Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author

Almost Can See it - Djibouti

  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Newly arrived in Djibouti, Brothers Zakariya and Ali Abulrahman Albaguess, 20 & 19, make it a daily ritual to leave the refugee camp and take the hour walk to this deserted beach outside the town of Obock. Back home in Yemen, their family and clan are mostly fishermen. "we come to the sea to remember, reflect and grieve", said Zakariya
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    “I am not too upset about not being to swim these days. I just wish my brothers could fish as we used to”, said 6 years old Mediene as he watches his older brother Ali about to dive. Mediene fractured his arm when fetching water for his family in Obock refugee camp.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Ali takes a swim then quickly sinks in thought. “Yemen is just on the other side. I almost can see it. It is the same sea, why can we fish and work there, but not here?”, he sighed.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Meanwhile, the other side of the Gulf of Aden is still sending refugees. This boat carrying over 160 Yemeni refugees moored on a sizzling Friday midday. It is operated by an indian crew which charges between $150 per adult for a one-way trip from Aden in Yemen to Obock in Djibouti.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Even with the boat moored, those on board are still undecided about what to do. Abdelah Mohamed Soaybi (middle) is 82 years old. Despite reports of relative security in the Yemeni region of Aden, he insists that the country remains very volatile. “In fact, it was because fighting has eased a bit that we felt it was the right time to leave without risking too much. Many more from Aden and elsewhere in Yemen will do the same. But where would they run to exactly? I don't know the answer for myself”, he explained.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Besides the unknown fate, the crossing was a very rough experience in itself. It was the first time for most refugee women and children to travel by sea. The 12 hours journey on the red sea was marked by constant cries of fear and despair. “I spent all the trip covering my eyes with one hand, and using the other to cover the eyes of my youngest child. I did not dare to see what's out there. I still don't dare to see what the future holds”, said one refugee mother.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Leaving also means inevitably leaving some loved one behind. Having family at both sides of the Gulf of Aden, this Yemeni refugee has taken the risk crossing back and forth several times. "I used to be a well-off merchant, now I am a nobody, so it is not important that I mention my name or anything else about me. There was a family, a story, a history of which we were all proud of. Today it is the shame of scattering and running away", he regretted.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Some on this boat already had plans to leave Yemen, but the aggravating violence did know allow them much time to prepare . Coming from various regions of the country, they spent two weeks attempting to find a safe port from where they could head to Djibouti, then apply for student visas to enrol at Indian universities. They had each packed only necessary items amongst their belongings to remain as mobile as possible. "We met people on this ship who are Indian who know a thing or two about getting there. We hear there is an established Yemeni community there, still, it is a massive and poor country, we want to study and live there with dignity. First step is Djibouti, India is still far off", said one of the students
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Using a pseudo sailing name, Magni Govi is one of the crew members on the boat. He has been working on ships between Yemen and the Horn of Africa for six years. “Not sure for how long we will be able to sustain this business. These days, the only port in Yemen where such medium size boats can load, moor and sail is Aden. It's becoming increasingly dangerous and some of us are thinking to stop. The Yemenis fleeing would then have to get on those small risky fishing boats”, he warned.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Just arrived. The ship's crew shares some food with children as their parents fill in paperwork with Djiboutian authorities. “We run away from Yemen because we were told some foreigners along with other Yemenis want to kill us. Maybe they could follow us here. Our parents and uncles say to not trust anybody”, said one of them.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Meanwhile, other refugee children have already been for months in the camp outside Obock. According to specialised protection officers, most kids arrived to Djibouti traumatised and in need of intensive psychological support. Parents complain that their children cry, hide or run aimlessly when they hear any roaring sound as they associate it with war planes.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Arid, dry, baking hot and prone to rough sandstorms even if it is right on the coast of Obock in norther Djibouti. It is called Markazi camp, new home of most Yemeni refugees who chose to register formally and seek aid. As per late 2015, It hosted almost 3,000 Yemeni refugees from various regions of Yemen. The population of urban refugees elsewhere in Djibouti is considerably bigger, but these statistics could begin shifting soon. As their savings shrink, urban refugees are likely to seek shelter, food and basic services at this UN run camp in Obock.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Inside each of the tents in Markarzi camps lies a story of a broken past and a gloomy future. Nasr Mohsen Mohamed, 47, and his family have fled Yemen twice for Djibouti and now live in this camp. Nasr used to own and run a small local transport company, but has lost his assets after war broke out in March 2015. “I used to be a very busy man, but now, I spend my day pondering over how to get out of this situation. I usually get awaken from my day-dreaming by one of the kids asking me something I cannot give”.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Over half of the camp's population are children, teenagers and young adults who have seen their education suddenly interrupted. Sarah Marza, 17, fled Yemen in April 2015 with her mother and siblings following air strikes in her neighbourhood in the capital Sanaa. Her father died in a bombing while attempting to flee and join them.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Marwa Salem, 21, fled with her mother and sisters in early October 2015 after having lost a cousin and other family members who died in an air strike which hit a wedding ceremony outside her native coastal city of Al Hudaydah.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Naama Jamal, 20, fled Yemen in April 2015 with her mother and two siblings following air strikes in her neighbourhood in the capital Sanaa. She had just graduated from high school and was about to start university.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Fayza Ali, 20, fled Yemen in April 2015 following air strikes which targeted state buildings nearby her house in the capital Sanaa. Over 200 people from her neighbourhood fled to Djibouti in the wake of these attacks.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    From left to right, Fayza, Marwa, Naama and Sarah, have fled violence at various parts of Yemen between April and October 2015. All four have graduated from high school in Yemen, and were looking forward to attending university.