Book Review: Nathalie Peutz’s Islands of Heritage

Nathalie Peutz’s Islands of Heritage: Conservation and Transformation in Yemen is a sweeping account of life at the intersection of conservation projects, international development, national politics, and globalization on the largest island of Yemen’s Soqotra Archipelago. Soqotra is a UNESCO natural World Heritage Site renowned for its vast collection of unique plant and animal species, which makes it one of the most biodiverse places in the world. According to UNESCO, Soqotra is “of universal importance because of its biodiversity with rich and distinct flora and fauna.” As Peutz shows, however, Soqotra’s designation as a natural World Heritage Site and the related burst of attention to its ostensibly universal natural value has effectively marginalized both Soqotra’s historical and its contemporary cultural heritage. While Soqotra was transformed from a generally undisturbed island community to the focus of large European-funded conservation programs oriented towards environmental protection, the waves of researchers, conservationists, and organizations that flocked to the island disregarded the fact that, in addition to its natural biodiversity, Soqotra is home to the rich cultural heritage of the Soqotran people, including the endangered Soqotri language. As the island has faced the onslaught of development, rapidly changing climate conditions, and now a civil war, the people of Soqotra have turned to this heritage as a tool to advocate for their political and cultural rights. Peutz situates this challenge to the status quo, what she calls “a heritagial revolution,” within a geopolitical and historical context where cultural heritage has long been the stage of anti-imperialist struggles for sovereignty. Here, Peutz argues that environmental protection and development are neither neutral nor apolitical, but part of a tradition of using the language of protection and conservation to facilitate the imperial ambitions of western powers. It is with this attention to nuance and history that she is able to show how heritage, in both its discursive and material forms, has become a force to be reckoned with in emerging struggles for political, social, and cultural empowerment in Yemen.

IHL & HRL Violations - July 2019

Abha, Saudi Arabia

An armed drone launched by the Houthis struck Saudi Arabia's Abha Airport early Tuesday July 2nd and injured nine people, according to Saudi military officials. The Houthis have targeted that airport and others several times since June 12th, when an attack injured at least 26 people inside the Abha facility. This attack constitutes a violation of rules 3 and 6, which prohibit targeting civilians.

San’a Governorate

SAM for Rights and Liberties reported on July 9th that thirty detainees had been sentenced to death by a Houthi penal court in a trial they described as lacking judicial integrity. This is a violation of rule 100, which states that no one may be convicted or sentenced, except pursuant to a fair trial affording all essential judicial guarantees.

Announcement: The YPP is closing

After nearly a decade in operation, the Yemen Peace Project will close its doors next month. Since 2010 we have made a real and measurable impact on the world, by providing a global stage for Yemeni artists and filmmakers, by supporting Yemen’s future leaders working for positive change, and by advocating for peaceful, constructive US policies toward Yemen. During the past year, our board of directors has seriously considered how these important objectives can be pursued in the most effective and sustainable way. We’ve concluded that our small, largely volunteer-powered group can have its most long-lasting impact by encouraging and assisting other organizations and activists to move ahead with the goals for which the YPP was founded.

August 3-9: Investigations find corruption in UN offices, STC and government battle in Aden

Saturday, August 3

Two corruption scandals have rocked the international humanitarian aid sectors in Yemen. More than a dozen UNICEF workers have been accused of embezzlement and malpractice. More controversy surrounds a staffer who allowed a Houthi rebel leader to travel in agency vehicles, shielding him from potential airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

The World Health Organization also released a statement regarding its Office of Internal Oversight Services’ (IOS) audit of the WHO Yemen Country Office from July to October 2018. IOS rated the effectiveness of controls in the administration and finance areas as unsatisfactory. The WHO promised that "this issue is an on-going priority for the senior leadership of the organization."

Sunday, August 4

The United Nations' World Food Programme and Yemen's Houthi rebels say they have reached a deal to resume food deliveries to rebel-controlled parts of the war-torn country after suspending the aid in June. The partial suspension of aid had affected around 850,000 people, according to the UN. 

Pro-Hadi source Yemen Now tweeted that Houthi shelling killed an eleven-year-old girl and injured her grandfather in Hajjah province today.

Al-Masdar Online notes that gunmen believed to be members of AQAP attacked a headquarters belonging to UAE-backed forces in southeast Abyan province. 

Monday, August 5

According to Aden al-Ghad, fierce battles have been ongoing in al-Dhali’ province after a Houthi attack was launched in the northern part of the province.

