Landmines Threaten Yemen’s Future
Huthis have planted landmines at the expense of Yemen`s future, ensuring death to coming generations of Yemenis.
With the sun shining on 28 March 2018, the war on Yemen declared by the Arab League and led by Saudi Arabia has completed its fourth year. As of 29 March, a new fifth year of war begins.
The declaration of the war on Yemen came after Huthis succeeded in toppling the current regime headed by President `Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, seizing the capital Sana`a on 21 September 2014, and then invading the rest of the cities of the south until the Huthi militia reached the historic port and the economic capital of Aden by the end of 2014.
But the Huthi Movement was unable to stay long. It was forced to withdraw from Aden and the rest of the southern provinces after being defeated by the National Army and the popular resistance supported by the Saud-led Coalition forces. Although al-Huthis left most of the southern regions and some northern areas, they left behind deadly remnants that are killing thousands of innocent people, especially children and women: Mines.
Yemen is one of the countries that joined the 1997 Ottawa Convention against the use, circulation and trade of mines, ratified by Yemen in May 1998. Thus, any use of this type of weapon in Yemen is a violation of international treaties and humanitarian law. Unfortunately, the Huthis never complied with this treaty. Is an important part of the military arsenal that has destroyed Yemen and caused a large number of casualties among civilians.
Although Huthis insist that mines are only planted in military areas to impede the movements of the National Army and Coalition ground forces, most of the mines that have been cleared and those that have exploded against innocent civilians confirm that the mines laid in civilian areas are much more than those planted in the fighting zones. Many children and women have been killed after they returned from the areas of displacement to their homes to find that their homes, fields, roads, water wells and pastures mined. Those mines have killed hundreds of victims.
Of the 22 Yemeni governorates, Huthi`s forces have laid mines in at least 17 counties: from Saada, in the far north, `Amran, Hajjah, Sana`a’, Rimah, Marib, Jawf, Dhamar, Wahidah, Ta`iz, al-Baidha’, Lahj, Shabwa, Abyan and al-Dhali` to Aden, in the far south.
Hudaydah and Ta`iz are the provinces where Huthis have planted the most mines, to the extent that some areas are no longer inhabitable. The displaced people can no longer return to them, because they have turned into vast mine fields. The returning population risks becoming victims of Huthi mines such as the areas of Tahita and Hays, al-Lahiya and Bajil in the province of Hudaydah.
With each withdrawal of the Huthi militia from any of the areas it invaded, both in the south and in the eastern and northern regions, the land was left behind with thousands of different mines, anti-personnel mines or anti-vehicles or armored vehicles. Not only was the land cultivated with thousands of mines, but the Huthis have mined coastal areas and parts of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean with hundreds of thousands of marine mines, especially al-Hudaydah, Ta`iz, Aden and Abyan provinces, where the Huthis laid mines along the coasts from al-Hudaydah westward and to Aden to the south. These marine mines have caused heavy human casualties among fishermen, some of whom have lost their lives and others have lost their fishing boats, which is their only source of income.
Marine mines contributed to the threat of international trade because the Huthis planted a large number of them near the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a very important international trade corridor. This direct threat to international shipping has increased poverty in Yemen due to the high rate of insurance on commercial vessels, and this, in turn, has led to the inability of innocent citizens to buy needed food and medicine, exacerbating the famine and diseases, including deadly epidemics such as cholera, dengue and swine flu.
According to one of the most-important statistics presented by the Masam project for clearing mines from Yemen, which was established in June 2018 under the King Salman Relief Program in Yemen, the Huthis have planted about one million mines in Yemen and in all areas where his militia forces arrived. In remarks of Dr. Osama al-Gosaibi, project director of the Masam project, Yemen is the most heavily mined country in the world since World War II. The project has allocated around $40 million for demining in Yemen. However, because of the density and the mine force in Yemen, this amount will never be sufficient.
Although no accurate statistics on the victims of the mines exist, they have access to all the areas where there were battles with the militia of Huthi, but the Masam Organization reported that the death toll has reached about 900 people, with about 10,000 wounded, mostly children and women working in agricultural fields, grazing and gathering wood.
