The ‘Remote Yemeni Territory’ known as the Socotra archipelago is understood as an intriguing obsession amongst not just ecotourism enthusiasts, academicians, scientists, but also UAE’s occupying forces. Although a desirous UNESCO world heritage site, the Socotra Island is currently torn between a civil war and Covid-19 pandemic.
Home to ancient cave writing and painting from various regions across the world, the remote Yemeni territory has quite scant tourist infrastructure. As per the island’s Deputy Governor, the war halted many development plans of the island’s tourism industry. Even as they look forward to companies that can help the island to achieve its touristy vision, the UAE seems focused at occupying regions and destroying their safety.
Recently, the Houthi government had attacked the UAE for encouraging illegal entry of Israeli tourists on Emirati visas into the remote Yemeni territory. As per statements, thousands of Israelis visited Socotra via weekly flights run by the UAE without any permission from Yemen’s government. Illegal tourism of this form is a violation of Yemen’s sovereignty. The intervention received extended criticism from President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
It is well known that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are keen to draw relative benefits from the country with the ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis’. According to a statement released by the Yemeni Tourism Ministry, the transfer of tourists clearly reveals UAE’s alignment with dominant Zionist schemes and is a violation of the international law.
The act is UAE’s way of stepping upon Yemen’s only source of tourism revenue that is generated from tourist visits to the Socotra Island. Since the pandemic has reduced Socotra’s tourist visits to just 120, this move will cripple the industry further.
Apart from this remote Yemeni territory, the UAE is establishing a relatively permanent presence in Mayun islands, situated in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. On May 25, The Guardian reported — ‘Mysterious airbase being built on volcanic island off Yemen’. As the region is one of the world’s crucial maritime chokepoints for energy shipments and commercial cargo, controlling it would imply direct power into the strait and an easy access to launch airstrikes in Yemen.
The Yemeni government has condemned the UAE and Israel’s plans of establishing the spy base. Prime Minister Abdulaziz Bin Habtoor stated, “creation of any facility by the Saudi-led coalition on occupied lands would not only directly affect the security and safety of Yemen, but threaten entire region”. Further, he held the UN and the Security Council accountable for war in Yemen.
Even as the Yemeni government aims to attract tourists to surrounding islands, locals fear that potential threats by the UAE might lead the remote Yemeni territory towards unsustainable tourism. It is crucial for the world to raise its voice against the destruction of Yemen’s terrestrial and natural resources which could become an ideal tourist spot in the years to come. If the conservationists don’t come forward sooner, the world might lose another precious gem from its cocoon.