I was browsing the Al-Thawra news website and as I scrolled down saw a photo of Socotra off to the right. Intrigued as always by beautiful Socotra, I proceeded to investigate.
The date looked recent so I clicked the story and checked the headline: Socotra threatened with extinction because of the Saudi aggression in Yemen. And BONUS. This story is based on a story from Le Matin d’Algérie, a French language newspaper from Algeria. I can read that! The story from Algeria is from December.
Before I get into this story, I have to bring up a previous one I remember from very recently. From a UN Refugee Agency Press Release: “Noting that all of Yemen’s governorates, with the exception of the island of Socotra, have been affected by conflict….” Well THAT is interesting. To me, that sounds like Socotra is currently going about its merry little Socotra way. Blissfully separated from the civil war going on in the rest of the country. Not so, according to Le Matin d’Algérie and Al-Thawra.
Here’s what’s up. Socotra is a natural UNESCO World Heritage site, described in Le Matin d’Algérie as paradisiaque, which is French for heavenly. It’s an island extremely rich in biodiversity. Much of the flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else in the world. And now, this is being threatened by the war. Specifically: Saudi Arabia and its allies, according to the article. In 1996, Yemen declared Socotra a special natural zone in need of urgent protection. This need is even now more urgent because of Saudi Arabia’s war (supported by the US and UK).
Maybe at first glance you might think the UN is right and that Socotra is not being impacted by the conflict. It is off over there by itself with no ground war and no bombs falling. But! There is currently a total blockade on Yemen: by air, by sea, and by ground. The impact of this blockade on the rest of Yemen is disastrous and, according to the article, even more so on coastal areas and islands. Also according to the article, Socotra’s deputy governor issued a plea for help to international humanitarian organizations to help. Famine is in Socotra too.
Socotra has an airport and while their airport is functioning, what good is it if no flights can fly in to the rest of Yemen? People living in Socotra then have no other choice but to travel by wooden boat to the mainland for work, supplies, or healthcare. This travel is dangerous and recently there was an accident resulting in the deaths of 6 people and disappearance of 25 others. Socotra was also, before the conflict started, very dependent on tourism. What tourists are going to Socotra now? How do they even get there?
Another problem: many of the people of Socotra depend on the sea for their livelihoods. Not only is traveling by wooden boat across the water dangerous, but coastal cities and fisheries have been destroyed. If fisheries are destroyed and nothing going in or out of the port cities, then how are supplies going to get to Socotra?
Both Le Matin d’Algérie and Al-Thawra describe President Hadi (Yemen’s president ousted by Houthi rebels) as a puppet government…. a puppet to the Saudi-led coalition and their unjust war. If when Socotra became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they agreed to protect and preserve the island, then how is the conflict in Yemen protecting it? What are their plans for Socotra’s future?
“But those who completed this transaction (the one to protect UNESCO sites) and who daily exterminate a thousands-years old nation, bombard its schools, its roads, its hospitals, and to its cemeteries and put to ruin the heritage of one of the oldest civilizations of the world, cannot protect Socotra and its inhabitants.
But Socotra, a natural world heritage, must be defended by those who have the heart to preserve nature and the rights of an indigenous people to live in peace in their own environment without the menaces of piracy, the power of money, or military power. Will the cries of Socotra be heard?“