Where Else Can We Go? By Mariam Al-Dhubhani – Yemen

On April 20, 2015, one of the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit the Faj Attan neighborhood in Sana’a, Yemen, the hardest. It was the wake-up call for me that this was not going to end anytime soon.

The state of denial that we were living in for about six months of the crisis and division among Yemenis was over, and I knew it was time to find a way out. No school, no work, and no sign of hope… I had to escape, but where could I go?

My first thoughts were to leave to Russia and find a job that could support me and my family back home until things become clearer. Russia had sent an evacuation plane, and as half Russian, I was able to go. I thought that if things cool off, life might go back to normal.

I was engaged for over two years. My fiancé was in the South of Yemen where things were even worse before the strikes took off in the Northern part. We both knew that if I were to leave to Russia we might never see each other again. Things were really bad. The uncertainty of surviving for another day was strong, but love made me stay.

Nonetheless, things were still not looking good and my savings were running out. Thoughts of being torn apart by the flying glass from the window in my bedroom from a close explosion were hunting me every time I put my head on my pillow trying to fall asleep. I was climbing walls petrified of what tomorrow might hold. 

Then my fiancé got accepted into Georgetown University in Qatar. Luckily, I got a job offer to go there, too. This opportunity was the answer. We had a small ceremony for a wedding and took off for, hopefully, a new start. It was a rough year. We were only physically away from war, but the ghost of it was still haunting us in our sleep. 

The residue of all what we were  going through made us lose our first unborn child. Broken and pained all I was thinking of was to go back home. I just needed my mom to comfort me and make it OK. I had to leave my job and the only other hope for something new was to complete my education. That is when I got accepted to Northwestern University in Qatar. 

Starting over was extremely hard, especially since English is my third language. My husband and I had to study and work in order to be able to get back on our feet, pay off our debt, and support our families back home. 

Again, we brushed off to a new start. New majors, new life, and new dreams. While Being a part of Education City in Qatar, I felt blessed by the love and care of those who work there, and it brought me back life and hope. However, things were still not looking better back home.

In Yemen, people have been living for more than two years without electricity. My dad did not get his salary for over eight months. And when he finally did, it was in coupons for specific use in specific places controlled by Houthis. My little brother and sister have to go to school and if they hear a bombing sound, they don’t even stop anymore; They got used to it, like it is another normal day. Teachers cannot afford to pay for transportation, so they assign as much homework as possible and check them every few days or once a week when they can come to the schools. My brother and his wife lost their jobs. After a long search, my brother finally found another position, but it is in another province that is isolated from everything. My mom who is still recovering from a major brain tumor surgery is having  health issues one after the other. 

These are the problems of a what used to be close to a middle-class family in Yemen. You could only imagine those who are less fortunate than us who can’t even find any food and are dying of famine and cholera. Yes, the disease that no one in the digital age, should be even hearing about. The streets are stacked up with rotten garbage. Our Eids were a view of the city of the walking dead. 

Thank you for helping us so far Saudi. Are we supposed to expect that help now, here, in Qatar? I am scared. I am petrified of that kind of help. Where will people like me go back? Who will care for us? I cannot afford to lose another chance to graduate. Who will support me and my family? Are we just other casualties of war?

 

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