Aden, the internationally backed Yemeni government’s temporary capital, makes only the slightest pretense of accepting the authority of President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Local government offices dutifully display the president’s photo, but it is the old South Yemen flag that hangs above the main doors and throughout the city, that is painted on walls and sewn on the uniforms of the armed forces securing Aden. At the moment, Aden belongs to the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), and although the STC is part of Hadi’s government, it often behaves more like a disgruntled and well-armed opposition party waiting for others to get the city functioning again.
Aden was heavily damaged in 2015 by the Houthis, who attempted to take the city by force, and by the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes that drove Houthi forces back toward Sana’a. It saw more heavy fighting in 2019, when the UAE-backed STC wrested control of the city from Hadi’s government, their nominal allies in the war against the Houthis. In recent months, armed clashes in the city have resulted from disputes between the STC and local warlords. Little of the damage incurred during the past seven years has been repaired.
Today, Aden’s residents face severe electricity shortages, rising prices and general security concerns. And although the STC and Hadi’s government have largely refrained from open warfare in recent months, their adversarial relationship continues. These current challenges, left unchecked, could wear thin public patience with the STC’s tendency to deflect all responsibility for the city’s woes to its governing partners.
Photographer Sam Tarling spent a week in Aden in February, capturing images of a city away from the frontlines, but still suffering from the war and from a divided government’s struggle to govern.
A soldier with forces affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council performs evening prayers overlooking Aden, Yemen, on February 22, 2022. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling
A soldier with forces affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council stands on a damaged tank in Aden, Yemen, on February 22, 2022. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling
A child rides his bicycle in front of a war-damaged building in Aden on February 22, 2022. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling
Graffiti, trash and debris fill a building in the Crater neighborhood of Aden on February 24, 2022, that was heavily damaged in 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike during the Houthi occupation of the city. Very little of the damage caused to the neighborhood has been repaired in the years since. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling
A woman walks past faded murals of the South Yemen flag in Aden on February 22, 2022. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling
A tuna is placed on ice at the fish market in Aden on February 24, 2022. Fish, long an affordable staple for many Yemenis, is increasingly expensive because of soaring fuel prices. //Sana’a Center Photo by Sam Tarling
Men work on a generator along an Aden street on February 22, 2022. Electricity shortages are common in the city, particularly during the summer, but wider blackouts are feared if funding isn’t found to buy the fuel needed to keep power facilities functioning. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling
A patient is treated in the intensive care unit at Al-Jumhuriya hospital in Aden on February 23, 2022. The once-modern hospital is now largely run-down and crumbling, serving those in Aden who cannot afford treatment elsewhere. Two floors have been taken over by local militias to treat their fighters. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling
Bezait Toderos Abrera, 20, originally from Ethiopia, sits in the hut where she lives at a makeshift camp in Aden less than 100 meters down the beach from a seafront resort on February 25, 2022. Abrera came to Yemen 17 years ago with her mother, and was arrested in Sana'a last year after protesting a fatal March 2021 fire at a detention camp for migrants. Houthi authorities arrested protesters, mainly other migrants, and sent them in trucks to the southern edge of territory they control. Abrera was among a group that walked two days to Aden. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling
A soldier with forces affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council eats an ice cream bar on the back of a technical mounted with a machine gun in Aden, Yemen, on February 24, 2022. //Sana’a Center photo by Sam Tarling