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I wondered why Western media called the Yemen conflict an 'invisible war'. Then I saw it for myself

The conflict in Yemen is often called ‘the forgotten war’. Photographer Asmaa Waguih explains her determination to tell the stories that would otherwise be lost

A child joins his father at a tribal meeting in Hasaba, where pro-Houthi tribes gather to show their allegiance

A child joins his father at a tribal meeting in Hasaba, where pro-Houthi tribes gather to show their allegiance

I’m not particularly a war photographer. However, my reporting has taken me into the middle of war many times.

I based myself in Iraq for three years as a freelance reporter after the fall of Baghdad. During my eight years as a news photographer for Reuters News Agency, I was twice embedded with US Marines in Afghanistan and documented the uprisings in Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring. Turning freelancer in 2016, I covered the conflict between forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. I also travelled to multiple cities in Yemen to photograph the two warring factions amid the civil war.

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From my Cairo base, I have visited Yemen a few times since 2016, reporting on the civil war between its internationally recognised government, backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and the Houthi militia, a religious and political movement alleged to be receiving military support from Iran.

When I started to go to Yemen, I remember telling a friend, an American photographer based in Egypt, of my plan. He said, “Good luck, it’s all yours.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. Then I started to notice how only a small number of foreign journalists were keen to report on Yemen, despite the staggering scale of the war over the last decade.

Western news media call the conflict in Yemen (if they mention it at all) an ‘invisible war’ or ‘forgotten war’. I always wondered if this is because the foreign media neglected the proxy conflict on purpose, or if foreign journalists worry about being kidnapped as al-Qaeda members were still active, or because there was more attention given to other conflicts over the last decade, like the war in Syria, ISIS or, more recently, Ukraine.

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Nevertheless, I have made it my lifelong project to cover stories I’m interested in regardless of their importance worldwide. I didn’t focus on Yemen’s war-induced famine, I found even more pressing stories that had a wider impact on the people, like the landmines laid by Houthi forces that disproportionately affected civilian lives. The goal was to share the human experiences.

Women clutching children in the ruins of Barran Temple, near Marib, reputed to be the location of the Queen of Sheba’s throne and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Women clutching children in the ruins of Barran Temple, near Marib, reputed to be the location of the Queen of Sheba’s throne and a UNESCO World Heritage Site

A government officer defuses a landmine inside the home ofa Yemeni man in Taiz

A government officer defuses a landmine inside the home of a Yemeni man in Taiz

Waguih (centre) sitting among pro-government forces who monitor frontline positions in Lahj City in Yemen

Waguih (centre) sitting among pro-government forces who monitor frontline positions in Lahj City in Yemen.

Unfinished War: A Journey Through Civil War in Yemen by Asmaa Waguih is out on 15 June

Unfinished War: A Journey Through Civil War in Yemen by Asmaa Waguih is out on 15 June (Helion & Company, £25)

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