Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The drug fueled war in Yemen

The war between Shiite rebels and the Yemen government continues with no end in sight. Fueled by drugs and poverty, the soldiers often turn to drugs to forget their plight. Leaves from the quat plant are often the only thing sold in war torn areas.

From this Associated Press article that we found at WPLG, writer Ahmed Al-Haj describes the conditions in Yemen.

Resting between frenetic bursts of fighting with tenacious Shiite rebels in the north, many Yemeni soldiers pass the day chewing qat leaves -- the mild stimulant plant that is the impoverished Arab nation's traditional drug of choice.

For the beleaguered troops dispatched to Yemen's rugged Saada province, the chewing sessions offer a welcome high and suppress fears that the rebels may have the upper hand against an army lacking basic gear such as helmets and body armor.

The Yemeni army has been embroiled in a five-year conflict with Saada's rebels that erupted when Shiite fighters took up arms against the central government, complaining of neglect and the widening influence of hard-line Sunni fundamentalists, some of whom consider Shiites heretics.

Shiites make up 30 percent of Yemen's population of 22 million.

Government efforts to contain the rebellion have been hampered by a separate, secessionist movement in the south, as well as Yemen's crippling poverty and plummeting oil revenues. Some officials also blame corruption in the military for the failure to uproot the rebels.

The fighting, which has displaced about 150,000 people since 2004, flared up in August, with rebels capturing an army post on a strategic highway between the capital and the Saudi border.

The escalation has killed unknown numbers on both sides and crammed tens of thousands of the newly displaced into camps, schools and barns turned into shelters, while aid groups struggle to bring in supplies.

International relief agencies have urged the government to open up corridors to the trapped civilians.

"I have been living here in Harf Sofyan with my 12 family members for two months now, sleeping in the open and under the trees," said teacher Jamal Amin al-Jatham. "We have nothing now after we fled the fighting."

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