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Parcel Force

November 10, 2010

Read this on my Frontlineclub blog

So once again everyone’s talking about Yemen.

The discovery, just under two weeks ago, of multiple parcel bombs, originating in Yemen and destined for synagogues in the US sent shock waves across the globe. But aside from a few extra traffic jams, life in Sana’a, a historic city nestled in high mountains, has continued in its normal noisy and chaotic manner. Yemeni boys are still weaving in and out of the traffic with wheelbarrows full of oranges, dodging the debabs – small buses that carry the people of Sana’a to work.

Instead of retelling the events of the past week I thought it would be more interesting to try and give a view of how some people here are reacting to the ‘cargo plane bomb plot.’

Yemeni people are sceptical at the best of times, so you can imagine the response you get when you try raising the subject of planes, explosive ink cartridges, and American synagogues.

The Yemenis I know simply roll their eyes at the sky when you start talking about Al-Qaeda. They’re sick and tired of hearing about a group which while the world goes crazy about, has little or no bearing on their everyday lives.

My landlord, known by some as ‘Saint Sabanco,’ is a middle-aged man with a thick black moustache, a protruding belly and a wicked sense of humour. For a man who makes his living from letting out rooms to tourists, the emergence of Al-Qaeda in Yemen is one of the worse things that has ever happened to him.

A few nights ago we were huddled around his old television watching a report on the trial in absentia of Anwar Al-Awlaki (annoyingly he didn’t show up), a man wanted by the Yemeni state and the US for inspiring acts of terrorism against the West. Every time an image of Awlaki would flash up Sabanco would roar with anger, jabbing his finger at the screen and shouting, “f*ck you Awlaki! f*ck you!”

Sabanco shares the same hatred as many other Yemeni’s for the fear mongering US born cleric hiding under the protection of tribes in the mountains of his country. For him it is ludicrous that one man with a few videos on youtube is able to discourage foreigners from paying a visit to what he calls the ‘most welcoming and hospitable country in the world.’

For those Yemenis not working in the fragile remains of Yemen’s tourism sector, there are far more things to worry about than Anwar Al-Awlaki and explosive printers.

More people die every year in conflicts over land and water in Yemen than the secessionist violence in the south, the armed rebellion in the north and Yemeni Al-Qaeda combined, according to a recent report by the Swiss based Small Arms Survey.

My friend Sabanco spends a good deal of his time in a white washed room in the back of our house filling hundreds of bottles with water from a hosepipe. His biggest concern, like that of his neighbours around him, is where his water is going to come from tomorrow not where a parcel went from last week

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