Houthi militants in Yemen shell World Food Program’s Hodeidah grain store

The WFP grain stores at the Red Sea Mills have become a focal point of the conflict in Hodeidah, where the United Nations is trying to enforce a ceasefire and troop withdrawal. (AFP/File Photo Feb 2019)
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Updated 31 December 2019

Houthi militants in Yemen shell World Food Program’s Hodeidah grain store

  • WFP grain stores at the Red Sea Mills have become a focal point of the conflict
  • No comment from Houthi media

DUBAI: Houthi artillery fire has damaged a mill on the frontline near the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, forcing the World Food Programme to suspended the milling of grain intended for food aid to a starving population, the agency said on Monday.
Yemen’s government’s information minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, also said the Houthi militia had carried out the shelling.
There was no comment from Houthi media.
The WFP grain stores at the Red Sea Mills have become a focal point of the conflict in Hodeidah, where the United Nations is trying to enforce a ceasefire and troop withdrawal agreed a year ago at Stockholm peace talks.
“The milling of WFP wheat at the Red Sea Mills near Hodeidah has been temporarily halted after the mills were hit by artillery fire on Thursday 26 December,” a WFP spokesperson said.
The Red Sea Mills lie on a frontline between forces loyal to the President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally-recognized government and the Iranian-backed Houthi forces.

The war has severely hit food supplies in Yemen and millions of people are at risk of starvation in what aid agencies describe as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The stores were off limits for around six months and were at risk of rotting until the WFP negotiated access in late February and began cleaning and milling what had been enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month.
So far just over 2,500 tons has been milled into flour and dispatched, the spokesperson said.

Yemen has been mired in almost five years of conflict since the Houthi movement ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014, prompting intervention in 2015 by an Arab military coalition in a bid to restore his government.
A statement by a mill official carried by the media office of the Giants Brigade, part of Yemeni government forces, said the shelling put a hole in a grain silo, exposing it to the elements.
The UN has been trying to re-launch political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
A year on from the Stockholm deal, UN-mediated talks between warring parties in the Hodeidah have so far failed to achieve a full troop withdrawal and cease-fire.


‘We want to breathe, too’: Solidarity from Iraq

A mask-clad young Iraqi woman speaks to another during an anti-government demonstration in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, despite the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 07 June 2020

‘We want to breathe, too’: Solidarity from Iraq

  • Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable — mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say

BAGHDAD: Seventeen years after US troops invaded their country and eight months since protests engulfed their cities, Iraqis are sending solidarity, warnings and advice to demonstrators across America.
Whether in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square or on Twitter, Iraqis are closely watching the unprecedented street protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis as a police officer knelt on his neck.
“I think what the Americans are doing is brave and they should be angry, but rioting is not the solution,” said Yassin Alaa, a scrawny 20-year-old camped out in Tahrir.
Only a few dozen Iraqis remain in tents in the capital’s main protest square, which just months ago saw security forces fire tear gas and live bullets at demonstrators, who shot back with rocks or occasionally Molotov cocktails.
Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable — mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say. Now, they want to share their lessons learned.
“Don’t set anything on fire. Stay away from that, because the police will treat you with force right from the beginning and might react unpredictably,” Alaa told AFP.
And most importantly, he insisted, stick together. “If blacks and whites were united and they threw racism away, the system can never stop them,” he said.
Across their country, Iraqis spotted parallels between the roots of America’s protests and their own society.
“In the US it’s a race war, while here it’s a war of politics and religion,” said Haider Kareem, 31, who protested often in Tahrir and whose family lives in the US.
“But the one thing we have in common is the injustice we both suffer from,” he told AFP.
Iraq has its own history of racism, particularly against a minority of Afro-Iraqis in the south who trace their roots back to East Africa.
In 2013, leading Afro-Iraqi figure Jalal Thiyab was gunned down in the oil-rich city of Basra — but discrimination against the community is otherwise mostly nonviolent.
“Our racism is different than America’s racism,” said Ali Essam, a 34-year-old Afro-Iraqi who directed a wildly popular play about Iraq’s protests last year.
“Here, we joke about dark skin but in America, being dark makes people think you’re a threat,” he told AFP.
Solidarity is spreading online, too, with Iraqis tweaking their own protest chants and slogans to fit the US.
In one video, an elderly Iraqi is seen reciting a “hosa” or rhythmic chant, used to rally people into the streets last year and now adapted to an American context.
“This is a vow, this a vow! Texas won’t be quiet now,” he bellowed, before advising Americans to keep their rallies independent of foreign interference — mimicking a US government warning to Iraqis last year. Others shared the hashtag “America Revolts.”
Another Arabic hashtag going viral in Iraq translates as “We want to breathe, too,” referring to Floyd’s last words.
Not all the comparisons have been uplifting, however.
The governor of Minnesota, the state in which Minneapolis is located, said the US street violence “was reminiscent of Mogadishu or Baghdad.”
And the troops briefly deployed by US President Donald Trump to quell unrest in Washington were from the 82nd Airborne — which had just returned from duty in Iraq.
“Trump is using the American army against the American people,” said Democrat presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden.
Iraqis have fought back online, tweeting “Stop associating Baghdad with turmoil,” in response to comparisons with their homeland.
Others have used biting sarcasm.
In response to videos of crowds breaking into shops across US cities, Iraqis have dug up an infamous quote by ex-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
“Lawlessness and looting is a natural consequence of the transition from dictatorship to a free country,” he said in response to a journalist’s question on widespread looting and chaos in Baghdad following the 2003 US-led invasion.