Hidden Heroes of a “Faceless War” – a Photo Blog from Yemen

by Search - Yemen

on June 7, 2017

War in Yemen rages on.

Even though you rarely see it in the news. When you do, it’s described as a proxy war between regional powers. But what about the people of Yemen? How have two years of fighting affected their lives?

It’s time the world saw their faces and heard their voices. Share the photos below with your social networks using #EyesonYemen. Help us put a face to this very human conflict.

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A child from Al-Dhale’, central Yemen, stands inside a classroom of his school, damaged by clashes.

Hundreds of schools around Yemen have been reduced to rubble by two years of fighting. Before the war, they used to be safe spaces where children felt protected. Now, many of them are closed or used for other purposes, and one-third of the country’s school-aged children have been forced to quit their education.

Despite the ongoing violence, schools across the country are a space where children and teenagers learn tolerance and acceptance, and provide some of the best alternatives to violence. The Ministry of Education, brave teachers, and local peace activists are working to help keep kids in school, and grapple with the effects of war in their classrooms. With these skills and the support of the international community, Yemeni youth can play a fundamental role in putting an end to violence in their country. #EyesOnYemen

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Along with her family, this young girl escaped from the fighting in Taiz into neighboring Ibb Governorate.

Many people are suspicious and fearful of Yemeni youth and see them as the perpetrators of violence. Child soldiers have become increasingly common. Militias and violent extremist groups seek recruits, including children below the age of 14.

Reopening schools, creating livelihood opportunities, and maintaining safe spaces for dialogue are critical to counter this trend, giving youth alternatives to violence. In Ibb, primary school students like this young girl, receive a curriculum addressing issues of conflict and violence along with their regular studies. #EyesOnYemen

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A man stands in front of the rubble of his home in Aden, southern Yemen.

Since the beginning of the war in March 2015, violence has precluded the central government from acting efficiently. Cities, local councils, and civil society organizations have stepped in to provide government services, including dispute resolution.

Search-Yemen works with these groups to collaboratively resolve conflicts through dialogue. Yemen has over 8,000 registered civil society organizations and strong traditional, religious, women and youth leaders across the country. Despite the violence, they continue to spread knowledge and expand their networks using WhatsApp and social media. #EyesOnYemen

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A child descends a battered stairway in Sana’a.

Yemen’s capital suffered continued air strikes, armed clashes, shelling, and attacks with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) between June and September 2016. The fighting has continued into 2017 and left nearly one million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Sana’a alone.

But the war is not confined to aerial bombardment and ground clashes. In the absence of central authority, deepening sectarian divides and the influx of small arms cause everyday disagreements to escalate into violence. That’s why creating opportunities for cooperation and nonviolent conflict resolution at the local level is so important.

A successful example comes from Al-Ssennah, a sub-district of Taiz, where the cooperative council and members of the community work together to quickly respond to disputes. #EyesOnYemen

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A displaced woman in Taiz looks out from her temporary home.

The war has forced 2 million Yemenis to flee their homes in search of safety. One out of every five of these internally displaced people are living in improvised spontaneous settlements, such as schools or hospitals. In Taiz, tensions run high when displaced people compete with residents for scarce resources and meager humanitarian aid.

Most people in Taiz sympathize with the displaced communities, despite these tensions. Community councils work to solve problems and mediate conflicts between the host communities and the displaced. Council members hold public dialogues for representatives from both sides, to settle disputes and figure out how to cope with the crisis together. #EyesOnYemen

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A young girl who lost her leg due to the conflict waits to be seen at a hospital in Taiz.

She is one of many children and youth whose future has been altered by the war. Children and youth are the generation that will need to secure and solidify peace in Yemen. There is much work to be done to foster youth as they come of age. Equipping them with peacebuilding skills and a nonviolent mindset enables positive peer influence and helps make peace the norm. #EyesOnYemen

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A homeless man sleeps on the streets of Sana’a.

The homeless population in Yemen has multiplied since the beginning of the war. Infrastructure damage, job insecurity, and lack of funds have left many Yemenis reeling. One million civil servants in the country have gone unpaid for months. The availability of hard currency is limited, and families struggle to buy what little food and goods there are to go around.

Yet ordinary Yemenis are coming together to do what they can, pooling resources to tackle unemployment, lack of services, and social divisions through community infrastructure work. In Abyan, citizens established a contribution fund to pool their money and maintain a sewage system. Local solutions like this are cropping up throughout Yemen and help to address the drivers of conflict while satisfying a need of the community. #EyesOnYemen

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A young girl in Ibb carries water from a well back to her home.

In the context of the war, tensions over the scarcity of clean water and the accessibility of wells often escalate into violence; more than 70% of conflicts in rural areas are related to water. The water crisis has also increased the school dropout rate, particularly among young women, who walk long distances to fetch water and carry it back to their families.

In Ibb and other areas, local authorities and traditional leaders engage with NGOs to receive peacebuilding training. The skills they learn help them deal with community conflicts around resource scarcity and other issues. #EyesOnYemen

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In the Old City of Sana’a, women meet outside to dry their clothes.

Traditionally, Yemeni society has been dominated by men, but the war is changing the role of women. Once relegated to the household, women are now starting to contribute to family income and engaging more and more in family affairs. The conflict in Yemen has deepened religious, political, and tribal divides. However, thanks to their shared experiences, women are often able to maintain open lines of communication between rival groups. #EyesOnYemen

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A young girl carries water in Lahi, southern Yemen.

The war left 14.5 million people unable to support their basic water, sanitation, and hygiene needs, accelerating the spread of disease. Over 96,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in Yemen, with estimates predicting 300,000 by the end of 2017.

Medics and aid workers, journalists and peace activists have joined forces to stop this new threat. The remaining hospitals are working at full capacity to address the epidemic. Local media are raising awareness on cholera’s causes and how to prevent it. At the same time, peace activists are negotiating for access to keep water sources safe and accessible to all. #EyesOnYemen

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