Leaving Yemen is now an unattainable dream for Abdulsalam Khaled, who cannot travel — despite being awarded a scholarship to pursue his education in India — because of a Saudi-led coalition blockade.
Khaled is one of thousands of people inside and outside Yemen who have been blocked from entering or leaving the war-torn country.
The 34-year-old had been hoping to obtain a master’s degree in English-language studies, but all he can do now is wander the streets of Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sana’a, lamenting his bad luck.
“Because the airport is closed, I’m now stuck and can’t travel,” he said, showing reporters his scholarship documents.
“There are other airports in Yemen I could have flown from, but unfortunately we can’t reach them because of security problems,” he said.
Yemen has been rocked by conflict since Iran-backed rebels overran Sana’a and other large parts of the country, prompting military intervention by a Saudi-led coalition in March last year in support of the internationally recognized government.
The coalition has since enforced a maritime and air blockade on what was already the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.
Several rounds of UN-brokered peace talks aimed at ending the war have been fruitless.
Sana’a International Airport was shut when the coalition resumed airstrikes on Aug. 9 around the city after the last round of peace talks in Kuwait collapsed.
It reopened days later, but only for humanitarian flights, which have to notify the coalition in advance.
Before Aug. 9, the sole operator still serving Sana’a — national carrier Yemenia — ran only a few scheduled commercial flights to Amman, Cairo and Nairobi.
“There are thousands of cases — students, patients, passengers and many others cannot travel,” Sana’a airport chief Khaled al-Shayef said.
Many others have also been stranded outside the country, unable to return home.
Mazen al-Soufi, who directs air traffic at the facility, spoke of “huge damage” caused by the airport’s closure.
“More than 20,000 people stuck outside Yemen want to come home,” he said.
“Many people in critical medical condition die every day because of the siege of Sana’a International Airport,” he said.
Soufi confirmed that there are “students who have lost their seats in universities” because of the blockade.
UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick has said that “one of the bigger problems we face” is that “Yemeni air flights still don’t come to Sana’a.”
“We call on all the parties to allow these flights to resume back into Sana’a so that people can get much needed respite,” he told reporters.
Damage to infrastructure has hampered aid deliveries, already threatened by the security situation across the country where al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have gained ground, especially in the south.
Deputy director of the World Food Program in Yemen Adham Mussallam acknowledges “difficulties in humanitarian work” throughout the country, where millions need food and medical aid.
“Getting permission to bring in aid to Yemen needs four to five months,” he said. “There are a lot of difficulties.”
The warring parties ignored a UN call to renew a fragile 72-hour ceasefire to allow aid deliveries. It officially ended at midnight on Saturday.
The coalition had already said it would continue its air and maritime embargo to prevent weapons shipments reaching the rebels.
However, the coalition did make an exception following one of its deadliest attacks.
On Oct. 8, an air raid on a funeral ceremony killed 140 people and wounded 525, drawing severe criticism of the Arab alliance, which is logistically supported by Washington.
After the raid, which the coalition said took place because of “incorrect information,” the Arab alliance eased the blockade to allow an Omani aircraft to evacuate from Sana’a more than 100 of the most seriously wounded in the strike.
The same aircraft also flew home to Sana’a rebel negotiators, who had been stranded in the Omani capital, Muscat, because of the blockade since the collapse of the peace talks in Kuwait.
Sana’a resident Mohammed al-Wadee said that lifting the blockade is absolutely vital.
“It’s been [almost] two years that the Yemenis have been suffering from the siege and paying a high price” for the war, he said.
Among them is Khaled, his plans for further education shattered.
“I’m unable to get my master’s degree, even in the near future,” he said, shrugging hopelessly.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference