When I was 5 years old, I experienced war for the very first time. It was 1986 in Aden, South Yemen, and political rivalries turned into violent conflict. One day, the house where my mom, sister and I were staying was badly damaged after a rocket hit a nearby military vehicle. I remember looking at what used to be the living room, and the wall and windows were gone. My mom picked up my little sister, grabbed my hand, and started running. There was no time to put on shoes. I stepped on glass and other sharp objects, cutting my feet.
The memory still haunts me. But it wasn't the only time I felt afraid in Yemen. When violence flared up in 2011, I sat with my two sons, ages 8 and 2, in the hallway of our apartment, surrounding them with pillows for protection. We were in Sanaa, the capital city, and armed conflict was breaking out all around us. I could hear explosions in the distance.