Wolfgang Gressmann/Oxfam

World News


Yemen: The Forgotten War

The situation in Yemen is catastrophic. Yet, we hear very little about this situation in the western media and not many people know much about the millions of Yemenis starving and dying because of the constant drone strikes by Saudi Arabia, the United States, the Gulf states, and the United Kingdom. When the conflict in Yemen began in March of 2015, Great Britain had sold over 3 billion pounds of arms to Saudi Arabia and had sold over 2 billion pounds of warplanes, helicopters, and drones to infiltrate the situation in Yemen. Due to British nuclear aide, Saudi Arabia has twice as many warplanes as the British Royal Airforce. The question of Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia has been raised in parliament, for example by the Scottish National Party and the Labor Party. United Nations Aide Chief Stephen O’Brien has stated that “a child under the age of 10 [is] dying every 10 minutes of preventable causes.” Also, Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, with a GDP below $2,000.

A Saudi-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes in Yemen for almost two years dating back to March, 2015. The Saudi coalition’s shutting down of Sanaa Airport has disrupted the flow of medicine and humanitarian aid trying to reach Yemen and the amount of wheat could run out because foreign banks cannot accept financial transactions. A large number of bombs and drones have been utilized by the Saudi air force and a number of innocent civilians have been killed in Yemen by a large number of British and American built planes with pilots trained by British and American instructors. Also, British arms sales to Saudi Arabia could be in violation of UK law. If any arms are intended to breach a campaign on innocent civilians, then you cannot allow these arms sales to go through.

There have been numerous accounts of hospital and school bombings but the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United States and the United Kingdom refuse to investigate the risks of selling arms that reduce humanitarian efforts to access Yemen and allow for diplomacy to set in. Yet, many of the western powers and Saudi Arabia are not held accountable for violating international law in the poor Middle East country.

Famine has become a serious problem in the already poor Arabian Peninsula country. According to the humanitarian organization Save the Children, parents are making wages of only $3 a day, 51 out of 1,000 children have died before their 5th birthday, and girls only stay in school for an average of 9 years. Also, around 80% of the Yemeni population is in need of humanitarian aid, and around 10 million children are on the brink of starvation. The bombing raids of hospitals, schools, and homes has taken the lives of many innocent civilians including women and children. Children used to go out and play with their friends, but now they are afraid to do so. Yemenis hate the sound of Saudi, British, and American warplanes flying over their land and many Yemeni citizens are constantly risking death every day.

According to Mark Kaye, a Humanitarian Advocacy Advisor, Yemen is now facing the world’s biggest famine crisis. “It’s the largest humanitarian crisis in the world right now, 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance [and] I think there is a problem with the amount of coverage that is coming out of Yemen [for] people really to see the human impact of this war.”

Over a dozen Yemeni civilians and an American service member have already been killed in a U.S. operation against Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has released an immediate statement calling the incident a saddened loss, and “an estimated 14 AQAP members were killed and the capture of information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.” In addition, U.S. CENTCOM called the operation “one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide. Similar operations have produced intelligence on al-Qa’ida logistics, recruiting and financing efforts.”

The military campaign in Yemen began in March, 2015 with a Saudi-led coalition that supported the exiled president Ali Abdullah Saleh against the uprising of Shia Houthi rebels supported by Iran. The United States has supported the Saudi mission, which has resulted in accusations of innocent civilians being targeted by the Saudi-led coalition. The Yemen conflict has also allowed Al-Qaeda to expand significantly into the poor Arabian Peninsula country. This is the first acknowledgement of U.S. presence on the ground, and troops have been deployed without congressional approval.

The deceased American soldier on Yemeni soil, supposedly in an Al-Qaeda controlled region is a huge development but it is a negative one. It is obviously good to fight Al-Qaeda, but how did the United States make a decision to target a knowingly Al-Qaeda controlled area with women and children? Also, why is the United States involved in an actual ground operation assault in Yemen without congressional permission? With the Saudi-led coalition still supported by western countries, despite a humanitarian cry, some are resorting to desperate measures to save civilian lives. Peace activists who opposed arms sales to Saudi Arabia were arrested in the United Kingdom. One of the peace activists arrested, Reverend Dan Woodhouse, stated that “Stopping or even delaying Saudi Arabia having more planes with which to bomb Yemen would save innocent lives and prevent war crimes.” The United Kingdom and the United States have been the leading arms sales imports to Saudi Arabia since the Saudi-led intervention took place almost two years ago.

The death of a U.S. service member is significant, but what about the deaths of innocent Yemeni women and children because they also matter? This is a phenomenon that the west and the Saudi-led coalition has ignored for almost two years. Unfortunately, Yemen is in a serious crisis, and the uprisings of 2011 have created a vacuum for an increased Al-Qaeda presence in the region. Yemeni lives matter because they are the people living in this war zone. The selling of arms and the efforts of the west to continue bombing innocent civilians has to stop because western intervention has made the conflict worse and yet, humanitarian aid has not been able to reach the poverty-stricken country.