Saudi Blockade: Al Mahra, Yemen

The city of Al Ghaydah, and the wider governorate of Al Mahra, have been spared much of the devastation of Yemen’s civil war. But now, locals say, it is facing an increasingly suffocating blockade by Saudi Arabia – businesses are failing, hospitals are chronically low on supplies, and local fishermen are prevented from leaving the shore. Riyadh justifies the increasingly strict controls on imports coming through Al Mahra on allegations that Iranian backed Houthis rebels are smuggling arms, and missile components through the governorate. They say these come via dhows along the Arabian sea coast, and overland via the border with Oman.


Rogue military General Ali Salem Al Hareyz won’t stand for it and is raising a tribal army in response.  He claims they are occupying his country and stealing the sovereignty of his people. The general himself is a bold character; he lives in a luxury caravan equipped with satellite TV and Air Conditioning in the middle of the desert and is just as proud of his herd of camels as he is the militia he is amassing. He told us Riyadh attempted to buy him off with $4.5 million in cash – they bought it in suitcases to his camp. We saw hundreds of men loyal to the general, they claim thousands more from tribes across the east of the country. They often roam the province in huge convoys of fifty or more vehicles, weapons cocked, in an effort to intimidate Saudi Arabian troops. The rhetoric is fierce, Al Mahra govenorate is a tinderbox, an insurgency seems imminent. (Words: Gareth Browne)