Feuding tribesmen intimidate checkpoint-area residents
But, seven years ago, the 27-year-old's father and resident of Khawalan, was driving quickly through a neighborhood in Sanhan for a brief trip to Sana'a, when he was confronted by armed men in the district. Haider's father refused to stop at a tribal checkpoint erected by the self-elected guards. Consequently, the guards opened fire on the unsuspecting driver, shooting him dead.
Now each emerging tribal checkpoint reminds Haider, who currently lives with his five siblings and mother, of his father's memory.
Unfortunately, Haider's tale is a common one amongst many residents of Sana'a's villages, who are subject to violence from warring tribes. During times of high conflict, tribesmen will set-up checkpoints to terrorize neighboring tribes by means of theft, kidnapping and murder.
The largely traditional districts of Khawalan, located 40 kilometers outside of Sana'a, and Sanhan, 20 kilometers from the capital city, in particular have a long history of contention. Locals attribute the disputes to revenge, but most are unclear as to the origins of the conflict.
Most recently, in June, relations deteriorated when armed tribesmen from Khawlan, kidnapped Murad Al-Awbali, an influential figure in the Republican Guard and member of the Sanhan tribe.
Despite Al-Awbali's prominence in the military, the government did not intervene on behalf of his release. The state's lack of action caused Al-Awbali's son to engineer several checkpoints along the route from Khawlan to Sana'a, inhibiting local travel to the capital city.
It is also rumored that Al-Awbali's revenge-seeking son kidnapped over 50 locals from Sanhan in an attempt to leverage the release of his father.
Al-Awbali has since been released and the warring communities have seen a brief dip in the emergence of new checkpoints.
However, due to a lack of government security intervention, the tribes continue to antagonize territorial roads, primarily at the determent to uninvolved community members.
Khaleel Al-Laei, a local from Sahman village in Khawlan, said he was subject to many problems due to the checkpoints. He said he was unable to enter Sana’a to complete his university studies while he remained stuck for over a week in the village because a checkpoint made his journey impassable.
Fabdullah Al-Hiweishi also said the checkpoints have affected him in a personal way. He recalls being unable to travel to Khawlan from Sana'a to mourn the loss of a relative who had died there because tribesmen made him turn around and return to the city.
Waleed Al-Jabr, a journalist, compared the tribal checkpoints to being in jail, saying he cannot move freely when the tribes decided to construct the illegal passageways.
However, Abdulghani Jameel, Governor of Sana’a, says efforts are being made to eliminate these road blocks.
“Last week, the tribes agreed to sign a document to end the tribal checkpoints,” Jameel said. He also indicated the potential treaty received an overall positive response from the community.
Jameel added that the security administration will be sending military vehicles to curb the checkpoints and that violators will be held strictly accountable for their actions.
Ali Saleh Al-Laei, a leading sheikh from Khawlan, said this is one step in the right direction and hopes for a continued optimistic reaction from locals.
The sheikh further called for an increased focus on education and health in the area, where such matters have been long neglected, so that the tribes will not be compelled to continue fighting.