The Huthis have large quantities of mines seized from Yemeni army stores after the state fell on 21 September 2014 not only with ready-made mines, but also with new mines and foreign—likely Iranian—expertise. In one of the programs of the al-Massira channel, which the Huthi militias follow, the channel presented what it called Huthi “military industries, including, among others, Huthi militias manufacturing mines along with drones and some small arms.
In order for al-Huthi to inflict the most casualties among innocent people, it has made mines so poorly that it is difficult for people to identify them, especially children. Many of them have found themselves caught in a trap. For example, Huthi has made thousands of mines in the form of rocks of various colors such as white, black, brown, as camouflage with the environment in which they are placed and, therefore, passers-by do not notice them and fall victim. The Huthis also have planted explosives in some children`s games, building materials and other booby traps. Dozens of people were killed by camouflage mines and explosives, and hundreds of them have been seriously wounded.
Hundreds of children, women and men have been victims of land and water mines, some of them killed and others having lost extremities, upper limbs, or kidneys. Several others have suffered serious physical anomalies such as facial injuries, eye loss, jaw deformity and tooth loss. In addition, the victims have suffered from devastating psychological conditions after losing their limbs and mutilating their bodies with the total absence of health care and worsening the poverty and destitution suffered by the inhabitants of those areas.
Many landmine victims in remote areas lack the most basic health-care facilities, workshops or industry and, because of their isolation, often suffer severely from the lack of access to some assistance. Psychological rehabilitation is completely non-existent. All victims are losing hope day after day, and some are trying to commit suicide to end the pain.
The problem of landmines in Yemen is exacerbated by the fact that the Huthi militias are planting them indiscriminately and everywhere, without maps or data that infer their location when trying to remove them from cities and the land. The Huthi militias rely on young children recruited from poor tribal areas to plant these mines, so they plant them indiscriminately and without maps. Some of the child recruits who plant mines and, because of their lack of experience, also become victims of those mines. Therefore, the number of mine victims is increasing at an alarming rate day by day.
In spite of the continuous increase in the number of civilian mine victims, the Huthis continue to plant them in various places such as houses, streets, fields, shopping centers and even in public roads and in the mountains valleys. That has made it difficult to reach these mines, and makes every human being a potential victim. The director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, Steve Goose, noted that the aim of Huthis intensive use of mines is not to disrupt the movement of the National Army and popular resistance, but out of “cold-hearted cruelty” aimed at terrorizing Yemenis so that no one would resist him.
During the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, a working paper was presented to the Council on the dangers of landmines in Yemen and called on the Council president to consider the Huthis’ intense laying of mines as a crime against humanity and a blatant violation of the human right to a decent life free from the scourge of disabilities. The paper requested, therefore, that the Council form a neutral commission to investigate the crimes of mine planting and provide sufficient evidence to the International Court of Justice to try Huthis as a war criminals as the use of this type of weapon against civilians and places of civil institutions is a war crime and that the perpetrator face the severest penalties stipulated in international law.
Unfortunately, the international community and international human rights organizations continue to ignore the plight of Yemen, in general, and the problem of landmines, in particular. So far, the UN Secretary-General`s envoy to Yemen has not forced the Huthi militias to suspend the use of mines in Yemen, nor has any international organization issued any condemnation against the Huthis for using internationally banned mines. With the exception of a simple statement by Human Rights Watch`s Arms Division director, that the use of mines is to intimidate Yemenis, no other statement or practical action has been issued to stop or, at least, limit the Huthis’ use of these dangerous weapons, which will endure even after the end of the war. They will pose a serious and ongoing threat for decades, and perhaps even centuries, to the lives of new generations of Yemenis who will be the victims of a war they have never witnessed.
Photo on front page: Houthi rebels laying banned landmines in a rural area in Yemen. Source: picture-alliance/dpa/STR. Photo on this page: Victim of Huthi-planted land mines in Yemen. Source: Arwa Khattabi.