SHAFAQNA – A trauma surgeon with over 20 years’ experience Dr Abdullah al-Wazir has seen his fair share of blood, injuries and human tragedy. Yet he admits that the brutal military force which befell Yemen since late March 2015 has left him lost for words – “dumbfounded really,” he said in exclusive comments.
A volunteer surgeon Dr al-Wazir returned to Yemen in early 2015 to help towards what he believed at the time would be his country transition into a striving democracy. Keen to offer his expertise and knowledge where they were most needed, Dr al-Wazir left a comfortable life in Canada for a life in Sana’a, the Yemeni capital.
Needless to say that the excitement of his return “home” were soon to be shattered by the sound of war.
Almost a year into what has been a devastating, and cruel war, Dr al-Wazir is adamant he will remain amid his people, sharing in their hardship, and their struggle, regardless, and to the bitter end.
Shafaqna sat this week with him as he came to London for a brief visit.
SHAFAQNA – For security reasons we have agreed not to specify which hospital you are affiliated with after it was targeted by Saudi-led airstrikes. While news media have shed some light onto Yemen’s war, and the devastation it has brought the country, can you please share with us your experience on the ground, and tell us about people’s reality. What does this war look like from the ground?
DR AL-WAZIR – Before I begin allow me to clear a few points … I am a Shia Twelver! My homeland is Yemen. I was born and raised in Sana’a. And though I moved away many years ago to relocate in Canada, Yemen has always been my home. When I say I am a Shia Muslim, it does not mean I support Ansarallah political party (the Houthis’ political arm). I am not a member of the Houthis; I am however a proud member of the Resistance movement. I think it’s important for people outside Yemen to understand the difference.
Many Yemenis today are united in their resistance against the Saudi-led coalition. Many of us come from various political and religious backgrounds … being part of the resistance does not mean you are a Houthi, and it does not mean that you are a Shia … Ansarallah is a political faction, not a religious movement, and the Resistance movement cuts across politics and religious schools of thought. It is this unity against imperialism which has allowed for so many different people to stand together.
How can I describe to you what war has done to Yemen?! Words are so very difficult to find in the face of such evil. War I tell you is the very definition of evil … it is the worst humanity has to offer. Yemen has been torn apart and bled dry under the Saudi coalition.
I have seen many pains and witnessed many deaths as a trauma surgeon … Yemen showed me what true horror looks like … what hopelessness and absolute despair feels like. I have seen too many fathers and mothers weep until they could no longer stand, to not have shared in the loss of an entire people.
An airstrike last month destroyed several houses in northern Yemen … I was there when the missile struck. One of the nurse’s family home had been struck. We rushed to the sight to see if we could offer first aid to the survivors. A young boy was stuck in between the debris of the house … His name was Amr. His mother sat talking to him, her head pressed against the rubbles as we worked to move the debris … The boy died before we could reach him. His mother refused to move until she was shown her child’s body. She stayed there for two days, waiting for a miracle …. Refusing to believe that her boy, had been claimed, and she wasn’t. I will never forget her face …
I have seen children being torn to shreds, I had to amputate, and ration painkillers, denying many pain relief for those I knew needed it more. I became a doctor to heal and relieve pain … not manage a moratorium!
But injuries are not the only problems we face … starvation has claimed many lives, especially among the young and the elderly. People have suffered heart attacks and strokes … people have reached a point of such complete exhaustion they simply cannot sustain stress or fear without going into shock.
In all honesty I am tired of the darkness … there are so many people living in such absolute misery! So many wounds to heal and hearts to mend. And so we keep on … what else can we do? How can I leave when my people need me?
I made a list of all the deaths and casualties early in the war … I gave up now.! Too many names, too many faces I would like to forget, too many families I had to walk away from as they stood in mourning.
SHAFAQNA – If I may I’d like to get your opinion on claims the Saudi-led collation has made a point out of targeting civilian populations. Only this week a market was hit by planes, killing dozens of unarmed civilians.
DR AL-WAZIR – While I can’t really comment on military strategy I can confirm that civilian casualties have been too many for any one of us to deny there seems to be a trend. How many times can the same cities and neighbourhoods be hit? Why have hospitals and clinics been targeted? In villages up north civilian infrastructures: food warehouses, water treatment factories, schools and mosques have been targeted again and again.
People have been forced to find refuge in caves, and holes to escape the bombing! Aid is not reaching us, food is not reaching us, water is not reaching us … and we are supposed to believe it is not by design?
Saudi Arabia clearly wants to see Yemen destroyed … What is disturbing, is that no one is speaking for Yemen.
I have never witnessed so much silence over a military conflict. Thousands of people have died … millions of people have been displaced, tens of thousands have been injured. Still the world says NOTHING.
My country is being levelled to the ground, and politicians still negotiate arm deals with Saudi Arabia. What do you make of this?!
Who’s really guilty … those who sell the weapons, or those who use them?
By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna