Harrowing escape from Yemen for mum and kids

Madam Sherin (wearing black) with her children (from left) Iman, Afaaf, Wafaa and Ahmad (partially blocked) arriving at Changi Airport Terminal 1 in April last year. They had been evacuated from Yemen, where tensions were high with clashes between th
Madam Sherin (wearing black) with her children (from left) Iman, Afaaf, Wafaa and Ahmad (partially blocked) arriving at Changi Airport Terminal 1 in April last year. They had been evacuated from Yemen, where tensions were high with clashes between the Iranian-backed Houthi militia and a Saudi-led coalition. With them at the airport was Madam Sherin's brother Nasirudheen Syed.ST FILE PHOTO

It was a harrowing experience for Singaporean Sherin Syed Abdul Ravoof and her children who were escaping from their home in Aden, a port city in conflict-torn Yemen.

Madam Sherin, 38, and her four children were in a vehicle on their way to the port in Aden, where a ship was waiting for them, even as militants roamed the streets.

"We were inching (forward) very precariously. (There was crossfire) and any time we heard gunshots, we had to stop the vehicle and make sure it was all safe," she said.

"The driver wanted to turn back many times. We had to beg him to carry on because that was our only chance to get out."

 
 

That was in April last year, when Madam Sherin and her children were evacuated to Singapore with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

More than a year after she and her four children, now aged five to 14, escaped the clashes in Yemen between the Iranian-backed Houthi militia and a Saudi-led coalition, she still has not been reunited with her Yemeni husband. The Singaporean had been living in Aden with her husband since 2008.

When the situation in Yemen became unstable last year, she was the only adult at home as her husband had gone to Saudi Arabia for a pilgrimage before tensions heightened. He was shut out when Yemen closed its borders after the fighting intensified.

Madam Sherin told The Straits Times: "I knew I had to be evacuated fast. Things were getting bad, exponentially. Across the street, we would see something blow up and there were clouds of smoke every day. It was traumatic for my children to be hearing bombs and buildings shaking."

She contacted the MFA in Singapore, which helped to get places for her and her children on a Chinese naval vessel leaving for the African state of Djibouti the following day.

At the port, they were met by the Chinese consul. They took eight hours to travel to Djibouti, before flying to Istanbul and then Singapore.

Madam Sherin and her children are now living with her mother in Telok Kurau and the children are being home-schooled.

Even though the conflict in Yemen has yet to be resolved, Madam Sherin said she hopes to return to Yemen around September to be with her husband.

But she said: "We will not go back till it's safe."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'Harrowing escape from Yemen for mum and kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe