KSA fuels Yemen’s demining through Project MASAM, Exclusive

“Creativity kills in Yemen, where landmines are improvised regularly, says MASAM”

Expert panels 

April 24, 2021

Above screencapture from the event panel’s presentation opening film. 

Project MASAM hosted a conference to address the human rights risks to the people of Yemen in the race against the al-Houthi rebellions planting of mass quantities of landmines in any territory which it has visited in the nation. The event was aired on April 4.

Translation of the transcript

The symposium broadcaster Mohammed Al- Tumaihi began by introducing the Masam project, he said: “ The Masam project represents a window of hope for many Yemenis, and through this seminar, we will get acquainted with the tasks of the project in Yemen with Osama Al-Qusaibi, General Manager of Masam.

Al-Qusaibi’s remarks

“The Masam project started in mid-2018, noting that the launch of the project was prepared six months before this date, and it includes 32 teams that landed on Yemeni soil, 4 rapid intervention teams, and 8 means teams, in addition to the logistical support and management teams “There are more than 450 people working in the Yemeni interior within the project of pores in addition to more than 30 people outside Yemen provide logistical support for the project to do the fullest.”

He added that Masam is spread in all the liberated areas, starting from Al-Jawf and ending with the western coast. The project works in any of the liberated areas and in any area that our teams can reach in peace. We do not differentiate between one area and another and we work in the service of everyone.

Chris Clark’s statements 

“At this point, the vast majority of landmines we’re finding Yemen are of an improvised nature,” said Clark.

“The vast majority of the landmines we’re finding in Yemen are of an improvised nature,” said Chris Clark, director of special projects for U.K. company Safe Lane who likewise works with Project MASAM, noting that the tech guys for Project MASAM provide training to Yemeni mine-clearing teams that address threat levels. He also noted that there is an unfortunately large number of improvised explosive devices, IEDs, that are being used as well.

“Sort of booby traps, which of course have all sorts of different threats, and potentially not one is necessarily the same as the other one, so we have technical guys to assess that threat, and then come up with a sensible, safe solution that we can then share with the Yemeni deminers,” he stated that this is done to promote safe conduct for the work fo deactivating all explosive devices that threaten Yemeni civilian life.

 

“At this point, the number, the volume of the mines we’ve found in Yemen so far exceeds the number of landmines found in almost any other country affected by landmines in the last 20 years. It’s a phenomenal amount, and the situation is changing all the time. So, our technical guys are having to readjust, retrain all of the time so it’s an ongoing process. So far, with the Yemeni demining teams, we are making good progress, at a very critical stage of the process whilst the war is still ongoing. We’re able to access safe areas and start the mine clearance before there is a cessation of hostilities.”

“With demining, it all comes down to the training. We take care to see that all of our people are well-trained,”says Chris Clark.

“You reduce the risk of hazard. So, whilst of course, you can never eliminate the risk, and of course in Yemen, there is the additional risk of the conflict as well as the mines in the ground, you can, through good equipment and good training mitigate the risk,” said Clark, noting that everyone involved accepts the risk. He stated that the international personnel have a clearly definied choice in their role with the project. Regarding Yemeni deminers, he noted that they are working on behalf of their country.

“Some of them even come from the same community as that where the mines are being cleared, so they are working on the micro level for their own communities,” said Clark.

“It’s always very, very humbling to be part of a group that dedicates their life literally to this type of work,” said Clark, commending his colleagues.

After Clark’s comments, the moderator turned the floor over to human rights lawyer and security analyst Irina Tsukerman. Tsukerman thanked the panel for their invitation.

“I want to thank everyone here for the life saving work you are doing,” she added.

“This makes it difficult to analyze in any clear or meaningful sense. What I mean by that is, the work of MASAM and the King Salman Center has not been mentioned by the western media at all,” Tsukerman then explained that, while western media had allowed op-eds submitted by personnel connected to the KSA mine clearance project, there had been no real journalistic coverage of that effort.

“I have gone over the human rights reports covering the landmine reports covering the situation in Yemen, and MASAM is likewise mentioned very briefly. In general, the coverage of the landmine situation and demining efforts has been done by people with no expertise in this area. In other words, human rights experts, even several Yemen, are not necessarily the best evaluators of the training and coordination efforts of the obstacles that this type of work entails. Much of it is based on wishful thinking rather than the reality of having over 2 million landmines strewn in civilian territory,” said Tsukerman.

She stated that the human rights evaluators in the region are not familiar with the differences of demining by military experts and humanitarian demining methods.

“Because of that, these reports do not reflect what it actually takes and why this work is so valuable and why these efforts are so important,” said Tsukerman.

“That is one aspect of the problem,” she noted then the foreign intervention of Iran in the Houthi rebellion.

“Essentially, the Houthis, in the United States as well as many European publications, have been represented as rebels of a cause, people who have been treated unfairly by previous Yemeni governments who rose up against this unfair treatment and then things got out of control. That’s the basic situation. In recent times, the previous U.S. administrations, essentially the Trump administration, discussed Iran’s backing of the Houthis, but never with full context.

Houthi but no one really explained the situation is quite so horrible. No one put in context the fact that Iran’s influence well predates the outbreak of civil war, ” she noted particularly that the radicalization of Houthis predated 2015 and long before Saudi Arabia became involved in the conflict in any “meaningful way.”

“Unfortunately, many of the media and human rights NGOs in the United States and elsewhere have equated the humanitarian situation in Yemen with the involvement Saudi Arabia, which is a completely inaccurate portrayal of events. The fact that the Houthis have been launching some form of operations since the early 2000s, long before Saudi Arabia was involved in any meaningful way, is not mentioned,” said Tsukerman.

She then put in context Iran’s assistance of the Houthis since the early 2000s.

“Iran has been assisting the Houthis physically, not just ideologically but physically, since about the same time, since the early 2000s, and that cooperation has grown significantly,” said Tsukerman, noting how the Houthis have become one of the leading forces of offensive landmine warfare in modern conflict due to Iran’s influence.

She noted that facts of primary importance for discussion have been left out in a way that is detrimental to the process of controlling the Houthi incursion. She noted that, through the involvement of Iran, Houthis went from a group who could “barely defend their own caves” to a highly sophiscated organization.

“Not only have they planted over 2 million mines in schools and parks all over the country, but also in places that are hard to reach. They have actually mined their way through humanitarian supply paths to the border of Saudi Arabia, leaving Saudis with landmines, a fact that goes left out of the discussion of these events,” said Tsukerman.

“The UN panel at that time analyzed Iran as being responsible for smuggling those weapons to Yemen, despite the excuse that it was supposedly going to Somalia. Somalia is, by the way, one of the routes being used to smuggle weapons into Yemen,” said Tsukerman, noting that none of these facts were being discussed in the mainstream media.