In March 2015 troops of Yemen’s ex-dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh and allied Houthi militias took over the city of Sanaa. President Hadi fled to Aden and then to Riyadh. Hadi, although supported by US/Gulf rulers, lacked military or tribal support in both the North and the South.
As troops advanced into Aden young people formed armed committees to defend their own neighbourhoods. The Saudis started air strikes on Yemen and a blockade of military supplies from Iran. Saleh’s forces, with years of US military aid and training, were murderous in attacking Aden — targetting residential areas and causing thousands of casualties.
Popular resistance began. Mosques provided medical aid and shelters, and put out minaret calls to defend the city. For locals, there was an on-duty do-it-yourself urban guerrilla military training with light weapons.
The resistance fought under the South independence flag. Despite being portrayed globally as pro-Hadi and pro-Saudi, there was a lack of military support from the Saudis.
After months of ferocious street war the resistance was close to running out of ammunition. People were starving and thirsty — the city food supply was cut for months, and sickness and diseases, such as dengue fever, spread.
Eventually Saudi and Gulf military support came to the South resistance on the condition of supporting Hadi and Yemen unity, forcing an uneasy compromise. With the landing of heavy weapons and troops in Aden, the local resistance cleared the city of Saleh/Houthi militia. The victory of July 2015 was effectively snatched from the Southerners by the incoming Gulf troops. Aid arrived and the corrupt government returned from Saudi.
The government recruited some resistance fighters into the new Yemen army. Wounded fighters and civilians didn’t get any attention or treatment. Money supply was cut into Aden, so the local governance is nearly bankrupt. Promises of better electricity and water supply didn’t materialise, but bills started to arrive. Rising food prices have hit everyone.
Some youth were recruited by a black flag gang, who are trying to build an Al Qaida base in the city. This gang appeared in the area that was never captured by invaders, Al-Mansura, a safe refuge for internally displaced families from other areas captured by Houthi/Saleh.
Despite the grim conditions, the resistance is more organised and deep rooted. Young people have come back to the streets in vigils against the killings and there is a social media campaign opposing the black flag gangs. Journalists won a strike; medical workers held a walkout and protested over their working conditions and pay.
For the South and Aden the war is over for now, but the struggle continues.