Laid out on a hospital trolley with thick clots of blood haemorrhaging out of his nose and ears. The life carrying fluid trickled from the corner of his already glazed and lifeless eyes. The gunshot wound to the back of his head, hidden by the grey blanket that had carried him from the street where he fell.
Looking down on the bearded man my mind flashed back to the last time I’d witnessed such a bloody scene. A field in Ireland; a horse lay alive but with his guts spilled out on the red stained grass. After the bullet passed between his eyes blood gushed through his nose and mouth. As on previous occasions, I pulled a large clear plastic bag over his head and tied it with baler twine around his throat, to prevent the dogs from lapping up the thick red liquid after his body had been dragged away.
Unlike my four-legged friend, the man that lay before me was full of life just moments earlier, kneeling to pray with thousands of others in the heat of the midday Sana’a sun. He wasn’t shot to put him out of pain and misery, or because his body was beyond repair. He was killed because he dared to call for a politician to leave office.
Two days later I saw him again, wrapped in a shroud of the Yemeni flag with his portrait stuck with sellotape around his neck. Standing over him, alone and crying, was his brother. As I spoke briefly to the tribesman I didn’t reveal how I’d seen his twenty-four-year-old sibling once before, or how I’d recognised the eyes that had stared straight through mine just 48 hours earlier.
Slaughtered like an animal, this son, father and brother was one of the 52 shot dead on March 18. Just one of the more than 140 killed in Yemen’s uprising since February 16, just a statistic of the thousands that have died in clashes with security forces, soldiers and plain-clothes government loyalists during the so-called Arab Spring.
Yemen’s uprising - the region’s longest running - is now into its fourth month. Receiving less coverage than its Arab neighbours, probably not helped by the low Internet penetration here and the three, soon to be two, freelancers covering the entire English speaking press. Or, as one editor said to me yesterday when I rang in from outside the football stadium, as people were being shot: “Eight people dead? Our focus is on Syria at the moment, sorry.” Yesterday’s death toll rose to 12, marking the bloodiest day in the capital since March 18.
Despite the prospect of a soon to be signed political deal (don’t hold your breath on that one) being mooted as a solution to the ‘crisis’, what has been left out of the political equation is the demonstrators themselves. The youth revolution council has rejected the political agreement and there is no sign of them giving up their fight to rid the country of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and see him prosecuted.
The gap between the politicians and the people is widening, along with it the gulf between now and the visible end of Yemen’s unrest stretches on. From the outside you might not get to see tanks rolling through the streets, or rebel fighters taking on loyalist soldiers as in Syria or Libya. But from the inside you witness the protracted social and economic collapse. Not as dramatic as bombs and guns, but equally effective at destroying a country.
As I’ve explained several times to unbelieving ears in the last two months; Yemen’s determined unarmed protesters don’t’ run from gunfire. If anything they run towards it and they’re increasingly willing to lay down and die for their cause.