The birds have begun their evensong in the tree outside my window. I hear the faint sound of children’s voices as they play in the empty field beside the house, as well as the laughter of my own children in the next room, setting up a grand tea party for their doll families. Mu’aadh is out swinging in the rope swing Hudhaifah devised, hanging from a branch of the Sidr tree. Yesterday he told us that he wished there were monkeys instead of birds in the tree- watching him now, I think he’s doing a pretty good imitation of a monkey himself. As I listen to him sing at the top of his lungs, my mind revisits another little boy; a quiet, quick-minded little elf who was always full of questions and ideas, my almost constant companion for years. It’s funny how different two little boys can be. As I warn Mu’aadh not to crack his head into the wall, I think of my conversation with Mujaahid this afternoon.
Before I spoke with Mujaahid I talked for a few minutes with his wife, Hiyaat. The baby, only two months old, has been fighting a respiratory infection for the last couple of weeks, exacerbated, I think, by the wheat which makes up almost all of Hiyaat’s diet right now. Yasmeen has been taking antibiotic shots for a week, and before that oral amoxacillin, and now she has thrush. I hear her cough in the background, and Hiyaat says that she is full of mucus. But what is worrying her now is not the baby’s cough.
“When should she start focusing on us?” she asks. “Suhayb was doing it at one month.”
I explain to her that babies all develop differently, and tell her to keep an eye on her during the next month or so, and make sure she engages her as much as possible. I think at first she is worried about her eyes, but she is worried about her brain development, as Yasmeen was in the birth canal for quite awhile in the process of being born. I assure her that if she could breathe while there, insh’Allaah there shouldn’t be a problem.
Later, when talking to Mujaahid, I advise him to get some vitamins for the baby and Hiyaat, in case the blockade induced diet of a piece or two of white bread a day might be influencing Yasmeen’s development. As I try to negotiate down the path I’ve tread several times in the last month, between caution and reassurance, I feel a surge of frustration and anger at the Houthis and the blockade which is causing all this trouble.
I ask about the aid convoy. Seven large flat bed trucks with food and relief supplies for Damaaj, which were supposed to reach there a few days ago. They haven’t- the Houthis stopped them about an hour and a half from the village, despite their papers indicating that they are on a humanitarian mission. Negotiations are ongoing, it seems- but for every step forward they end up taking several steps back. Last week when the Houthi negotiating team left the village after a round of fruitless talks, the Houthis started firing into the village again. The villagers returned fire and several people were killed or wounded. After three days of sporadic gun battles the committee returned and the fighting died down for a bit. Not that it matters- even when there is a cease fire snipers take out villagers and students as they like.
The issue here is complex, and this antagonism has been ongoing for years now. The latest paper put out by the Houthis stated that they believe that the village is full of Israeli and American spies, as well as being an al-Qa’idah training camp. This shows their ignorance and the foolishness of their complaints and lies- obviously al-Qa’idah and American spies, or al-Qa’idah and Israeli spies, would make strange bedfellows indeed; but to the Houthis they all represent the “enemy” .
“It’s all lies,” Mujaahid says. “Can’t everyone see that?”
“Sometimes lies are harder to deal with than truth,” I tell him.
I understand his frustration, but I have seen that the media creates its own reality all too often, such as is happening with the reporting from Sana’a, which is wildly inaccurate at best. And this antagonism between the Houthis and the village has been going on for so long now, built on a myriad of issues. Any agreements that come about are shaky anyway, as the Houthis are made up of several different groups and are prone to disagreeing amongst each other on a regular basis. So if one group says there is a cease fire, another group will simply ignore it because it wasn’t their leader who agreed to it. This is something that worries me, and which I try to gently remind Mujaahid about. Even if the current situation is solved, until the Houthis get what they want they won’t be satisfied. So how many months or years will it be before they attack again?
I find myself doing this often now, nudging him toward taking a long view on things, urging him to think bigger than he has previously been accustomed to think. It is a difficult path, trying to find balance while urging him to take responsibility and make decisions on his own.
I pray that this will be cleared up before we leave the country.
Until then we wait, and we pray.