Tuesday, August 6

Two international aid groups, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE, reported that the Saudi-led coalition’s closure of the San'a airport has prevented thousands of sick civilians from traveling abroad for urgent medical treatment. Both aid groups said in a joint statement that this policy has amounted to a “death sentence” for many sick Yemenis.

Wednesday, August 7

The separatist Southern Transitional Council, who want an independent southern Yemeni state, tried without success to seize the presidential palace in the southern city of Aden. Clashes began after Presidential Guards fired on a crowd of hundreds of separatists attending a funeral march for some of the southern soldiers and a prominent commander killed in last week’s Houthi missile attack. Three people were killed and nine injured.

Thursday, August 8

Southern news outlet Aden al-Ghad reports an ongoing battle between government forces and the Southern Transitional Council in the streets of Crater, a district in the city of Aden. 

Military sources say that Saudi forces are stationed alongside pro-Hadi forces in Aden, reports al-Masdar Online. 

Al-Masdar Online reports progress by pro-government forces on the ground in Aden, although the article notes that due to the ongoing conflict reports are difficult to verify.

At least 20 Houthi rebels have been killed in clashes with government forces in al-Dhali’. The Yemeni army’s official website September Net said the violence took place when Houthi rebels attempted to advance on military positions in Maris district.

Friday, August 9

Former UK Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister of the UK, will want to take action in Yemen during his tenure. He had previously been supportive of a plan to send a commando brigade to Yemen as a humanitarian mission, and "avert an appalling catastrophe."

Netroots Conference Features Panel on Yemen Advocacy

On July 13, 2019, Yemen Peace Project executive director Layla Picard participated in a panel discussion on how activists have influenced US policy toward the conflict in Yemen. This panel, part of the Netroots progressive politics conference in Philadelphia, and moderated by Stephen Miles of Win Without War, sought to highlight the importance of Yemeni and American activists’ work because, as Miles put it, “the situation in Yemen is the poster child for everything that’s wrong with US foreign policy.” Picard and the other panelists described their advocacy work, the challenges they’ve faced, and what the future holds for Yemeni-American and progressive anti-war activism.

July 27-August 2: Civilians killed in Sa’dah market, Houthis bomb Security Belt, al-Qaeda attack rocks army base

Saturday, July 27

Houthi rebels shelled a food processing complex and residential areas of Hudaydah city on Saturday, killing one person and wounding several others. The facility was the target of many similar Houthi attacks last year and had since completed major reconstruction.

Monday, July 29

An airstrike on al-Thabet market in Yemen's northern Sa’dah province on Monday killed 14 civilians including four children. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. A Houthi report held the Saudi-led coalition responsible for the incident and also said it wounded 26. In response, coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki told CNN that "the targeting of Al-Thabet market by the terrorist, Iran-backed Houthi militia is a deliberate attack against innocent civilians." Representatives of the Yemeni government also blamed the explosion on the Houthis.

Gunmen attacked a police station in Aden today as part of an ongoing feud for over control a residential area of the city, reports al-Masdar Online.

Five civilians were killed by an armed gunman in Ibb on Monday, among them two women, according to al-Mahrah Post

Tuesday, July 30

Arab News reported on the ongoing medical treatment of Yemeni citizens in India. In the last two years, thousands of injured Yemeni civilians and soldiers have been transported to New Delhi for complex medical operations. The UAE has been funding the treatment, and India has been facilitating the process by issuing more visas to injured Yemenis.

Human rights groups (including Mwatana for Human Rights) investigating atrocities in the Yemen war have urged Australia to immediately suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Australia has argued that the weapons it sells to Saudi Arabia and the UAE go through extensive checks before shipment and are not used in violation of international humanitarian law.

Wednesday, July 31

A Twitter thread from pro-Hadi news account Yemen Now claims that, according to medical sources, approximately $250,000 worth of medical supplies were looted from Kuwait Hospital in San’a by the Houthis.

Landslides damaged a number of homes in Ibb today, according to al-Masdar Online.

Aden al-Ghad reports that the Joint Forces downed a Houthi drone in Hudaydah today.

Two women were shot and wounded in their homes by a Houthi sniper in western al-Dhali’ governorate yesterday evening, reports southern news outlet Aden al-Ghad

Thursday, August 1

Two attacks killed at least 51 on Thursday. Houthis said they had mounted drone and missile attacks on a military parade in Aden, killing civilians and several military commanders. In another attack in Aden, an explosives-laden car blew up at a police station, killing at least three officers and wounding dozens of civilians. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the police station attack. 

