Yemen: “Violence begets more violence”

MSF security guard Murad shares his family's experience of living through a brutal civil war in this powerful and personal story from Yemen

War is painful; it targets everyone. The innocent pay the high price of war. 

We face challenges everywhere on account of the warespecially when travelling by road. When there are clashes in your area, you are forced to leave your home. Al Heima was where the armed confrontations started and we were caught in the crossfire. People were injured and killed.  

I lost two of my uncles, my brother-in-law and my aunt, who died because of the shelling.  

Armed encounter in the mountains

One day, as I was leaving my workplace, tensions flared up suddenly between the warring parties and the main road was cut off, so I had to take another route home along with friend, meaning I’d have to walk for hours to reach my family.

As he fired his weapon, I started running, running with all the energy I had until I was completely out of breath

There were armed groups in the mountains. We were waved over and told: “Go back the way you came.”

But I found it hard to turn around – it would mean not seeing my family and being able to make sure they were okay while the horrible shelling and shooting was going on. 

Every time I took a step forward, the person would shoot around me. I tore off my clothes and cried: “I dont have any weapons on me – I just want to see my family.

He shouted: “Run! Run!” 

As he fired his weapon, I started running, running with all the energy I had until I was completely out of breath.  

A place of safety

As soon as I reached home, I told my family that we needed to move to a place of safety immediately, and so we moved to Al Qa’ida

We stayed there for three days, but our financial situation wasn’t good. We tried to find the money to move again, and then we went to a safe area called Al Shurman, where some of our relatives were living. But we could not stay for long, as we were guests there. We were preoccupied by the war, burdened by its repercussions, but so were they. 

Our only choice was to return home, even though the area was still being bombed.  

The raging fires

I’ll never forget the time my wife and I had to flee the house with our children. 

There were heavy bombings, fires raging out of control and clouds and pillars of smoke everywhere. Our house was damaged and we had to leave in a rush.

My wife carried our baby and I carried our other two children, who were undressed. We were running barefoot, as far as we could manage, until we took shelter in relative’s house.

I remember very well the feeling I had the next day. My legs were stiff and weak – they couldnt support the weight of my body. Wwere completely exhausted and had a disturbing feeling of insecurity.    

When we saw the planes hovering in the skythere was no way to predict what their next target would be. I had even dug a hole in the ground near the house so that we could quickly take shelter whenever we heard the sound of fighting or saw the planes.  

Psychological impact

My children are really affected by these incidents and my wife suffers from depression, especially after her brother was killed because of this merciless war.

Whenever my wife hears the sound of fireworks, she jumps up, grabs our children and runs out of the door, not looking back.

Events like this happens every day, even in this cold weatherbut her condition does not improve.

It breaks my heart. 

The dangers of “indispensable weapons”

The entire Yemeni population is armed, and for them, weapons are indispensable. However, we wish to be rid of anything called weapons or arms. 

We deal with people using just courteous words and respectable treatment

MSF surprised the Yemenis, and the world, by showing it has guards who do not carry weapons. 

I’ve been asked by patients on several occasions: “Why don’t you carry a weapon to better protect this building?”

I reply: “Violence begets more violence.”

We deal with people using just courteous words and respectable treatment. 


A nurse treating a patient at MSF's mother and child hospital in Taiz, where Murad works
A nurse treating a patient at MSF's mother and child hospital in Taiz, where Murad works

Several times I’ve had to convince armed men not to enter the MSF hospital. I said: “You will receive the medical services you need inside. Why carry a weapon to a hospital? There is no need to carry it inside. How would you look, taking a weapon into a place where there are doctors, nurses, patients and children?

I remember my words to an armed man who wanted to force his way into the hospital. I told him: “This place has no weapons inside. When you enter here, you are entering a safe place and you are safe. So why take a weapon inside the hospital?”

People listen, they oblige. Some of them hand over their weapons immediately. 

Ive seen the same armed men who approached the gate with an aggressive attitude in the past come to the hospital and remove their weapons of their own accord, hand them over and enter quietly. Others have left their weapons in their vehicles and entered the hospital unarmed.

It seems that words can be very powerful and can change people’s perspectives and behaviour 

Searching for hope

I feel like Im locked updont think about the future, I only think about providing for my family for that dayand thats it. 

When the war started, I was in my first year at university, studying lawI had to quit studying because of the war and go back to farming. 

I am grateful to MSF because the job here came at a time when we most needed it. It came at a time when we had no salaries. My mother is now displaced and living with me and my siblings are living with me too; my uncle left after his wife died and I am taking care of his children now.

I would never have been able to cover all these needs if it were not for MSF.   

We all hope that things in Yemen will improve and that the futile disputes and disagreements of the conflict will come to an end 

We hope.  

We can only hope. 


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