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Houthi mine-planting, how it impacts Yemeni

By | Rachel Brooks

Editor/Reporter | Republic Underground

September 22, 2020

From 1962 onward, Yemen has struggled with the increase of violence. The Houthi movement differs from previous conflicts because of its extremity. Image author unknown, appeared on Alamree in December 2019, CC BY-SA 4.0

See more UNHCR presentations on this discussion topic here.

The following was a UNHCR presentation, that was originally featured in Arabic. The original speech’s transcript was translated out of Arabic for our English-language readers.

On September 21, the President of the German-Yemeni Forum for Rights and Freedoms, Mr. Khaled Al-Afif presented a presentation on demining efforts in Yemen. The presentation featured Dr. Arwa Al-Khattabi, an academic writer and human rights activist, and Mr. Mansour Al-Shaddadi, the President of the Yemeni European House. 

Dr. Al-Khattabi presented her speech following Al-Afif’s opening statements. Dr. Al-Khattabi called to mind another September 21 that lives in the memory of Yemeni as a black day. 

“Every time we talk about mines, for us as Yemenis, today is a black day in the history of Yemen. It is a day when all Yemenis bleed. There are more than 25 million,” said Dr. Al-Khattabi. 

“A Yemeni citizen is bleeding, as most children in some areas have turned into disabled people because of this terrorist militia that outperforms ISIS in its terrorist crimes committed against Yemenis. ISIS is a terrorist organization and the world warns of it within 5 years to eliminate it, but in Yemen there is complicity by the international community.” 

She also addressed how the Houthi exploited the political crisis of 2011. She made note of the fact that the Yemeni had presented a woman professor to speak on the behalf of the vulnerable, and then commenced with her background of the historical events. 

The Yemeni had believed they were entering into a political peace process after the six wars that they had been involved in over the course of this historical period. 

The Houthis planted thousands of mines, but the Yemenis welcomed them in and apologized for the six wars that they had engaged in. The Houthis thus entered Sana’a under the cover of peace. While the Houthi leaders participated in sit-ins inside tents in Sana’a, their soldiers were fighting in Dammaj and some other areas. 

“On September 21, 2011, the coup against the Yemeni government took place. We are entering the seventh year since that. The coup was one which the international community met silently and did not take international measures to end,” said Dr. Al-Khattabi. 

“We did not expect that Yemen would become a mine trap, as Yemen had signed the 1997 Ottawa agreement to prevent the use of mines. At that time, Yemen was almost free of mines. Yet now, according to Human Rights Watch, Yemen has returned to the status of the country with the largest growing mine plant issue.” 

She also mentioned that the Houthi militia has proficiently mastered the manufacture of mines in various forms and indications. 

She mentioned that mines are scattered in large quantities in Taiz and Hodeidah. Among the mine victims are children. Children who have torn off their entire limbs. She emphasized how there was an almost complete lack of facilities for victim care, especially of the most vulnerable groups such as women and children. Dr. Al-Khattabi noted that the Houthi-planted mines mostly victimize this vulnerable group. 

She noted that the international community has been blackmailed by the Houthis in this region. The entire region will soon be affected by the overwhelming mine planting issue. The whole of the Red Sea will soon be affected and, as Al-Khattabi put it, become “as the Dead Sea.” The crisis was compared to the unprecedented explosions in Beirut on August 4. 

Once Dr. Al-Khattabi had finished speaking, Mr. Al-Shaddadi presented key points on the effect and consequences of Houthi mine planting in Yemen. He noted that, since 2014, a full-blown catastrophe had befallen Yemen due to Houthi militia presence. The United Nations Committee of Experts stated in its report that the crime of mass produced mine planting,  or “mine cultivation” was one unique to the Houthis. 

“Hardly a day or two passes by without hearing or reading that a civilian car, notables, or shepherds were exposed to an explosion due to a mine planted by the Houthi militia, causing a direct killing, or permanent disability for many people.  Yemen has become one of the countries most exposed to the disaster of mine planting since the end of World War II, as the total number of mines planted by militias in Yemeni cities, roads, reefs, deserts and coasts exceeded millions of mines,” said Al-Shadaddi, 

“This huge number of mines poses a sustainable threat to the lives of Yemeni civilians, and the danger doubles with the Houthi militia’s intention to plant internationally prohibited mines, whether anti-personnel or anti-vehicle, randomly and dense and camouflaging them according to the environment of the cultivated area.”

Al-Shaddadi then proceeded to list key points regarding this international law violating mine practice. He presented his key notes under the taglines “Human damage,” “Physical damage,” and “Economic Damage.” 

“The Houthi militia has mastered  death and destruction, and mines are planted randomly. The Ottawa Charter, which adopts the fight against landmines, prohibits the use, production, storage and circulation of these mines, and the State of Yemen is a signatory to this international treaty. The regions of conflict and instability in Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and Ukraine are the areas most affected by mines,” said Al-Shaddadi, prefacing the damages caused by this direct violation of the Ottawa Charter.

He then proceeded to list his points as follows:  

Human damage 

Deaths: including what happened in Taiz and Bayhan, families who go to visit a family are exposed to landmines and the whole family dies. 

Chronic Disabilities: There are no limb transplants available in Yemen, nor is there psychological care, and there are no wheelchairs for those who undergo complete amputation. 

Physical damage 

Physical damage resulting from direct injury (cars and equipment for citizens, destruction of merchant ships.  This can be human or infrastructural damage. Explained as follows: 

The material damage resulting from the logistical interruption of basic materials, as well as the siege of mines and war remnants, undermines the lives of citizens in the affected areas, as statistics indicate that the standard of living for the population has been low for a lengthy, continuous period. This has been observed  especially in regions that do not have the material capabilities to deal with the effects and the comprehensive survey to clear mines and broadcast their presence. This broadcast capacity would foster a spirit of reassurance for the local population. 

Economic damage 

Damages resulting from the destruction of the economic and tourism reputation of the country and damage resulting from obstructing the implementation of projects and disrupting investments.  

He concluded his speech on these notes, and stated that the effects are large and continuous in all the above respects.  

He noted that, unfortunately, there are no initiatives to remove these mines except for the Masam project supported by the King Salman Center. He also stated that the international community neglects the issue of mines. He noted the need of the international community’s support to remove these mines that cause death and mass destruction in Yemen.