Dozens of Yemeni cyclists pedal for peace on the road from the capital to Saada
The goal of the ride is to send a message of unity and rapprochement after seven years of war. Sport can be a tool of peace and dialogue, but the situation appears increasingly dangerous. A source told AsiaNews that the country “seems to be heading towards splitting into two, if not more parts”.
Sana’a (AsiaNews) – Yesterday dozens of Yemeni cyclists took to the streets of the capital, Sana’a, with a common goal, pedal their way from the city to the province of Saada.
Such an initiative is meant as a message of peace, unity and rapprochement, to end seven years of bloodshed in a country forgotten by the international community, seemingly powerless to solve its conflict while its people endure one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Saada, in northern Yemen, is considered to be the stronghold of Houthi rebels, a pro-Iranian Shia militia fighting a Saudi-led Arab coalition, which supports the government-in-exile recognised by the international community.
The region is among the most devastated by the fighting and attempts to revive talks between the warring parties have failed so far.
In fact, the situation in the country appears to be increasingly dangerous, so much so that a diplomatic source interviewed by AsiaNews said that "Yemen seems to be heading towards splitting into two, if not more parts" while the goal of “unity” is further away.
The bike ride expresses a desire for peace and rapprochement, as Mohammed al-Jidadi, one of the approximately 40 participants, said while getting his bike ready. "We are going to Saada to spread the message of peace,” he told AFP.
The war in Yemen broke out in 2014 pitting the Saudi-backed government and Iranian-supported Shia Houthi rebels.
In March 2015 the conflict escalated when Saudi Arabia decided to get directly involved, resulting in more than 10,000 dead 55,000 wounded. However, independent observers put the death toll for the period between January 2016 and July 2018 at about 57,000.
For the United Nations, the war is “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”, aggravated by the “devastating” COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is such that millions people are close to famine with children expected to suffer consequences for the next 20 years.
During the fighting, factories, schools, hospitals and public and private enterprises have been destroyed or lost, undermining the country’s entire economic system.
In spite of this landscape of devastation, cyclists hope that their ride will raise hope for peace.
“Our message to the world is that there is a sport of peace” that can unite the country, said Mohammed al-Harazi, another participant. “We don't want cycling limited to one province,” he added; “we want to relay the message to all provinces that cycling is meant to reach all nations”.