The historical Taiz market in Yemen from handicrafts to selling arms

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — After being a center for the handicraft industry, the war in Yemen transformed the historic Shini market in the besieged city of Taiz into a headquarters for selling bullets and Kalashnikovs.

“When I entered the old city, I found craftsmen, such as tailors, embroideries and blacksmiths,” Abu Ali says.

“The war came, and most of them had to sell arms,” ​​said the man, who worked as a tailor before becoming a gun dealer.

Others chose to move from the handicraft industry to selling narcotic khat which is legal in the poorest countries of the Arabian Peninsula.

But some of the oldest artisans in the Shunaini market preferred not to sell arms, not to trade in khat as well, and left to escape the war in their city in central western Yemen.

“Half the shops have closed,” said Abu Ali, who declined to be named.

The war has been wracked by the impoverished country since the Houthi rebels seized major parts, including Sanaa in 2014, and escalated as Saudi Arabia stepped in to head a military alliance to stop supporting government forces in March 2015.

The city of Taiz is under the control of government forces, but rebels have been besieging it since 2015, often carrying out bombings that kill civilians out of the population of about 615 thousand people.

Taiz has also seen clashes in recent months between forces allied with the internationally recognized government, in a power struggle that killed and wounded dozens, according to local medical and security sources.

In addition to craftsmen’s occupations, including pottery and folk clothing, the market was a destination for spice and vegetable customers and “cheeses”, one of the most popular local products in the city.

“The occupations have been affected a lot and the arms trade has flourished at its expense,” said Abdel Rachdi, a shopkeeper in the market who still sells locally manufactured materials.

– If the war ends –

In the old market, men armed with machine guns and military vehicles enter one store after another in search of a certain weapon or a desire to buy bullets, while others are on motorcycles.

At the entrance to the shops, military uniforms and oil-colored pans were hung, and inside it were carefully placed on the shelves, side by side, Kalashnikovs, bullets, mortars, grenades and other weapons.

“It’s a weapon market,” Abu Ali said.

Some weapons are manufactured locally, and others are smuggled, but the source of most of them is unknown. The price of the Kalashnikov machine is $ 1,090, the pistol is $ 818, and the bullet is sold at half a dollar.

Like Abu Ali, the war forced Mohamed Tahar, who worked in the ceramics industry, to turn to selling arms.

“Before the war there was work and selling, but after the war we were working with ammunition,” he said, sitting at the threshold of his shop near a rocket launcher.

The war has killed about 10,000 people since 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Humanitarian officials say the toll is much higher.

There are still 3.3 million displaced people, while 24.1 million people, more than two thirds of the population, need assistance, according to the United Nations, which describes the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the worst in the world today.

A number of hospitals were destroyed and damaged. The country has faced a cholera epidemic with thousands of deaths since April 2017. Last week, the Sword of the Chillera said cholera had killed 193 people since the beginning of 2019, nine times higher than in the first six months of 2018.

At the door of a shop in the Al-Shanini market, he wrote a “modern men’s dress”, but inside the bombs and bullets replaced the pieces of cloth over the shelves.

“We will go back to our jobs if the war ends,” said Mohamed Tajer.

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