The memory of the fallen only strengthens the UAE's resolve to fulfil the purpose for which they laid down their lives
The sacrifice of its soldiers is woven into the fabric of the UAE's national consciousness
Two years ago on this day, more than 50 Emirati servicemen laid down their lives in the line of duty. They had gone to Yemen as part of the Saudi-led campaign to restore the country’s internationally recognised government, which was toppled at the start of 2015 by Iranian-backed Houthi militias, and were instrumental in liberating the port city of Aden from the vice grip of the rebels. They fell in Marib Province, when a Houthi rocket struck an ammunition depot and caused multiple explosions.
Grief washed over the UAE as news of their martyrdom spread. The loss was unprecedented. But the mourning that followed was tinged with solemn pride: as President Khalifa said at the time, the servicemen had sacrificed their lives defending the oppressed. The sorrow and the agony of the families of the departed were shared by the Emirates as a whole. The UAE’s leaders led the nation in paying tributes to the martyrs. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, called the fallen heroes “true patriots who demonstrated utmost love and loyalty to their country and nation”. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, reminded the world that Emirati soldiers had given their lives for a greater purpose: in “defence of justice and in support of our brothers in Yemen”. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Mother of the Nation, honoured the mothers of the martyrs as part of the Emirati Women’s Day celebrations.
The ultimate sacrifice made by the soldiers on September 4, 2015, has, in the years since, deepened the UAE's sense of patriotism. There are streets bearing the names of the martyrs; and on November 30 of every year, we gather to remember them. Their sacrifice is now woven into the fabric of our national consciousness. Later in the year, the UAE Space Agency will honour the country’s martyrs by sending their names into space.
The UAE remains at the forefront of the effort to defeat the Houthis and restore the legitimate government of Yemen. This commitment has been testing. Last month, the UAE lost four more men when their helicopter crash landed in Yemen. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed once again grieved with the families of the fallen.
The loss of life of the UAE’s soldiers will not, however, prompt the UAE to shrink back from its purpose and drive to restore the legitimate government in Yemen and fight terrorism there. It will, rather, strengthen its determination to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice by securing and stabilising Yemen. Yemenis are being held captive in their own country by a militia financed by a country that once sought to challenge the UAE’s sovereignty: the first man to fall in defence of the UAE against the aggression of Tehran was a policeman called Salem Suhail bin Khamis, shot dead in November 1971 by Iranian invaders for refusing to lower the flag of Ras Al Khaimah. The Houthis and Iran would be gravely mistaken to doubt the resolve of the UAE.
Follow The National's Opinion section on Twitter