More than six years have passed into an armed conflict in Yemen following the Arab Spring uprising. The civil war began when Houthi took over the country capital Sana’a in September 2014.

A few months later in March 2015, Saudi Arabia and the UAE led a military coalition against the Houthi. This intensified the conflict as it turned into more of a proxy war and regional struggle between Saudi and Iran.

The war has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, forced millions of Yemeni people to be internally displaced and left 20 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The UN in 2019 described Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

Due to the blockade that the coalition imposes on Yemen, only a few thousand Yemeni people managed to flee the country and seek refuge in foreign countries. Very few of those found their way to the UK. However, we do support some individuals and families who have managed to get to Oxford, including Aiham who recounts his experience below.

Aiham’s account

My last memory of my country dates back to August 2014 when I paid a short visit with my family. Before then, I had been residing in a Gulf country based on my dad’s work visa since 2010. It was heartbreaking, at that time, to leave my country of birth and say goodbye to my friends. But what was even harder to imagine was the fact that returning to Yemen was impossible. This took years to sink in especially after a long period of denialism (according to psychoanalysis!)

After the Revolution in 2011, which was mainly against the economic conditions and corruption, the situation became less stable after the suppression and killing of innocent protestors by the regime. During my visit in 2014, I witnessed a deeper shortage of water, electricity and gas as well as the absence of security and an increased rate of crime. I was lucky enough to end my visit just weeks before the Fall of Sana’a in the hands of the Houthis. As a result of this takeover, a civil war between the Houthis and pro-government forces broke out. This was followed by a Saudi-led intervention, which claimed to back the pro-government forces and defeat the Houthi rebels.

The outcomes of this war, which continues to this very day, have been described by the UNICEF as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. According to statistics, more than 4 million have been forced to flee from their homes and more than 20 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, as 80 percent of the population are below the poverty line. To conclude, I once said on Twitter:

“The nostalgia of the refugee is quite different from the normal one. The sentimentality of the past, the hopelessness of the current situation and the skepticism whether the past in itself was a reality or simply an idealistic fantasy is altogether what the refugee suffers psychologically.”

You may also be interested to read this blog, written by Mark Goldring, reflecting on his experiences in Yemen and what an organisation like Asylum Welcome can do to support those who come to Oxford.