Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 29 January 2020

A war of words takes hold on social media in Yemen

Khalid Al Karimi reviews recent social media debates in Yemen concerning Aleppo
A member of forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stands with a civilian on the rubble of the Carlton Hotel, in the government controlled area of Aleppo. Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
A member of forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stands with a civilian on the rubble of the Carlton Hotel, in the government controlled area of Aleppo. Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

Violence rages on in Syria and atrocities have become a regular occurrence. Over the past few days, Aleppo has been obliterated by forces loyal to Bashar Al Assad. The offensive is part of a brutal war to which there is no obvious end in sight.

Once the news of rebel defeat in Aleppo hit the headlines, social media users around the world became increasingly active, including those in Yemen, who have avidly followed the latest developments.

Yemenis have their own plight to think about, but this does not mean they are only preoccupied with their own misery. Their perspectives are divided on what is happening in Aleppo.

Politics and sectarian ideologies have not only fragmented people’s viewpoints, they have also fractured humanity.

Some social media users in Yemen view events in Aleppo as an inhumane massacre of innocent civilians.

Others think of it as a victory against “terrorist groups” and a seizure of their stronghold.

A woman protested last week in Sanaa in support of those in Aleppo. Many others raised placards and chanted against the Syrian regime.

A rally was staged in front of the United Nations office in Sanaa. It received the attention of a few media outlets in Yemen, revealing the divided perception of the massacre in Aleppo.

Pro-Assad Yemeni social media users have been euphoric at the major victory of the Syrian army in Aleppo. Some posts have stated that “Aleppo is a victory and it has been purged of ISIL”.

However, Yemeni supporters of rebel groups in Aleppo account for the vast majority on social media in the country.

Some posts say: “May the martyrs rest in peace. It [the war in Aleppo] is the crime of this era by human beasts. This exceeds the cruelty of beasts.”

This war of words continues. A third category of social media users argue that Yemen itself is undergoing a tougher situation, and discussions should focus on the country’s plight rather than events abroad.

According to the UN report, one child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen. These children are not killed directly by clashes. Simply, starvation takes their lives as the civil strife shows no sign of abatement.

There is a humanitarian catastrophe in the very sense of the word in Yemen. Yet the shocking news, horrendous scenes and heartbreaking photos emerging from Aleppo have pushed people inside Yemen to express their feelings often in the most visceral terms.

Like Yemen, Syria has been a country teeming with bloodshed and violence since the onset of the Arab Spring in 2011.

Today, Aleppo is a stark example of the tragic consequences of the shift towards violence.

It has been reported that the bombardment by triple force – Russia, Iran and Syria – has made the city uninhabitable.

The bulk of people in the Arab world have denounced the tyranny of the pro-Assad forces that have reduced rebel-held territories to ruins. The Gulf Cooperation Council has condemned the regime’s military escalations and haphazard targeting of civilians in Aleppo. It has expressed immense regret at the UN’s inability to stop the air strikes on Aleppo.

After six years of war, Syria has been torn apart. So too has opinion among Yemenis viewing events in Aleppo from afar.

Khalid Al Karimi is a freelance reporter and translator from Yemen

Updated: December 18, 2016 04:00 AM