Arms trade thrives in Yemen
Ashraf Al-Muraqab (author), Ashraf Al-Muraqab (photographer)
Such is the case of Dhia’a Mohammed Al-Qadi, a 17-year-old who was murdered on Al-Burj Street in Ibb when a conflict broke out between two armed groups.
Dhia’a’s father, Mohammed Al-Qadi, said, “One day [about a month ago], we were surprised by two armed groups fighting in Al-Burj Street. Everyone ran away, and I ran to a safe area, but my son couldn’t. As a result, he was shot in the head for no reason.”
“Armed men come and go everywhere on main streets and neighborhoods in Ibb carrying guns,” he added. “They hold bombs and bazookas on their shoulders and create fear amongst residents, but the government and security pay no attention to them.”
Mohammed Safi, head of the local council of Damt District, said, “Weapon are everywhere and arms’ dealers buy them in public areas.”
“The situation Yemen went through over the last year and the security vacuum in the governorate helped armed men spread unchecked. We are calling on the government to provide security for residents by implementing campaigns to eliminate arms proliferation,” he added.
A main reason for the increase in the trade of arms is political unrest, which has caused a dramatic decrease in prices.
There are numerous arms markets all over Yemen and Yemenis seem keen to continue to buy them. They are often a mark of prestige.
Jalal Al-Haddad, a youth activist, said, “Because of arms in the streets, people can be killed at any moment. Arms have spread amongst residents because they feel that the authorities are unable to control the arms industry or provide security.”
According to Dar Al-Salam Organization, Yemen is the largest market for arms in the Gulf region, and it continues to grow.
Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Marwani, head of Dar Al-Salam Organization, a Yemeni Peace group, says there are more than nine million light weapons in Yemen, mainly owned by government employees, tribesmen and arm dealers. Light weapons refer to arms that can be carried.
He added that the misuse of these arms reportedly results in the death of 1,200 residents each year.
“Currently, arms are sold in public. [A range of] weapons are present in several markets, and new markets are emerging in different Yemeni governorates like: Taiz, Ibb, Al-Dale and other southern governorates."
He went on to say, “The process of buying and selling arms mainly occurs in Sana’a, where arms prices have decreased by about 60 percent.”
Hameed Al-Faeq, head of the Al-Rammah Police station in Sana’a, said, “Arms trading has spread recently in Yemen due to the security vacuum and banditry. Residents have been forced to carry their own personal arms.”
“The confrontations that take place between tribesmen, Houthis and Al-Qaeda from time to time, are another reason for the spread of weapons in Yemen,” he added.
A Sana’a resident, Atif Ma’aoda is a light weapons trader. He said the new types of weapons which are found in Yemen such as small pistols and gun silencers are increasingly attracting younger men to the market.
Marwan Al-Shaibani, an advocate for the resolution of armed conflicts in Yemen, said the growth of the arms trade coincides with the country's decline into continuous turmoil, pointing out that trading prospers in areas of political, sectarian, and religious conflict.
“Yemen is witnessing three levels of conflict. There is the Southern Movement that calls for secession, the rebel Shiite Houthis in the North and Yemen’s conflicted political parties who function under the government’s political conciliation efforts,” he said.
Concerning the implications of arms trade in Yemen, Al-Shaibani said that conflicts between influential religious and political figures will continue to deepen the crisis.