What is happening in Yemen?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Last month’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey has put a renewed spotlight on the regime of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). The journalist, often critical of the current Saudi regime, is said to have been killed at MBS’s behest. MBS was hailed as a progressive leader as he led economic and social reforms, like allowing women to drive, but his human rights record is less than stellar, domestically and abroad. One of the issues highlighted is the war in Yemen, one of the worst humanitarian crisis of our times, and one which is fueled by the Saudi regime. Here I want to give a short primer on what is happening there, because we hear about it all the time, but I feel that sometimes we don’t fully care until we understand what is going on.

Where is Yemen?

The Republic of Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, is at the southern tip of the Arab Peninsula. It’s bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north and Oman to the east. Its capital is Sana’a.

(From BusinessInsider.com)
What is this war about?

In 2014, Houthis rebels started fighting the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who had to take refuge in Aden. Hadi was elected in 2012 (he was the only candidate on the ballots after being Vice-President since 1994… super democratic process!) and, though his government is internationally recognized, refused to give up power in 2014, after his 2-year transitional mandate expired. In March 2015, the Houthis declared a general offensive, thereby starting a civil war.

Who are the Houthis?

The Houthis originate from the North of the country and take their names from their former leader, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. They claim to fight for a more economically stable country, a non-sectarian and non-corrupt government, and for an independent Yemen -which to them means free of Saudi and US influence. Though the Houthis are Shia Muslim, many articles I have read report that they do not fight against the Sunni Muslims but against a political government they want to see change.

Who are the main international actors?

Ah, this is where this civil war becomes more than “just” a conflict between an established government and rebels.

Though I just wrote that the civil war may not be related to religion, the Houthis are backed by Iran (whose government and population are also Shia) while the Hadi government is backed by the (Sunni) Saudi Arabia and indirectly, but in a way very directly, those who sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, such as the US and France. Khashoggi’s murder became an indictment on the US-Saudi relation, especially their economic ties. Remember that Donald Trump first said that he wouldn’t jeopardize a 10-million dollar deal with the Saudi over this "incident." A lot of civil society organizations in the US, France, and Germany, among others, have put pressure on their government -even before Khashoggi’s murder- to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia to curtail the war in Yemen and to show their worry over Saudi’s human rights record.

What is the effect on civilians?

According to the UN and other sources, up to 14,000 people have been killed in Yemen, including more than 5,200 civilians, as of the end of December 2017. On top of this, more than 50,000 died because of an ongoing famine, due to the Saudi blockade of Yemen. Children are especially vulnerable to the war itself and to famine.

In Summary

This is a complicated war. The country itself was never a democracy and was never economically independent. Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a war by proxy and destabilizing Yemen even more. Yemeni children and their families are victims of the blockade and ensuing famine. The situation is a humanitarian catastrophe. I am able to watch Al Jazeera here in the Philippines (I’m here for a week for work) and they show videos of children terribly thin, starving, dying. This is the reality the children of Yemen face.

What can we do?

Some organizations are working in Yemen to help families and children. If you are able and feel compelled to give, I recommend Save the Children, the IRC, and Doctors Without Borders.
Additionally you can call your representative to ask what they're doing to end US' (or your country's) sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia.


Wikipedia's Yemen Civil War

Sober October - Day 26

Friday, October 26, 2018

Sorry for my absence. this week. There is nothing to report on the home front. I have to admit I'm counting the days until Halloween but I'm holding strong.

I'm thinking of possible posts for November, when this blog will resume its normal themes of family, social justice, and book reviews!

If there's anything you'd like me to dig into, let me know. Right now I'm thinking about a historical fiction / WWII books review and a summary of the situation in Yemen -which is described by many as the worst humanitarian crisis right now.

Have a splendid weekend!

Sober October - Day (2)2

Monday, October 22, 2018

22... or 2 because...

Well it happened. I had a drink on Saturday. We were at a party and a free pina colada was offered. I took it and it was delicious! But frankly I felt so bad the day after that it was not worth it. I was not sick physically but I felt terrible and weak and ashamed. Not. Worth. It.

I know... it was only a drink (or rather an evening because I had wine after that) and I'm back on the proverbial wagon, where I'll remain until October 31st. It's just so easy for me to go down a rabbit hole and have negative thoughts about myself. I have to say I didn't spend the whole day Sunday emotionally beating myself up. I moved on. But I do tend to focus on the negatives, like so many of us do, rather than on the positive (for instance, I could have focused on the good aspects of Saturday night: I didn't get drunk or even buzzed. It was easy not to have a lot to drink. Progress!).

I am actually being intentional about dreaming and setting goals for myself again to prove my mean /demoralized self that I can have self-discipline and that I can achieve something. I used to thrive on goals. I had confidence. And somehow I lost that ability to persevere and go for my dreams. I'm trying to reclaim that.

