In Yemen, skilled professionals proudly take up arms
In late 2014, Mubarak, had finished his first degree and was planning to pursue a higher degree in statistics from Aden university.
But his plans were put on hold after Iran-backed Al Houthi militants stormed and overtook his village in Taiz and other areas in the province.
His dream in life was to finish his PhD, teach statistics at any local university and start a family.
But Al Houthi militants began to overrun other provinces after their coup taking over Sana’a in 2014.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition entered the Yemen conflict in 2015 after the rebel coup against the legitimate government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Hadi came to power in early 2012 after massive Arab Spring protests ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who ruled Yemen for more than 30 years.
He was forced to decamp to the city of Aden after escaping Al Houthi-imposed house arrest after the rebels took over the government in a coup in 2014.
Since then, Hadi shifted government headquarters to Aden from where he has led an offensive to liberate Al Houthi-occupied territories.
With the coalition’s help, Yemeni government forces were able to reverse many Al Houthi gains in Taiz and other provinces.
In Yemen’s cultural capital, Taiz, Al Houthis have faced stiff resistance thanks to the thousands of teachers, doctors, university students, engineers and other professionals who joined the army and resistance fighters to defend their city.
For more than two years, Al Houthis have failed to break through government forces’ defence lines despite mobilising thousands of troops and heavily shelling the downtown.
“I am fighting Al Houthis to take back my country which has been hijacked by Al Houthis,” Mubarak, 29. who wanted to be identified by his first name only out of fear of reprisal, told Gulf News.
Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, has long been described as the educational and political hub of Yemen as many of the country’s establishment figures are natives of the city.
When the Al Houthi militia, backed renegade army units loyal to ousted president, seized control of parts of the city, thousands of people initially used peaceful means to protest against Al Houthi militia occupation.
“The city of Taiz has long been a torch bearer and when the militias invaded the south, the people of Taiz faced them with bare chests,” Colonel Abdul Basit Al Bahar, a spokesperson for the Supreme Military Council, told Gulf News.
The rebel movement ruthlessly crushed peaceful protests in Taiz, prompting residents, including many professionals, into taking up arms to defend their cities.
“When Al Houthi stormed my village in Taiz, I fled to government-controlled territories and joined anti-Al Houthi military forces. We have no other option but to fight, “Mubarak said.
After almost two months of fierce fighting, government forces gained control of Mubarak’s village where he was able to reunite with his family.
Khalid Al Wasabi, a nurse from the Hodeida province, decided to join the people of Taiz in their battle against Al Houthis.
The middle-aged nurse was running a small clinic in a remote village in the western province of Hodeida where he treated extremely destitute people.
“We used to live in peace until armed rebels stormed the village and began harassing people,” he said.
“They broke into houses to arrest suspected opponents. They terrified our families. So, I thought, better to die in dignity than experiencing the injustice,” Al Wasabi told Gulf News.
“The most honourable job is to fight off [Al Houthi] injustice,” he said.
In country awash with weapons, many Yemenis typically learn how to use guns at a young age. So, for many professionals like Al Wasabi, military training was not necessary — others required very little training.
“Yemenis are adept at using guns due to their tribal background.” he said.
His first battle was on June 2, 2015 when he and other fighters attacked Al Houthis on Jarrah mountain in Taiz.
Twenty days after joining the battlefield, a shell fired by an Al Houthi militant exploded near where Al Wasabi was stationed, injuring him and a number of his friends.
“I took 15 pieces of shrapnel to my body,” he said.
He was unable to return to the battlefield, due to his injuries, so he now runs a medical centre in the liberated area of Taiz, using his skills to treat wounded soldiers and civilians.
For Mubarak, the gains will not slow down his drive.
“I will not rest until Al Houthis are completely defeated.”