The tragedy underscores why the UAE is committed to forging a better future for Yemen
UAE soldiers’ sacrifice will not be forgotten
It is almost two years since more than 50 of our soldiers were killed on a single day in Yemen. The first Friday in September 2015 will always be remembered as one of the most difficult and dark days in this country's history. Tragedy struck again this weekend when four soldiers lost their lives in a helicopter accident in Yemen’s Shabwa province. It’s hard to imagine the unbearable pain and trauma the families of the victims are now forced to endure. A member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, Sheikh Zayed bin Hamdan, sustained injuries at the scene.
At challenging times like these, it is crucial for us to remember the significance of our mission in Yemen. The country and its people are an integral part of this region. We cannot afford to allow Yemen to become a failed state and a breeding ground for terrorism.
Nevertheless, the tragedy underscores the complexities of the ongoing conflict. Although the Saudi-led coalition began its mission in Yemen in 2015, mainly against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, places such as Shabwa have become a hotbed for hardline extremists, including the local Al Qaeda franchise, which has gained increasing sway on the ground. So too have tribal militias.
Slowly, the tide is turning. In June, the US military’s central command said a strike there killed Abu Khattab Al Awlaqi, the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This month, elite Yemeni forces, backed by the UAE army and US military drove Al Qaeda militants from a stronghold in southern Yemen, dealing a massive blow to the extremists in the region.
The tragedy emphasises the UAE’s resolve to rescue Yemen and return it to its people. It also illustrates that Emirati men and women are proud to serve their country and pay the ultimate price in supporting the people of Yemen. As the father of martyr Mohammed Saeed Al Hassani said: “We are all willing to sacrifice our lives for the UAE.” Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Vice Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, rightly pointed out that “Emirati men set the best example of sacrifice and devotion for the sake of their country, of bringing justice and of spreading peace.”
Separately, Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that the UAE is more powerful today with the sacrifice of its martyrs, and history will remember the important role Operation Decisive Storm has played in drawing “a line between acceptance and submission, and determination and will”.
Without doubt, these are tough days. But Friday's painful loss is, perhaps, mitigated in some small way by the knowledge that those who died were defending this country and upholding our shared values. They sacrificed their lives for our future.