If you'd like to share, I'd love to hear about a goal you set for yourself that you're either working on or have accomplished.

Sober October - Day 17

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Well, I’m not struggling anymore, which is nice. I mean I’m looking forward to Halloween because it’ll be fun and heyyyy I like Chardonnay, but right now, I'm not craving wine in the evenings. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother and what alcohol stole from our relationship. My mom was a bright and interesting woman. She and I should have been able to talk about a lot, from politics to work to babies and everything in between. But we never could. Oh sure, when she was sober I could tell her a bit about my struggles, and she was a great listener, but that was… when she was sober. She was drunk a lot and, especially during my teenage years and in my 20s, she was a mean drunk. A violent drunk. She was drunk at my wedding and on the day my two boys were born. I left home at 15 and lived at a boarding school during the week, so I avoided a lot of her drunk evenings and rages, but I still had my share of phone calls and terrible words flung at me. I walked on eggshells at home. I couldn’t confide in her because she would throw issues back at me when she was angry. So little by little I talked less, I confided less, and after years of that, I didn’t have much to say, whether she was sober or not. I’m not upset at her -not anymore- but at the addiction, at the could-and-should-have-beens, at the loss of a relationship that I can only imagine could have been fulfilling and stabilizing.

I am not a mean drunk -at all- but I never want alcohol to take anything from the relationship I build with my children and my spouse.

Sober October - Day 15

Monday, October 15, 2018

Woot, 15 days!! I'm halfway there. This weekend was easy because I was super sick. I laid on the couch all weekend long -which was actually a nice, albeit mandatory, way to relax.

I wonder what I'm going to do after November. I listened to a podcast about drinking less on Scummy Mummies (I cannot recommend this podcast enough. It's hilarious and relevant) and the guest said that after stopping for a month, her new rule is "No more than 3 drinks, 3 times per week." Now, that's still over the recommended health guidelines and I'm guessing Brits' glasses are slightly smaller than mine. Case in point: in the book I already mentioned about a mom's sobriety, the author wrote that she had one glass when the kids came home from school, and another one when she cooked, and then others and pretty soon she had been drinking 6 glasses, which was, to her ONE bottle of wine. Ha. Yeah that would be 2 bottles of wine with my heavy pour. So I'm going to do 3 SMALL drinks 3 times a week if 3 times a week is warranted. I don't want to drink 3 times because I said this would be the new normal. The fewer days the better!

Sober October - Day 12

Friday, October 12, 2018

Happy Friday! It's going well here. Joe was gone yesterday evening and the boys were chatty and lovely. And then continued to be really agreeable this morning, which made the usual chaos and rush quite easy.

I saw a doctor yesterday to get a refill on medication (Lexapro. Take good care of your mental health, everyone) and when he asked me how much I drank I felt like a badass saying "I am not drinking this month" He asked me whether I drank a lot before and whether I felt pain in my body when I drank and when I answered yes to both... he left it at that! He said "Ok. Anything else?" Imagine if I were shyly trying to tell him I needed help... he would be a very hard doctor to speak to and I'd leave as broken and helpless as when I arrived. I read once that doctors are not well trained to recognize addiction and don't really want to talk about it. I saw that yesterday. I was quite taken aback. Add that to the wine culture that's part of suburban motherhood (while looking for memes to illustrate this I found this good article) and I can only imagine the number of women drinking too much, knowing it, and not able or equipped to do anything about it.

I hope you all have a good weekend! Talk to you all on Monday.

Sober October - Day 10

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Today was quite a good day -probably because I was busy all day at work and this evening with hockey. That helps! The last few days haven't been bad but there is always an hour (6-ish) where things go wrong for everyone and poor Joe must think "woman, get some wine and stop yelling!" 20 more days. I can do this.

I read a book about a mom working on complete sobriety. She said that, because addiction is hereditary, she wanted to make sure her children didn't develop an addiction. She said that one of the main red flags is an "all or nothing" attitude, an ability to focus on one thing and go all in. And it's interesting because I used to be like that for sure. Joe is still like that to a degree. And Leo is definitely like that. Now I don't want to assign Leo with an "early warning for addiction" diagnosis, but I don't want to miss anything either. And one reason I want to drink less is to show my boys that they can have a good evening or a meal with friends without alcohol. I don't want them to normalize wine so much that it's an integral part of their lives -which would make it much easier to take up that habit once they're older. Monkey see, monkey do, right? Conversely, I'm reading books and watching good TV programs, so hey, it's not all bad.

Sober October - Day 8

Monday, October 8, 2018

I survived the weekend! Despite the confirmation of Kavanaugh, I did well on Saturday. I had a difficult hour yesterday, but powered through and BAM! Day 7 in the books. I’m pretty proud of myself. I did try alcohol-free wine and it was disgusting. Ew. Don't try this at home.