UAE-backed Separatist Security Belt commander Abu Yamamah was among those killed.

An article from al-Masdar Online discusses Houthi efforts to put 45 soldiers and officers on trial in Ibb for murder and rebellion, after the death of a Houthi leader sparked clashes in the city last June.

Friday, August 2

An al-Qaeda attack in the southern Abyan province today has killed at least 19 soldiers stationed at the al-Mahfad army base. "The Qaeda gunmen took advantage of what happened [on Thursday] in Aden and launched an assault on al-Mahfad base and clashed with soldiers," a government security official said.

July 20-26: Houthis and coalition trade airstrikes, offshore oil tanker threatens to spill

July 20-26: Houthis and coalition trade airstrikes, offshore oil tanker threatens to spill

Saturday, July 20

San’a was rocked by several powerful explosions following air raids by the Saudi-led coalition on Saturday. The strikes ostensibly targeted Houthi air defenses and ballistic missile sites. On the same day, the Houthis claimed to have carried out drone attacks on military targets at King Khalid Air Base in southwestern Saudi Arabia. According to Houthi spokesman Yahya Sarei, the drone attacks targeted radar installations and military positions at the air base near the city of Khamis Mushait. There was no comment from the Saudi-UAE coalition on the rebel claim.

July 13-19: WFP and Houthis near agreement on aid to San'a, protests against Saudi presence in al-Mahrah continue

Saturday, July 13

The Houthi rebels and the World Food Program may have reached an agreement that would allow the resumption of aid deliveries to San’a, which WFP suspended recently due to the Houthis’ obstruction and theft of aid shipments. Meanwhile, representatives from Ansar Allah and the coalition-backed government met as members of the Redeployment Coordination Committee on a UN ship in the Red Sea for talks over the weekend. The body was established by the UN and chaired by Danish Lieutenant-General Michael Lollesgaard, head of the UN mission for Hudaydah. 

Independent journalist Baseem al-Jenani tweeted that the Houthis arrived late to the joint meeting on implementation of the Stockholm Agreements, held on a ship off the coast of Hudaydah.

The United Nations human rights office reported that a Houthi court sentenced 30 academics, students, and politicians "critical of the Houthis" to death, adding that "credible" allegations show many were tortured during their detentions. These charges appear to have been "politically motivated," announced spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani last week.

July 6-12: UAE pulls forces from Hudaydah, cholera cases skyrocket

Sunday, July 7

The pro-Houthi Saba news agency reported that the Houthis have developed new missiles and drones to use against the Saudi-led Coalition supporting the government. The weapons were unveiled at an exhibition on Sunday attended by Mahdi Al-Mashat, president of the rebel’s ruling council. The agency said the exhibition displayed “new models of ballistic and winged missiles and drones made in Yemen,” including the Quds-1 missile, the Samad-3 drone, and the Qasef-2K drone.

 Monday, July 8

 Save the Children reported Monday that the first six months of 2019, Yemen has seen more suspected cholera cases than in the whole of 2018. A total of 439,812 suspected cholera cases were so far identified with some 203,000 children among those affected. The ongoing rainy season exacerbates the situation, with flooding and downpours threatening to intensify the spread of the waterborne disease.

IHL & HRL Violations - June 2019

Abha, Saudi Arabia

On June 12th, Houthi forces attacked the Saudi civilian airport Abha International Airport, launching a cruise missile that struck the airport and injured 26 people. This attack constitutes a violation of rules 3 and 6, which prohibit targeting civilians.

Al-Hudaydah Governorate 

On June 17th, a woman was killed and two others were injured when a shell fired by the Houthi militias landed in the midst of a rally of citizens in the city of Hays. Targeting civilians is a violation of rules 3 and 6

On June 24th, a girl was killed and four civilians, including two children, were injured as a result of Houthi shelling in the city of Hays. In a related context, a man was shot and killed by a Houthi sniper outside of his home in the al-Durayhimi District. This is a violation of rules 3 and 6, which prohibit targeting civilians.

June 29-July 5: More Houthi Drone Attacks; UAE Escalates Withdrawal of Forces

Saturday, June 29

A new UN report released this weekend found that over 7,500 children have been killed or wounded in Yemen since the start of the war. The majority of these casualties were attributed to airstrikes, shelling, fighting, suicide attacks, and mines. The Secretary-General’s report said that the killings and injuries specifically were among 11,779 grave violations against children since the beginning of the conflict. Virginia Gamba, the UN special representative for children in conflict, commented, “the children of Yemen had nothing to do with the start of this conflict. They should now be given the opportunity to exit from it and be assisted to fully recover.”

