AL-MUKALLA/YEMEN: Abu Saleh, a 30-year-old barber, has one wish for the new year: That the continuing cycle of violence that started when the Iran-backed Houthis seized power in late 2014 comes to an end, and that peace and stability prevail in Yemen.
“When the war stops, the currency will recover, people will receive their salaries and we’ll work,” Abu Saleh, who prefers to be known by his nickname, told Arab News.
In 2019, fighting largely decreased on major battlefields across Yemen as the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement between the internationally recognized government and the Houthis managed to defuse a major military offensive aimed at Hodeidah city on the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia also brokered a power-sharing deal between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council.
But the economic crisis persisted as the Yemeni riyal continued to plunge, pushing up fuel and food prices. Abu Saleh’s job has been greatly affected by the war, and he has had to work from morning to late evening to make ends meet.
“I’m not educated, but I can tell you that things would be better if peace prevails,” he said with a smile as he was cutting a child’s hair.
When he travels from the city of Al-Mukalla in Hadhramaut governorate, which is under government control, to the Houthi-controlled northern governorate of Ibb, he passes through contested areas where warring factions stop him for questioning.
“We don’t want anyone to give us money or jobs. We want peace. Yemenis are resilient, used to hardships, and don’t depend on their government,” Abu Saleh said.
This year, he hopes to finish building his house in Ibb, where his large family lives. “I’m the breadwinner for 17 people. Life is tough, and people who see me smiling think I’m happy,” he said.
Aisha Al-Juaidy, a Yemeni human rights and peace activist, seems more positive about 2020. This month she will settle in Cairo, where she will pursue her life’s dream of studying political science.
“I hope the war stops, airports reopen and normal life is restored,” she told Arab News. “My generation was raised with this crisis.”
We don’t want anyone to give us money or jobs. We want peace. Yemenis are resilient, used to hardships, and don’t depend on their government.
Abu Saleh, a Yemeni national
Al-Juaidy dreams of seeing her country as peaceful, prosperous and stable as other countries. She blames foreign interference for the exacerbation of violence in Yemen.
“I hope external interventions are directed in the interest of the country. All parties should realize the scale of war losses, and should work together to stop it,” she said. “I hope there will be real opportunities for women and youth for peacemaking.”
In November 2019, the Saudi-led coalition released 200 Houthis to boost peace efforts. The Houthis reciprocated by releasing six Saudis in December.
Qayes Al-Dowani, a teacher from the village of Sah in Hadhramaut, who watched the prisoner exchange, hopes for a wider settlement that could end the war. “It seems there’s a common desire to stop the war, which has exhausted the people,” he told Arab News.
In Switzerland, Nabel Al-Osaidi, a member of the Yemen Union Syndicate Council who left Yemen in 2015, seems less optimistic about an outright halt to hostilities in 2020.
He said the crisis is complicated, and without an agreement between non-Yemeni players, the country will not be stable.
“The war has exhausted Yemenis, raised poverty rates, and spread dangerous diseases and famine. The majority of Yemenis seek peace and security since they were affected by the war,” he added.
In Aden, Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed said he hopes 2020 will witness the end of the Houthi coup and the fixing of services in government-controlled areas.
“We are confidently looking forward to 2020 as the year of the great victory for Yemen and its people ending the coup, and the restoration of the state,” he wrote in an op-ed published on Thursday.