The plight of the people of Abyan Governorate, which lies along the southern coast of Yemen north-east of 'Aden, has been under-reported of late. In May the US media leaped at the story that al-Qa‘idah fighters had captured the provincial capital of Zinjibar, because the US media will print anything that has to do with al-Qa‘idah. But save an excellent piece last week in the LA Times, coverage of the growing humanitarian crisis in Abyan has been almost non-existant. I don't blame the press, or anyone else, really, for this oversight. It's very, very difficult to get reliable information from San‘a and Ta‘iz--Yemen's most accessible cities--these days, even for those of us who spend most of our time trying to do exactly that. Aden and Abyan haven't seen a foreign journalist since February, as far as I know, and have much lower internet penetration than those other parts of the country. It's no one's fault that we can't get up-to-the minute news about the thousands of people fleeing ongoing fighting between militants and security forces in Abyan. But thanks to the work of dedicated Yemeni activists, we do have some concrete information, and now that we have it, we have to do something about it.
We know this:
- Low-intensity warfare continues, not just in Zinjibar but throughout Abyan. Casualties can't be counted; more horrifying, casualties can't even be collected. The sparse reports that get out say that bodies are lying in the streets, feeding the ubiquitous southern crows. Amateur footage that I'm not going to link to here shows the bodies of soldiers, charred and obliterated, beside the blackened wrecks of armored vehicles. Civilian casualties, and those of the anti-government militants, are certainly more extensive.
- At least 30,000 civilians have fled Abyan for Lahj and 'Aden. Many have been taken in by friends and relatives; others are squatting or camping out on the road.
- At least one formal IDP camp has been established in Khormaksar District, 'Aden. YPP is in touch with a well-known activist and volunteer in 'Aden, who has personally visited the camp and transmitted to us a camp census and list of needs.
- The Khormaksar camp holds at present 1,342 people, of which 124 are under the age of three and 441 are under the age of fifteen.
Our contact in 'Aden, who heads a foundation called House of Light, is prepared to begin purchasing supplies from a list given him by the camp managers. Items include basic foodstuffs, diapers, clothes, and medicines. We at YPP have pledged our support to House of Light for this purpose. We are calling on all of our friends and readers to help us fund the operations of the Khormaksar camp by sending donations to YPP or shopping at our Revolution Webstore (all proceeds go directly to Yemen).
We will provide updates and further details on the situation in Abyan as they become available.
One final note: official US policy has always been to support the Saleh regime's violent repression of all protest movements in the south, as these might possibly be aligned with AQAP. As the current violence in Abyan is directly linked to AQAP, we can expect the United States to be absolutely silent, even on the humanitarian dimension. Go ahead, Secretary Clinton, prove me wrong.