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    On the other hand, parents live with the hefty burden of not being able to attend for their family's expectations in terms of health, nutrition and education. Hassan Abdul Hassan, 54, drags his family away from a sandstorm. They fled the Yemeni town of Taiz after members of their in-laws died in airstrike nearby their house.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Hassan's grandson, similarly to many babies in the camp, suffers chronic diarrhoea and dehydration. The above-average salt levels in potable water available in Djibouti is believed to aggravate the condition. “We understand that the water here is like this, that's what locals drink too, but could you imagine our feeling as a family going to sleep every night fearing the baby may not see the day?”, asked Hassan.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Not all Yemeni refugees in Djibouti have accepted the conditions of living in Markazi camp. After fleeing their country, some find themselves fleeing again the omnipresent feeling of abnormality. So they decide to head to the city. Despite tight road controls by Djibouti's authorities to keep refugees fleeing from Yemen inside Markazi camp in Obock, many attempt to smuggle themselves to the capital hiding in containers and trucks.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    In the capital Djibouti city, the exact number of those who fled Yemen is unknown. Some consider Djibouti as a mere transit country, others fear to register with local authorities and be eventually forced to live in camps. Some remain entirely in the dark as to what's next.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Not all who fled Yemen are from a Yemeni origin. Iraqui refugee Maher Mahmoud Alwan, 51, fled Yemen in July 2015. As a painter, he had already lived in exile for 20 years, mostly in Yemen. Each of his paintings remind him of “one chapter in the long journey of exile. I am left with faces, people, expressions, emotions, but no land to link memories to”, he said.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Maher looks at the last selfie he took with his family in April 2015 right before they were evacuated to Ethiopia, home country of his wife, met and wed in Yemen. Since then, he has been trying to reunite with them, but Ethiopian authorities have denied him entry. “My situation here in Djibouti is a stalemate. Even if I don't have a penny, I sometimes consider to cross walking to Ethiopia. But I don't trust my decisions anymore, whatever I do may not be a good idea”.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    On his fleeing journey from Yemen to Djibouti, Maher met 45 years old Amer Abdaljabar, who also happens to be Iraqi, a refugee, and a separated husband and father from his Ethiopian wife and children. The two share a cheap hotel room in Djibouti city where they spend all day waiting and hoping Ethiopian authorities would eventually grant them visas and allow them to join their families. Their accommodation was being temporarily covered by a humanitarian organisation, risking therefore eviction any day.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Could Djibouti really become home? Small in size and population, limited in opportunities and resources, this east African country is not where Maher and Amer want to reunite and settle with their respective families. “This place is tiny, we are very visible. I don't blame the locals to see us as a burden. In Ethiopia, we have our families, we will be somehow part of a community through our in-laws. Call it wishful thinking, but all we can do is wish and try”, added Maher.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Back in Obock, some do not enjoy the physical mobility they once had, they are therefore constrained to stay in the camp, at least for the time being. One of them is Yemeni refugee Seif Zeid Abdulah, 27. He was riding home on his motorbike when an airstrike pounded his native region of Bab El Mandeb. A sudden blast sent him flying. His left leg shattered by shrapnel, he fled to Djibouti after having lost hope to find adequate and affordable treatment in his war-stricken country.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Besides psychological trauma inflicted on some and physical injuries suffered by others, the lurking question on everybody's mind is: how long are we here for? To feel somehow rooted and active in the camp, Yemeni refugee Noor Eddine decided to open a tent-restaurant. It became quickly popular as it is open most of the day. This youngster is heading there for a late morning coffee.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    At Noor Eddine's restaurant, refugees of different ages come to have a bite. Some stop just to relax in the shade and converse with others. The reasonable prices and unpretentious layout are extra incentives. "I know there are permits and paperwork to do before someone opens such a place, but I'd like to see such businesses pop up everyday around the camp. Since we are not allowed to carry any activity outside, let's make this place as alive as Yemen used to be, even if we are here for just another week", said one of regulars at Noor Eddine's.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    "The driving force behind the ambition and optimism for this little business in my wife Malouka", noted Noor Eddine. "We are both Yemenis of Ethiopian origin, sometimes our friends tell us it may be easier for you to rebuild your life across the border in Ethiopia", revealed Malouka, "but we are not from there, we are Yemenis, we'd like to live and struggle amongst Yemenis, and hopefully go back to Yemen one day soon all together", added Malouka positively as she gave one of her children water before the midday busy lunch hour.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Malouka and NoorEddine take in turns the responsability of the children and the business. During a quiet hour, Noor Eddine holds one of their six children as other kids chat and play around the restaurant's space.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    NoorEddine and Malouka are not alone in being adamant to revive the camp. A group of youngsters, managed by community elderly, managed to strike a deal with humanitarian organisations which operate the camp. Against a symbolic incentive payment, this group is to build the structure needed on the site. Here, a new community shelter is being mounted.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Meanwhile, Brothers Zakariya and Ali are heading back to the camp after the beach visit. Wondering and chatting about their news lives as they walk, Zakariya said that he misses other things besides fishing and relying on himself to make a living, "I also miss that possibility to dream and project myself in the future, have a little a house of my own, get married and start a happy family. I am 20, still young, but it is getting difficult to dream here. I don't know if I can achieve all these things in the camp or elsewhere that's not Yemen", questioned Zakariya.
  • Almost Can See it - Djibouti - Oualid Khelifi - Multimedia Author
    Despite hardship, some of the aspirations of young Yemeni refugees prove to be doable, even in the camp. Imad, Mohammed, their respective wives and one mother-in-law pose for souvenir pictures outside Obock's registry office where they had just signed their marriages. “Elderly men and women tell us that life must go on, and I agree", said Mohammed. "As for the fate of my future children who may be born here in Djibouti, I have to remain equally hopeful and positive. It is important to remind ourselves that first and foremost, we need to be grateful for being alive, healthy and surrounded by good people", he added