Family relieved to be back on UK soil

Louise Henderson, Ayesha, left, and Miriam are now home from Yemen. Picture: Hemedia
Louise Henderson, Ayesha, left, and Miriam are now home from Yemen. Picture: Hemedia

A Linlithgow woman and her family trapped in a Middle East war zone have spoken about their joy at being home.

Louise Henderson (49), and her two youngest daughters, Mariam (11), and Ayisha (nine), were trapped in the basement below their home in Yemen, which doubled as a safety shelter, amid heavy fighting.

The Journal and Gazette reported five weeks ago on the mother’s desperate plight, 
after being contacted by her sister, Heather, an NHS Scotland employee, who was desperate to raise the profile of her sisters plight.

Louise and her children had been unable to flee the war zone after all flights into and out of the country had been suspended following the inherent dangers of being struck by a missile.

Then there was the added problem of a fuel shortage meaning that even when flights resumed the family were concerned they would have no way to travel to the airport.

Louise told us: “Every day we were hiding in the basement because we were scared that the bombs would land on our heads.

“We were scared there was going to be another attack. We’d feel the house shaking every time a bomb landed. At one point the blast caused the doors and the windows to blow open.

“There’s nothing you can do. It’s like somebody is holding a gun to your head with your hands tied behind your back.”

The family’s ordeal started when Houthi militias, aligned with Iran, began taking 
control of territory in Yemen, including the capital Sana’a in September 2014.

In response, a Saudi Arabian-led coalition started launching airstrikes in late March. Hospitals, schools and mosques have since been hit by shelling.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting over the past few weeks.

The mum of six had been living in Yemen for the past 27 years, after marrying her husband Wahab (52), whom she met while studying at University in Edinburgh.

He works as an engineer and has remained in the country with the couples youngest son Sammy (21).

When the trouble started, she was initially stuck because their passports had run out and commercial flights were grounded over safety fears.

She eventually received help from the International Organisation for Migration, which is evacuating third country nationals from the Yemen.

The family escaped to Basan, Saudi Arabia, transferring to Sudan and then flying back to the UK via Qatar.

Ms Henderson said she would never return to Yemen and hopes her family can build a new life. She said: “It was a beautiful country until the troubles started. I don’t want to go back to Yemen – ever.”