A Houthi-laid mine in al-Jawf province killed two men and a child today, reports al-Masdar Online.

June 22-28: Houthis Attack Civilians in KSA, UN Envoy Meets Yemeni Government in Riyadh

Sunday, June 23

Another Houthi drone attack targeting Saudi Arabia's Abha Airport killed one Syrian resident and injured 21 other civilians from several different nations. The attack was the second in less than two weeks against the same Saudi airport. Ansar Allah claims the airport is used for military operations against Yemen, but publicly available flight data confirms that it is a civilian commercial airport serviced by a number of domestic airlines.

Tuesday, June 25

Saudi officials announced that Saudi and Yemeni special forces captured the leader of Islamic State’s branch in Yemen, Abu Osama Al-Muhajir, earlier this month. An American official speaking on anonymity confirmed that seizure took place on June 3rd in a raid aided by elite US forces and American intelligence. The Saudi statement made no mention of a US role in the capture.

The Houthi militia blocked a food shipment from the World Food Programme meant to feed 100,000 families. The Houthis ordered over 8,000 tons of food to leave the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, claiming it was contaminated with dead insects.

Empower Yemen's first report is available now

A while ago we announced the launch of our newest advocacy program, the Empower Yemen initiative. This week we’re pleased to announce that Empower Yemen’s first report is now available online! Empower Yemen brings Yemeni activists and civil society leaders into the US policy-making process by connecting them with advocacy organizations and key congressional offices in Washington. For nearly a decade, the Yemen Peace Project has advanced policy solutions based on human rights, the rule of law, and the interests of the Yemeni people. Empower Yemen is the next phase of that effort.

Through this initiative, we are asking Yemeni activists and civil society leaders for their perspectives on political, economic, and humanitarian issues that are relevant to the debate on US policies toward Yemen. Our team in Washington shares the feedback we receive with all of the US-based advocacy organizations working on Yemen, and with key congressional offices. Our goal is to ensure that policymakers are well-informed with information from the ground, and that the advocacy agenda centers the concerns and interests of the Yemeni people.

June 15-21: Clashes between pro-STC/UAE forces and government troops in Shabwah; WFP suspends aid due to Houthi interference

Sunday, June 16

A UAE-funded project to improve water production capacity in Yemen was launched on Sunday in Yemen’s port city of al-Mokha. The new project by the Emirati Red Crescent in Yemen consists of two artesian wells connected to a generator and two storage tanks, and will be connected to the main water distribution network. The project is projected to allow water to be provided on a 24-hour basis.

Monday, June 17

World Food Program (WFP) chief David Beasley warned on Monday that a phased-suspension of food assistance in Yemen was likely to begin later this week over a diversion of aid and lack of independence in Houthi-controlled areas. The Houthis have been accused of diverting food and water aid supplies. Beasley called on the Houthis to “simply let us do our job” and immediately implement registration and monitoring agreements.

Commander of the Yemeni 4th Brigade, Mehran Al-Qubati, accused the United Arab Emirates of planning an “imminent coup” in Aden against President Hadi.

June 8-14: Houthis escalate cross-border drone attacks, coalition airstrikes kill civilians in San’a

Sunday, June 9

Al-Masirah, a Houthi propaganda agency, reported that Houthi drones targeted Saudi drone  facilities at Jizan International Airport, which al-Masirah claims has been converted into a military airbase. Saudi Arabian air defense forces intercepted two of the Houthi aircraft.

Monday, June 10
A woman and her three daughters were injured when a Houthi shell struck their home in northern Ta’iz today, al-Masdar Online reports.

May 10-June 7: Government disputes Houthis' "withdrawal" from Hudaydah, Houthis attack Saudi oil facilities, European labor unions protest arms shipments, US and KSA ratchet up tensions with Iran

Friday, May 10

The Houthis have agreed to unilaterally remove their forces from the ports of al-Hudaydah, Salif, and Ras Isa between May 11 and May 14. Many observers are sceptical of the promise, given the Houthis’ previous failures to follow through on this aspect of the Stockholm Agreements.

The UN is assessing possible damage to grain stored in the Red Sea Mills facility in Hudaydah following gunfire on Thursday. The National reports that the Houthis attacked the mills causing damage to one of the silos and the wheat stored in it.

