Living under the threat of reprisal

March 19, 2003

If there is a time for everything — a time to search and a time to give up, a time for love and a time for hate — it would appear it’s time for the Americans to blow Saddam and all that is his to Kingdom Come.

And whatever you may feel about such a thing, we’re curious, a little morbidly perhaps, about what will now happen to Iraq’s mustachioed strongman.

He didn’t take the money he amassed during his reign of terror, reportedly $7- billion US, and run. Even Yemen, once reported as a possible sanctuary for him, is better than a gun to the head.

But saving face is more important than saving your skin in the Middle East. Now the only question is if Saddam will pull a Hitler and put a bullet in his own brain before the Americans get him. Hard to imagine him in the dock in The Hague, then in jail playing cards with old Yugoslavian boss Slobodan Milosevic.

Naturally, Jean and I also wonder what will unfold on our quiet street with no name here in Sana’a. But yesterday we had a shock that hit much closer to home. My boss called to say a Yemeni shot dead a Canadian and American before killing himself.

“Not again,” we thought. You’ll recall three American friends of ours were murdered in Jibla recently. Is it open season on westerners?

Apparently not, at least not in regards to yesterday’s tragedy in Marib, several hours from us. It appears to be a disgruntled worker at an American oil company more than anger over Iraq.

Nonetheless, expatriates in Yemen, and there are more than you’d think, are being very cautious. Short of packing our bags and coming home tomorrow, for me — a tall, blonde, blue-eyed pale-skin in a sea of small dark Yemenis — that means self-imposed house arrest.

If I venture outdoors, rather than my Team Canada cap, I’ll now wear the common red-and-white checkered Arab head-wrap, a mushadda. A Palestinian flag could also go a long way in a jam. So could my favourite Arab phrase, ‘assalaam alaykum ahree,’ which means ‘Peace be upon you brother.’

Jean, who in public always wears a balto, a black body drape, is less noticeable. One place we’ll find hard to avoid is the recreation centre where we work out. It’s at a western hotel. Apparently, the Sheraton was going to be bombed by a Kuwaiti terrorist in November. An embassy advisory recently noted to stay clear of such popular hangouts.

“It is not the time to assume that a trip to Pizza Hut will end like it always has.” Most embassies here have already told their people to leave. Canadians tend to float under auspices of other nationalities since Ottawa hasn’t yet seen it worthwhile to put an embassy in Yemen.

Ottawa simply advises Canadians never to come here in the first place.

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March 19, 2003 • Posted in ,
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