Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Sun, Feb 11th, 2018

Hearts of Glass

A recent film produced by the Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights documents the impact of the three-year war in Yemen on women and their families. This is a powerful short film that everyone should watch. It is one thing to write about the destruction of life, the terror of hearing a bomb descending and exploding, the constant fear of death. It is quite another to see such horror, let alone to live it.

“Hearts of glass” is a fitting metaphor for the emotional trauma that has not spared any part of Yemen. While the politicians and ideologues spew forth their empty promises and poisonous rhetoric, the suffering on the ground continues without respite. Look at the faces of the women in this film as they talk about desperately trying to save their children, not knowing where their husbands are or even if they are alive. Even those in full niqab cannot hide the emotional distress inflicted by this war. This goes beyond the debate over women’s rights to the most basic human rights for survival and dignity. Does it matter if the disheveled body of a dead Yemeni woman covered her face or not?

Look at the exposed blood-soaked bodies of the victims, flesh hanging out, often with body parts so scattered the individual cannot be recognized. Viewer discretion is advised on the video, but there is no discretion for those who suffer through such turmoil and carnage. Then think about the pilot in the sophisticated fighter plane recently bought from the U.S. or Europe. When he releases the “smart bomb” does he not realize the deaths it can cause below? As the film says, “What is the guilt of these children and what is the guilt of these people?” Do common people, fellow Muslims, deserve to die because they happen to live in a region with a political message different from the oil-rich “oiligarchs” to the north?

The travesty in this war is expanded by the hollow rhetoric of those who justify it. This is to a large extent a proxy war between a Saudi dynasty promoting its wealth-soaked Sunni membership against Iran, condemned as evil because they are Shi’a. It is a propaganda war that aligns Saudi foreign policy against Iran with Israel and the bankrupt U.S. Middle East policy. It makes no difference to the regime of Bin Salman that the Zaydi Shi’a of Yemen are not Iranian and receive little more than moral support from Iran. To be sure there are plenty of local factions in Yemen fighting for power, but the fighting would subside dramatically were the outside interference of the Saudi coalition to be removed.

Hearts may be of glass, so easily broken and shattered, but so are dreams. Imagine you are one of the children, clinging to your mother as she flees from a bombed-out home and is subject to abuse, far away from where she grew up and spent all her life. What if your father or siblings have been killed and you saw their corpses? What if you go hungry because your mother has no money and nothing left to sell? It is not just human life that can be destroyed, but hope itself.

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.