Saturday, May 11

A Yemeni government minister has said that the Houthis’ handover of the three main ports in Hudaydah is a “show” meant to “disinform the international community.” Last year the Houthis staged a similar withdrawal of the port of Hudaydah, before it was discovered that the Coast Guard forces the Houthis had handed the port to were, in fact, also Houthi fighters. Journalist Baseem al-Jenani notes that this marks the third time in six months that the Houthis have announced their withdrawal from Hudaydah in accordance with the Stockholm Agreement

The Security Council has approved 75 observers to join the monitoring mission in Hudaydah as part of the Stockholm agreement. However, there are currently only 15 observers in Hudaydah while the others are waiting on visas. The observers were intended to monitor the implementation of the deal and assess conditions on the ground, tasks the mission cannot carry out without adequate staffing.

IHL & HRL Violations - May 2019

ANSAR ALLAH/HOUTHI MOVEMENT

Al-Hudaydah Governorate

On May 24, the Mothers of Abductees Organization accused the Houthis of torturing and beating three men who died in their custody. Torture is a violation of rule 90.

Country-wide

The UN has accused the Houthis of stealing and misappropriating aid meant for civilians. According to the UN, an estimated 1% of aid in Yemen has gone missing and dozens of areas throughout Yemen have been promised aid that was never delivered. This is a violation of rule 55, which prohibits inhibiting humanitarian relief for civilians in need.

May 3-9: UN rushes to salvage grain stores in Hudaydah, government and southern forces clash in al-Dhali'

Friday, May 3

A roadside bomb believed to have been planted by al-Qaeda killed six civilians in al-Qatn village in Hadhramawt. This is the second attack in less than a week by al-Qaeda in the village. AQAP is active in several provinces in south and eastern Yemen.

Emirati officials say that the UAE is planning to diversify their distribution of aid in order to further their reach. The UAE will continue to use organisations outside of the UN-coordinated humanitarian response in providing aid. The UAE identifies food programmes and cholera prevention as top priorities. UN agencies and NGOs have criticized the UAE and Saudi Arabia throughout the conflict for refusing to pay into the UN’s pooled fund for Yemen, and for politicizing their humanitarian projects.

Saturday, May 4

Arab News reports that Saudi Arabia has launched new border security patrols in Saudi Arabia’s Najran Province, which borders Yemen’s al-Jawf and Sa’dah Governorates. US special forces soldiers are known to be assisting with border security; if US troops are involved in joint patrols, there will be an increase in the likelihood of direct US-Houthi clashes, which could escalate the conflict significantly.

April 26-May 2: Southern Authorities round up African migrants, fighting escalates in al-Dhali' and al-Hudaydah

Friday, April 26

After several days of conflict with local security forces, the Abu al-Abbas Brigades have agreed to leave the old city of Ta’iz based on an agreement with the city’s “truce committee,” reports al-Masdar Online.

Beginning in Aden and Lahj governorates last Sunday, Yemeni authorities are rounding up irregular migrants in Southern Yemen. The UN migration agency is saying these actions are, “creating an acute humanitarian situation.” The International Organization for Migration is concerned about the conditions in which the migrants, who are predominantly Ethiopian, are being held.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt hosted the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, in London, where the two discussed their bilateral partnership. UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths also met with Hunt, Sheikh Abdullah, and figures from Saudi Arabia and the US to discuss the next steps in the UN-brokered peace plan.

Saturday, April 27

Mareb Press reports heavy exchanges of artillery fire between the Hadi government and Houthi militias in Hudaydah.

Al-Masdar Online reports that a new pro-Hadi assembly, the Southern National Coalition, has been established in Aden. As scholar Sam Ramani points out, the body is intended to rival the Southern Transitional Council, but will likely struggle to gain significant support due to Hadi’s unpopularity in the area.

Arab News reports that clashes in al-Dhali’ province allegedly resulted in 70 Houthi casualties. Coalition casualties were not reported.

Six Yemeni demining experts died in Ta’iz following an explosion at a warehouse that contained unexploded landmines.

IHL & HRL Violations - April 2019

ANSAR ALLAH/HOUTHI MOVEMENT

San’a Governorate

A lawyer alleges that 36 defendants charged with espionage have been tortured by the Houthis during their detention. The lawyer also alleges that they have been deprived of food and medicine. Torture and any cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments are prohibited by IHL rule 90. This is also a violation of rule 118, which requires that persons deprived of their liberty are provided with basic necessities, such as food, water, and medicine.