Tribal Mediation and the Role of Women: Peacemaking with a Yemeni Style


Wed, 16-02-2022 05:00 PM, Aden

HJF (Aden) 

Atef Al-Harazy (35 years old), who works with Doctors Without Borders organization in Yemen, was on his way to Aden the temporary capital of the country in early October 2021 when he was killed by unknown gunmen in Tur Al-Baha area in the Southern governorate Lahj.

Local media and networks reported the news amid a sharp polarization to hold a particular party responsible for the attack [1]. No official statements were announced by the Ministry of the Interior or any of the parties to the conflict about the incident, so it remained in the circle of other sources that have indirect connections with these parties, and sought to devote counter-narratives. The narratives were limited here between the STC on one hand and other parties within the internationally recognized Yemeni government on the other hand.

Christos Christou, the international head of the multinational organization Doctors Without Borders, expressed his shock at the killing of two staff members of the international organization in Yemen and Nigeria in two days. Regarding Al-Harazi, Christou said, “Atef Seif, employee of Doctors Without Borders in Yemen, was on a private trip with his friends to Aden when gunmen shot him during a robbery.” [1]  Atef was working as a nurse in the general hospital supported by the organization in the district of Dhi al-Sfal, Ibb governorate.

"The war in Yemen increased the political dominance on media and led to the emergence of an unbalanced and polarized media discourse by the political parties, which contributed to the emergence of rumors and the spread of misleading news of all kinds and the decline in journalistic standards among journalists," according to a study prepared by the Center for Applied Studies in partnership with Al Sharq for a group of German and Arab researchers on the requirements of peace in Yemen [2]. 

During the exhumation of the bodies in Taiz governorate

The investigation team has monitored since September 2021 a lot of misleading information that has been published and circulated in the Yemeni media regarding community peace, bearing a stereotypical perception of presenting local conflicts of motives related to political disputes of a regional nature. [3]

The team examined this news and discovered a different reality that in many instances reinforced a good human character that embodied the values of solidarity and community cooperation away from disparities.  They concluded that news talking about societal conflict with a political background in Yemen, especially in the Southern governorates, is inaccurate and deliberately misleading.

The team tracked cases of constructive cooperation between tribal and community mediators in the governorates of "Taiz - Al-Dhalea - Ibb - Lahj - Al-Bayda and Marib", including interviews with 20 people (13 interviews with men and 7 interviews with women), including (displaced people - host community - humanitarian passage - exchange mediations – female community activists - prisoners and their families).

Tribal traditions

According to Qassem Ahmed Shaqran [4], a tribal leader from the district of Maris in Al-Dhalea governorate, “the human aspect has a status in the system of tribal custom” when he was talking about the resort of people to tribes other than their own; as a result of persecution during periods of war or peace. Noting that "the tribes, according to the familiar customs, provide protection to people seeking refuge and work on solving their problem."

In recent years, humanitarian roles have emerged for local communities in hosting displaced people from other governorates witnessing violence, in addition to roles of mediating in prisoner exchange deals, supervising roads and corridors for humanitarian purposes, and providing aid to areas affected by the conflict.

Humanitarian passage

In a town in Yafa district of Lahj governorate, in South Yemen, near the Al-Darb junction that connects governorates under the control of "Ansar Allah" the Houthis with other governorates under the control of the allies of the internationally recognized government, many trucks stop for a rest for some time, before continuing their journey towards destinations including the capital, Sanaa.

In mid-November 2021, Walid al-Asadi [5] (37 years old), from Dhamar governorate, north of the country, was forced to take a bumpy road in one of Yafa districts, after fierce battles cut the main road in Al-Dhalea governorate linking Aden and Sanaa.

We met Al-Asadi while he was at the side of the heavy truck he was driving: “My truck had an accident, it was broken for 3 days, and it is loaded with goods”, while he was heading to the city of Aden from the Yemeni capital, which has been under the control of the Houthis since September 2014.

In the meantime, he said that he went to get an engineer from a faraway area, "I thank the local people who protect the broken trucks after they remain parked on the side of the road until we - drivers - come back to repair them without taking money from us for protection."

One of the trucks on Yafa road in Lahj governorate

The director of the Hadd district located in the north of Lahj governorate, adjacent to Al-Bayda governorate, Hussein Al-Jawhari [6], confirms, "Citizens are cooperating with the authorities in securing the road that was intended to connect the areas of Yafa to the temporary capital, Aden, before it was transformed for humanitarian purposes to transport goods, fuel, food and medical supplies that citizens need in Houthi-controlled areas," noting that "The asphalt layer of the road was damaged, while the heavy traffic caused traffic jams and negatively affected the people of the area."

As we went down to the place, we noticed locals led initiative to maintain the road, ensuring its continuity, while others opened temporary roads in neighboring areas within Yafa itself; to avoid traffic jam on the main road. Years ago, a civil committee was formed in partnership and coordination with local authorities in Yafa districts and imposed a traffic tax on every truck that used the North-South road there. And during preparations for this investigation, implementation of the second phase of the Haqwin-Hadram road funded by the formed committee was taking place.

The cost of aid amid sniping