Sanaa, Yemen – As 2022 began and war raged in his home country of Yemen, Abdu felt there was only one way for him to earn money and help his family.
The 25-year-old packed his bags, left the Yemeni capital Sanaa and headed north.
“Out of desperation, I decided at the beginning of the year to travel to Saudi Arabia to look for work,” Abdu said with a deep sigh as he recalled his trip to the kingdom, Yemen’s wealthier neighbor, who also had a number of conducted for years. air strikes across Yemen in support of the government.
Abdu did not apply for a work visa because he could not afford it. Like many others, he turned to smugglers to reach his destination, the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, 12 hours away.
“I arrived there in the second week of January . I found a job as a shepherd. And I started receiving 1,500 Saudi riyals ($399) monthly,” Abdu told Al Jazeera.
But only three months after Abdu’s arrival Saudi Arabiahis own expectations about how the year would go for Yemen were turned upside down.
In April, Iran-allied Houthi rebels, that control Sanaa and other major population centers in northern Yemenand the Yemeni government agreed to one United Nations-backed ceasefire. Saudi airstrikes also stopped. The war largely receded, frozen and temporarily out of sight. Life improved in relative terms.
The ceasefire lasted six months, despite repeated violations. Fuel ships arriving at the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah quadrupled. Commercial flights to and from Sanaa International Airport have resumed for the first time since 2016, allowing thousands of passengers, mostly patients and students, to fly abroad or return home.
According to Save the Children, child deaths attributable to conflict fell by 34 percent and displacement was roughly halved.
It meant that Abdu could think of the previously unthinkable: the possibility that he could become financially prosperous in Yemen.
“I called my father after hearing the news of the ceasefire, and he was happy that fuel ships were coming and the airstrikes would stop,” Abdu recalled. He explains that for his father, a bus driver, the prospect of lower fuel prices and greater supply meant the chance to finally make more money.
And so, with 12,000 Saudi Riyals ($3,191) from his work in Saudi Arabia in his back pocket, Abdu has returned to Yemen. His plan is to buy a minibus and stay in Sanaa where he joins his father as a bus driver.
Armistice falls through
So far, Abdu has no regrets. He feels that the situation in Sanaa is better than when he left; fighting remains largely suspended and fuel is available.
Yet he is still worried about a possible renewed outbreak of violence or another fuel crisis.
That possibility is not far-fetched.
While there has been no return to all-out war, the Houthis have led drone attacks on the al-Dhabba oil terminal in government-controlled Hadramout Governorate, raised the alarm and rebuked by the UN.
According to Yemeni political researcher and author Adel Dashela, long-term stability in Yemen remains unattainable.
At the start of the new year, he predicts three scenarios for Yemen.
“The regional powers can unanimously pressure Yemen’s warring factions to negotiate a lasting peaceful solution. But such a scenario is far-fetched given the stubbornness of the Houthis and the intransigence of the southern separatists,” Dashela said, referring to the Southern Transitional Council, which is officially part of the Saudi-led coalition that supports the government, but said against the government fought. powers in the past and has de facto control over the port city of Aden.
The second scenario is the continuation of the status quo, with the Houthi group ruling the north, while the government and secessionists control the south. “This seems less violent,” Dashela said. “However, it will increase and strengthen the influence of the militant groups in the country.”
The outbreak of all-out war is the third scenario. “This is the most dangerous direction and will further devastate Yemen,” Dashela said. “All indicators show that peace will not come easily given the complexity of the conflict and the hegemony of the regional players.”
It is a scenario that puts the lives of millions of Yemenis at risk.
For now, Abdu still believes he made the right decision to return to Yemen.
“The warlords can go on negotiating for months or years,” he said. “I don’t mind, I would just hate a war or a fuel crisis.”
“2022, the good year, is over,” he added. “We don’t know what 2023 has in store.”