Faj Attan village - Lulu and her boys Laith (13) and Meyas (6)
Lulu (46) with her youngest boy Meyas (6).
“I was born in Saudi Arabia, in Mecca, but both my parents are Yemeni. During the gulf war, Saddam’s war, we returned to Yemen. I was with my parents in Hodeida, then I married, we stayed in Mahwit, but then we came here to Sana’a, that is almost 15 years ago.”
“At that time, the village was open, there was no rent here, anyone who wanted to live here could build their house here.”
“My husband died 6 months ago, he had some problems with the heart so we went to the hospital to check it, but there they discovered that he had cancer. There was nothing they could do for him, he died 15 days later, it had spread from to the kidney, the liver. I am also sick now, i need injections every 21 days.”
“I have 5 children. We are all here.”
How did the war affect your life?
“The first day of the war, around 2 am at night, we saw planes roving over the city. We thought maybe that Ali Abdullah Saleh’s (former president) son, Ahmed, would come back to rule and that people were celebrating this by flying the planes over the city, with red lights.”
“Then we went back to sleep, and the next day we went out to see the planes, and we heard news that there was now war in Yemen, but we felt safe on our mountain top, so we stayed. Then on the second day there was an attack close to here and all the windows at our house broke. My house, this house, had three floors, we went to sleep at the first floor all of us. The next day we left, the whole village left, and then, three days into the airstrikes, just when we had left, was the attack that destroyed all the houses here. Thanks to God nobody was there at that time.”
“My house was three floors, it was completely destroyed, now I have built this one store again.”
“When we left from here, we went to Mahwit. We thought this war would be a short one, maybe three days, and then we would return.”
“We hired someone to look after the sheep and the chicken, but they got scared and escaped. The building collapsed on top of the sheep and the chicken. When the large bomb fell on a mountain close to us, the rocks and the weapons from that mountain exploded and landed all the way here. Ten day later we came up to see the damage, we found only one chicken alive, and we found a lot of remnants of war, as bombs and rockets. Sometimes it blew up when people touched it, one boy called Yousef was killed because he played with one of these things, he was only 9, and it exploded and blew him up, many months later.”
“We used to have a lot of pigeons, and bees. I had a lot, but now I only have one box with bees.”
“From the ruins of what was left, I build this house, it is much smaller and has only one floor, but it is much better than it was.”
“We came back here from Mahwit after one year. We did not stay in the city there, but in the outskirts. But we found no job there, at least here we can do things, here we know how to search for a job, we were hungry there. My daughter was pregnant, and she was getting sick, we could not go to a hospital without money. We came back, my husband was also sick. We came back here, my daughter delivered a baby, but the baby died, she got some sickness, malaria or something. We came back and started re-building this house, my dream was to finish before Ramadan, and we manged, but then my husband got sick and died.”
“Things were better before the war, we were poor then as well, but there was work. I was working, and my husband was working, but now after the war started, my husband was sick and died and I cannot work anymore. I was working at a bakery, but then it closed, now it is open, but only a few women work there now. I thought maybe I could bake bread at my own kitchen and sell the bread, but my kitchen was destroyed. I took my daughter out of school so she can work and get some money.”
“It is now half a year since my husband died. We don’t find enough to eat. My sons go out and search for empty bottles of plastic to sell them. For whatever they manage to make, we buy flour. If we manage to save a bit, we buy cooking gas.”
Does it happen that you go to bed hungry?
“Even if we are hungry, we are never going to tell people that, we will never beg.”
Do the people here help each other?
“Yes, if people have an opportunity, they will help each other, but you go to your neighbour, and you see that they are facing the same situation, so you just keep quiet.”
“We don’t have a choice, we need to keep on living an trying, the alternative is to commit suicide.”
Photo: NRC/Alvhild Stromme