My family and friends are being subjected to the world’s worst ongoing humanitarian crises and this crises happens to be in Yemen. Not everyone hears much about the Saudi aggression against Yemen in the western or eastern media, except for the sketchy articles one finds here and there. However, there are enormous reports from the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, Save the Children and Chatham House, all of which have published endless reports and studies about the catastrophic situation in Yemen.
Yemen lies on a very strategic location in the Middle East, whilst not forgetting that Yemen has very important ports and overlooks one of the most strategic shipping routes that connect to many destinations throughout the world.
The Bab Al-Mandab Strait at the Southern end of the Red Sea and the Yemeni territorial waters on both sides of the Strait are interconnecting passages to the world’s vital, commercial ports from Southeast Asia (China, Korea, Vietnam Singapore, Malaysia, etc), as well as India and the Persian Gulf States. In short, Yemeni ports can play a crucial role to connect East and West and Yemeni territorial waters can harbour much of the world’s shipping traffic that is vital to most of the economies of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
Furthermore, Yemen borders the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the North and also to the north, the Sultanate of Oman. Thus, these countries are two of the wealthiest and among the most affluent within the Arab neighbouring countries. Yemen’s proximity to the Horn of Africa gives additional strategic significance to Yemen’s location as a crossroads to three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe – via the Suez Canal). Yet this strategic location also makes Yemen vulnerable, as the neighbouring countries led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia seek to expand their domination in the region through demobilising Yemen to obtain control.
An opportunity arose during the Arab Spring Revolt in February 2011, when the uprising demanded the resignation of late authoritarian President Ali Abdullah Saleh after having ruled for 33 years. On the 27 February 2012, President Saleh was forced to relinquish the power to his deputy, Abdu Rabbo Mansoor Hadi, by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative. Although it was led to believe that this political transition will bring stability and prosperity to Yemen, which is one of the disadvantaged countries in the Middle East, it was clear that President Hadi was not equipped to rule a fractured society that had been fragmented by corrupted tribal Sheikhs and military and civil service personnel, many of whom were loyal to the former President.
Hadi struggled to defuse the economic and political factions, but as food and fuel prices increased, people demanded that President Hadi step down, as another popular uprising surfaced by the non-traditional opposition forces that included the Houthis, elements of the People’s General Congress (Former President Saleh’s party) and tribal forces and independents.
In 2014, Houthi , known as ‘Ansar Allah’, a Muslim Houthi Shia movement, seized the opportunity of President Hadi’s inexperienced and weakness of ruling and occupied the Capital City of Sana’a, overthrowing President Hadi and imposing on him house arrest. Then in 2015, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia after the UN Special Envoy Jamal Bin Omar was close to reaching a political settlement between the Yemeni political factions. Under Saudi pressure on the UN, Jamal Bin Omar was forced to resign his Yemen post.
The Saudi-led Coalition (Saudi Arabia, UAE and other GCC states, fearing the successful expansion of ‘Ansar Allah’, the Houthis, . The SLC believed this would give Iran considerable influence in the region, i.e. this domination would then regionally provide Iran with a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia was afraid also that the long influence enjoyed in Yemen was to be compromised and thus KSA embarked on a self-declared mission to protect Saudi’s interest in the region and sought to bury any Iranian extension in the Middle East.
Since 26th March 2015, Yemen has been subjected to a flurry of violence and a brutal siege, from the Saudi Government and its ‘allies’ of some ten States. The war was broken down into two stages:
Stage 1 – Decisive Storm
On 22 April 2015, the Saudi-led Coalition began with Operation Renewal Of Hope, after having ‘progressively destroyed the country’s civilian infrastructure, including main roads, ports and airports.”
Since the Saudi aggression against Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition has banned journalists from BBC, Al Jazeera and the majority mainstream media from visiting Yemen and the majority of the world’s public is left uninformed of the situation in Yemen.
In December 2016, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, made a long emotional speech about Syria but did not mention Yemen at all, despite the fact that UNICEF has noted that a child dies every ten minutes in Yemen from preventable causes, and that Yemen has 500,000 cholera cases, with over 2000 fatalities. In addition. there are now 3,000,000 internally displaced people and thousands of Yemenis are stranded in foreign countries with no means to return, as Sana’a Airport is closed.
According to Human Rights Watch Report, 14 million Yemenis are under the risk of famine, and 3 million women and girls are under threat of violence from both Saudi bombings and domestic violence.
In the south of Yemen in Aden under the control of United Arab Emirates,guards tortured, raped, and executed migrants and asylum seekers, including children, from the Horn of Africa in a detention centre. Human Rights Watch continued to receive information of migrants and asylum seekers being arbitrarily and abusively detained in both the north and south of the country.
This war could be depicted as a one-sided conflict, because the Houthi Shia movement has no access or presence in the air or on the sea, not to mention the support of western powers to the Saudi-Led War on Yemen, through large arms deals, especially with the US and UK, Canada, Germany, France, etc. Western help also comes in form of logistics and intelligence support by US and UK.
However, there is a double standard of power. When Saddam Hussain occupied Kuwait on 2 August 1990, the Western powers took a stand against Saddam Hussain and invaded Iraq. However, in contradiction, it’s clear that the Saudis and UAE are invading Yemen, killing civilians, destroying the Yemeni civilian infrastructure, and starving 14 million people. Yet this is acceptable to the Western powers as Yemeni blood is not equivalent, nor as precious to the profits made from Saudi investments and Arms deals.
Written by Lisa Gardner
Translated Mona Zaid