hodeida.

“We will remain patient, and the rest is in God’s hands.”

The warring parties agreed to a truce deal on Hodeida in Sweden in December giving people a glimmer of hope, but one that is quickly fading as fighting continues.

Most families have been unable to return to their homes over fears they could be caught in the crossfire.

Abkar is no exception.

He left his home with nothing but the clothes on his back and the crutches he desperately needs to walk.

Abkar and his wife have three children – all of them are disabled. They are living through extremely difficult circumstances in a makeshift tent pitched on sand.

Fasting from dawn until dusk during Ramadan will be no easy feat as summer temperatures soar.

“Back at home, we used to get all sorts of food during Ramadan, such as soup and yogurt, but this year we are displaced,” said Abkar.

“I am disabled, and my children are disabled, and that it is why we cannot work.”

Abkar, although grateful for the food aid he receives every month, said he had one message to the world: “Look at us. Look at me and my family.”

The Huthis have been fighting government forces since 2014, but the war escalated a year later when the Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Iran-aligned rebels.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say.

‘Full of mortar shells’

The war has left 3.3 million people displaced and 24.1 million – more than two-thirds of the population – in need of aid in a country that has long been the Arab world’s most impoverished.

Fighting in Hodeida, whose port serves as a lifeline to the rest of Yemen, has largely stopped since the ceasefire went into effect on December 18, but there have been intermittent clashes.

Both the government and the Huthis have been accused of violating the Hodeida truce, while an agreed redeployment of forces has yet to be implemented.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Yemen is mired in a grinding conflict between the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels and a government backed-up by a Saudi-led coalition. MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP

The conflict shows no signs of abating even in the holy month.

A pro-government force said on Saturday that the rebels have been digging dozens of tunnels under Hodeida’s ports and airport – bordering Abkar’s home of Al-Munther.

For Hodeida resident Hoda Ibrahim, 39, it is imperative the warring parties abide by the ceasefire at least during Ramadan.

That is her only hope, she said.

“We are constantly looking for gas and fuel, and we do not even have the time to experience the spirituality of this month,” said the mother of four.

“Ramadan this year is full of mortar shells, and we hope the situation won’t get worse.”

‘Blocked in’

About 230km east of Hodeida in the rebel-held capital, residents are also struggling to provide for their families during the fasting month – which every year witnesses an increase in prices.

Many have lost their jobs during the conflict and most government employees have gone unpaid since August 2016, after the central bank was relocated from Sanaa to Aden – the government’s temporary capital.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, another key coalition member, last month offered $200 million in aid to Yemen especially for Ramadan.

Reem al-Hashimi, the UAE minister of state for international cooperation, last week accused the rebels of blocking his country’s aid from reaching areas under their control, including Sanaa.

Mohammed Hussein, a resident of the rebel-held capital, said his family can’t observe Ramadan the way they used to.

“We can no longer prepare for the holy month the way we did before [the conflict],” he said. “We no longer are able to make purchases because we are blocked in and have no salaries.”


  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to