Saudi Arabia threatens to erase Yemen’s history
SANAA, Jan. 17 (Saba) – The war in Yemen is heading towards its fourth year, its only tangible result so far being the gradual destruction of the country and its people.
Yemen’s three-year war has taken a heavy toll on Sanaa’s historic Old City, a dense warren of mosques, bath houses and 6,000 mud brick houses, which date from before the 11th century.
The Saudi-led destruction of Yemen, an ancient cradle of civilisation, seems to come from a place of deep envy.
Sanaa is said to have been founded two and half millennia ago and its old heart once bustled with traders and drew tourists in calmer times.
Part of the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been razed by bombing, now only rubble and straggly palm trees remain, where unique tower houses once stood.
The Old City is dominated by two hues – that of the baked mud bricks and of the lighter gypsum used for the houses’ ornate arched window frames and external geometric decorations.
Many buildings have been badly damaged and are only skeletons now,” Umat al-Razzak, manager of traditional housing told.
Residents in Sanaa hope the Old City will not be forgotten.
UNESCO reiterates the utmost need for all actors in the conflict to avoid destruction of irreplaceable sites, monuments and museum collections in Yemen, which are critical to the identities of local people and of global significance for the history of art, architecture, science and culture.
“Unfortunately, it is not a situation unique to Sanaa, as heritage has been affected in all parts of the country,” Director of the World Heritage Centre, Mechtild Roessler, said in a statement.
The organization listed the al-Qasimi area in Sanaa, the Old City of Saadah and Marib Dam, the archaeological city of Baraqish, Al Qahirah citadel in Taiz and Hadramout’s ancient tombs as being severely damaged. It said the mosque of Bani Matar and Dhamar Museum have been completely destroyed.
“Protecting this city is an international responsibility, not just a Yemeni responsibility,” said Abdullah Ahmed al-Kabsi, the official in charge of culture in the Houthi administration.
The Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused by rights groups of unlawful airstrikes on civilian and historical targets, some of which, they say, may amount to war crimes.
The panel found Saudi denials of involvement in these specific airstrikes were implausible, and individuals responsible for planning, authorising or executing the strikes would meet the standard for the imposition of UN sanctions.
In ancient times, Yemen was home to several flourishing civilisations. At least six kingdoms developed here from the 12th century BC onwards, based in Ma’in, Qataban, Hadramaut, Ausan, Saba and Himyar, the most prominent was the Sabaean kingdom, which lasted for 11 centuries and was one of the most important in the Near East.
Popular legend identifies it with the Queen of Sheba, and the kingdom of Saba is mentioned in the Quran, its capital was in Marib, where the Sabaeans built a great dam that was a marvel of ancient engineering, they developed an advanced irrigation system through canal networks and a wealth of farmlands.
The Saud family’s Wahhabist-inspired destruction of historical buildings, tombs and monuments in Mecca and Medina set a dangerous precedent for what is happening in Yemen.
The bombing has killed more than 10,000 people, left 22 million – most of Yemen’s population – in need of international aid, and provoked the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded. Half the country’s medical facilities have been destroyed in a coalition bombing campaign that has targeted civilian infrastructure, and often, civilians themselves.
The physical damage to Yemen’s infrastructure – its schools, hospitals and markets – has been severe, but at least they can be rebuilt in a time of peace,the same cannot be said of the irreparable harm done to Yemen’s historic architecture.
UNESCO has documented the war’s devastating effects on Sanaa’s Old City, its mosques, bathhouses, and mud-brick houses with their distinctive, arched, gypsum-framed windows.
The same has happened to the Old City of Saada, the ancient Marib dam, the historic city of Baraqish, and Hadhramaut’s irreplaceable ancient tombs. These losses are permanent.
Surveying this disproportionate degree of death and destruction, one must wonder if the real motive for the Yemen war, just like the Saudis’ visceral hostility towards another great civilization, is a deep-seated envy of the grandeur of these countries’ place in human history.
If so, bombing Yemen out of existence will not delete its glorious past, nor give Saudi Arabia what it never had.
Written by Mona Zaid