Yemenis everywhere are suffering from the seemingly endless war in their homeland. And as the bombs fall and bullets ring across the country, they are destroying lives beyond the border of the land that was once dubbed “Happy” Yemen.
YAN – SANA’A
Last month, Yemeni sports journalist Mohamed al-Ahdal died while trying to immigrate to Europe, escaping the prospect of facing the bleak realities in his homeland.
Ahdal had lost his job in Saudi Arabia amid a drive by the kingdom to provide more job opportunities for Saudis in an effort to strengthen its economy.
While they suffer from Saudi bombs in their homelands, Yemeni workers in the kingdom have been increasingly becoming victims of its domestic policies.
It was so bad for Ahdal that he decided to take the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to seek a better life in Europe. Thousands of migrants have died at sea over the past few years while trying to make that crossing.
The journalist’s brother, Abdulrahman al-Ahdal said the family is devastated by the tragedy.
“We tried to convince him against taking the journey because of the dangers and hardships that he would face, but we did not succeed,” the brother said.
Mauritania to Mali to Algeria
The journalist left Saudi Arabia for Mauritania, in northwest Africa, in late 2018 where he was able to get into Mali with people smugglers. He, then, made it to Algeria with other migrants. He was detained there for two months.
Ali Atef, a Yemeni student at Wahran University in Algeria, said the detained migrants somehow got a hold of him, and he was able to connect them to the Yemeni embassy, whose representatives were able to free Ahdal and his fellow travelers.
In Algiers, Ahdal and his friends paid $2,500 for a smuggler to get them across the Mediterranean to Spain, who took their money and disappeared. But they were undeterred. They found another one and departed on February 8.
“I’m traveling. If you don’t hear from me, may god keep you safe,” Ahdal wrote in a message to his brother on that date.
Two hours into the trip, the boat broke down and started sinking within seconds. Ahdal was killed – another fallen victim of the war in Yemen although he was thousands of miles away from it.
The way back to Sanaa
As news of the tragedy spread, the family scrambled to discover the fate of the journalist.
His body was found at a hospital in the northern Algerian city of Tenes. Atef said with the help of Yemeni embassy officials, the remains of Ahdal were identified and a death certificate for him was issued within a week.
Upon the insistence of Ahdal’s family that he gets laid to rest in Yemen, the Association of Yemeni Sports Journalists pushed to bring the body to the war-torn country.
Ahmad al-Shibani, a Yemeni businessman in Algeria, paid for a coffin to have the body transferred to Cairo and subsequently to Aden. He was buried in the capital, Sanaa on March 10.
Ahdal had a passion for soccer and wanted to be a footballer since a young age. He had played as a goalkeeper for a youth team in Sanaa before suffering an injury that ended his career.
But he never gave up on the sport, becoming a columnist and commentator for many regional outlets.