A street scene from a demonstration in Al Mansoor district in Aden on 24 February. Here Krishna Karkee, a Progressio development worker in Yemen, writes about her experience of the recent unrest in Aden...
During my two years in Yemen there have been many instances when I have heard gunfire and seen demonstrations. This has happened so much that the sound of gunfire has become familiar and normal for me.
Yet the reasons were not always violent. I remember one night in 2009 when my worry over the sound of gunfire was abated when I found out it was actually coming from a local wedding ceremony.
A different experience
Yet in Aden from 17-20 February I had a completely different experience.
My residence in Khormakshor is located in one of the most affected areas in Aden and in those four days and nights I was extremely frightened. At night I would have to use a pillow to cover my head because the sound was so loud it felt as if bullets were passing through my ear. I have never heard such firing sounds in my own country (Nepal) except during national festivals, even though I worked there as a development worker during the People’s War (Maoist War).
Images of violence
I closed my windows and called local colleagues to find out more on the situation and communicate with other friends in Aden and the Progressio country office in the capital, Sana’a. All the roads were blocked and huge army forces were mobilised in the city so the people were not able to move from one district to another. However, the protesters continued their protest and the violence on both sides saw many people killed and injured.
For the first three days, all international organisations were forced to move their staff to a safe place away from Aden. On the evening of the 19th, we got instructions from our country office to move to Sana’a the next day. The next morning we decided to move to the hotel near the airport and on the way there I saw scattered bullets, broken glass, burnt tires and wood on the road near my house. This image alone told me the story of what happened during those four days.
Why are people protesting?
The people of Yemen have complained about unemployment, unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, forced retirement, corruption, poverty and all forms of discrimination, including what the southern people feel post-unification. All this is pushing the people of Yemen to go against their government. I have seen many demonstrations since my arrival in Yemen, but this time it’s being prompted by Tunisia and Egypt’s regime changes which have affected the whole Middle East.
Working for development
For the past two years we have been working closely with the community, local authorities and our civil society organisations and I have observed clear gaps between the three. Development plans are prepared without consulting the people or a proper planning process. While there are resources mobilising for local development, the people do not feel they are being served because of the lack of proper planning or monitoring of investments.
To minimise such gaps, our work during Yemen’s political crisis is more important now than ever because we are supporting the community from the ground. We feel our work through civil society organisations, local authorities and communities can bring people together to address local needs.
Photos below: scenes from workshops run by Krishna with community groups in Aden.
Above: A consensus-based decision during a participatory planning workshop in Al Khaisa village, Al Buriaqa district, in Aden.
Above: Community members prioritise their needs during the participatory planning workshop.
Above: A group discussion of community members during the participatory planning workshop.
Above: Workshop participants rank family members from their village using a well-being ranking tool.
Above: Krishna facilitates community members using the well-being ranking tool.