I haven’t had time to be productive at all last week because the boys took all my time -which is not a bad thing, but really hampered any attempt at self-care. I’m hoping to have a bit of that this week because I need a lot of time to think and plan and write. That’s what I need right this minute. I also realized that my best time to think is early evening, which is not great since it’s the time the boys need me the most -for bath and bed time. I’m usually “free” by 9 and by that time I’m not that inspired. But I’ll try to focus from 915-10 and see how much I can get done. I won’t pick up a book, I’ll instead pick up my laptop and my journals (yes, plurals) and GO.

I’m excited about this -a given and intentional time to put my thoughts on paper and into action. I really need that right now. I’ve been stagnant for too long and that’s really made my depression and self-loathing worse. I know that, as cliché and boring as it sounds, I’m completely afraid of failure, which has led me to be quiet and happy with my routine, but I have come to a point where movement is needed. I don’t know how to bypass my fear of failure yet -I can feel it in my gut, this fear. If you have ideas, I’d love to hear them! In the meantime, baby steps.


Sober October - Day 5

Friday, October 5, 2018

Day 3 and 4 went well. Jude sneezed on me all last week and I caught his bug. Yesterday I had a slight fever and a massive headache, so I didn’t want to drink. I love waking up knowing that I didn’t drink the day before. If I have a headache, I know it’s because I’m tired, not because I’ve drank too much. My stomach hasn’t hurt this whole week. It’s just nice to know I’m giving my body a break. I have a mental crutch available. If I want to drink reeeeeeal bad one day, I’ll buy alcohol-free wine. Yes, it exists -and um yes, I’ve googled it on day 2.

In other news, I read this morning that the Senate had voted to move Kavanaugh’s confirmation forward and I felt so, so depressed. And angry. But then I read that a personal hero of mine, doctor Denis Mukwege, won the Nobel Peace Prize for his relentless work on behalf of women who have been sexually assaulted in the DR Congo. I volunteered in his hospital in Bukavu for a couple of months in 2008 (gasp! 10 years ago) and he is a courageous, humble, remarkable man. What an emotional whiplash!

I hope you have a lovely weekend. Take good care of yourselves.

Sober October Day 2

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

(These Sober October posts are going to be short updates. I won’t upload pictures or make the posts all that pretty unless I blog about something else!)

Day 1 went well but day 2 was hard. I didn’t actually want to drink wine -or any alcohol for that matter. I just wanted something tasty and sweet. I drank tea, which was just okay. The 6-8pm window is the hardest frankly. There’s dinner and bedtime and many fights between the boys in between - and it’s the time I normally start unwinding with wine. Motherhood has not been all that groovy lately. It’s been exhausting and stressful. Yes, I love my kids and they are a true delight but this phase is tough. They’re sensitive and feisty and whiny. On top of that, I have been all shades of meh lately. The news is mightily depressing; I’m reading a book (Vox) about a conservative government that’s a bit too close to reality; and work is fine but I’ve had conversations and meetings that have left me more unsettled than usual. But there’s never a perfect time to do anything, so this month is as good as it gets. Onward!

Sober October!

Monday, October 1, 2018

It starts today!

I have decided that October this year will be “Sober October.” I love Chardonnay (it made it into my profile description up there on the right… that tells you how much I like it!), and I drink quite a lot of it. Daily. I don’t get drunk but I enjoy my end of day, I-need-a-break glass(es) of wine too much. So I’m giving my body a break. There are a few reasons for that: physical health, as my body has been hurting lately; emotional health, as I know alcohol increases depression; financial health, because wine ain’t cheap; and overall well-being, as I’m hoping that I’ll spend less time vegging in front of the telly and more time reading, writing, and planning -in one word, self-care. I LOVE watching TV. I’ve been watching great TV shows and documentaries on Netflix or Amazon, but it’s not very productive.

I chose October because I don’t have anything planned this month. No foreseeable trips or parties. This should be a pretty low-key month. I’m hoping this helps me stick with this resolution. I know that in theory 31 days sounds easy but friends, I drink daily, so this might be more challenging than you think.

That being said, I’m not expecting to make other drastic changes this month. I don’t want to put too much on my shoulders. Not drinking will be tough enough without adding other huge goals… which surely will make me want to “relax” at the end of the day. I’ll be tracking the amount of water I’m drinking per day, the number of Weight Watchers points accrued (I’m tracking through their app), and whether I write, whether in a journal or on this blog.

Let’s see how this goes. I’m excited to focus on my health, both physical and mental. Wish me luck. Seriously, I appreciate your positive thoughts / prayers!

Photo by FanJ