Images of death and terror on buildings ripped open by shells: As the world speaks of hopes for peace in Yemen, Alaa Rubil, a street artist, is keen to show the reality of a country still devastated by war .

Alaa Rubil, 30, has been decorating walls since he was a teenager, but found inspiration during fighting in his hometown of Aden in 2015 between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces.

The former, backed by Iran, the latter, backed by Saudi Arabia, have been waging a bitter war for more than eight years, which has plunged the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula into a humanitarian tragedy.

Aden, a now relatively calm southern port city, where the government established its headquarters after rebels captured the capital Sanaa in 2014, has been the scene of a fierce battle.

After the fighting, Alaa Rubil wanted to pay tribute to the civilian victims.

“I noticed that the government was not interested in people who have been displaced,” the artist told AFP. “I then wanted to convey my message by drawing people who were suffering from having lost their homes and their families,” he explains.

“By using the walls, I could reach the whole world,” he says.

The rubble-strewn streets of Aden are a semi-permanent display of Alaa Rubil’s work. On the wall of a shop located in a particularly affected area, he painted the outline of a man’s face hidden behind three sticks of dynamite.

Across the street, on the interior wall of a bombed-out building, a work by the artist depicts a skeleton playing the violin while peace signs float around its skull.

A third graffiti shows a girl in a red dress, sitting on the ground, her head resting in her left hand, next to a black crow perched on a missile. Behind her, her dead parents, in black and white, look out of an open window.

“She believes that war is just a game. She imagines that her family will come back and waits for them to return,” says Alaa Rubil, adding that she was inspired by the true story of a young girl who lost his family in the fighting in Aden.

For Amr Saïd, a resident of the district, these graffiti “express the tragedy of those whose houses have been destroyed and who have been displaced”. They prove that the war did take place.”

“When you pass here, you feel the pain, you think of the people who were here,” the 42-year-old official told AFP.

The war in Yemen has killed hundreds of thousands of people, most of them victims of the humanitarian consequences of the conflict such as hunger and disease. Millions more are still displaced across the country.

A six-month truce came into effect in April 2022 and, although it has not been officially renewed, it has significantly reduced the violence. In recent months, diplomatic initiatives have raised hopes for peace.

Saudi Arabia sent a delegation to Sanaa in April to meet the Houthis. Saudi Ambassador Mohammed al-Jaber assured AFP that all parties were “serious” in their desire to end the conflict.

In the dilapidated streets of Aden, his brushes and pots of paint in a small basket, Alaa Rubil wants to be optimistic too.

“I would like this place to go from destruction to a haven of peace”, he hopes, giving art the power to help the city to rebuild itself. But so far, “nothing has changed here”.

Passing by to go home, Yasmine Chaker, confirms: “Nothing has changed”.

“We are threatened by buildings that could collapse at any time,” the 53-year-old civil servant told AFP. “No one has come, no one has done anything so far.”

“We want our houses fixed, our roads, everything!”

26/05/2023 04:53:06 —         Aden (AFP)           © 2023 AFP