24.1 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. 15+ million people are on the brink of starvation. 1 child dies every 15 minutes from cholera and famine. 3.6 million people have fled their homes.
The Yemen crisis reduced to numbers should shake the ground underneath your feet. If it did not, then a Google image of a starving Yemeni baby with a swollen head and a body sunk into a skeleton will move you. As the country heads into an abyss you will find many heart-aching accounts of life in Yemen and this is one of the many:
“Um Majed, a displaced Yemeni woman picks up stale bread from a garbage dump and begins eating it. As she narrates her misery to the reporter, children are seen in the background enthusiastically looking through the dump for bits of food. Um Majed, her husband, and their 13 children are one of the Yemenis who had to leave their home town due to the violence. The garbage is their only hope for food, and clothes too.”
Many families are mired in shattering poverty since the Yemen civil war began in 2015.
So, what events conspired to give Yemen the title of the biggest and the worst humanitarian crisis in the world?
There are many miscreant players involved in the Yemen civil war. Beginning with Ali Abdullah Saleh, he was Yemen’s president from 1990-2012. A cynical leader who equated ruling over Yemen with ‘dancing on the heads of snakes.’ Two factors acted as a catalyst in ending Saleh’s presidency: One, an uprising against his rule by the Yemenis in the Arab Spring of 2011. Two, Saudi Arabia leading the GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) backed by the USA, and the EU seeking to drive Saleh out of power. This ultimately led to Saleh’s forced resignation in 2012.
Yemen’s vice president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was assembled into power at the behest of the GCC deal. An ostentatious election was conducted with only Hadi on the ballot. But even under the Hadi government Yemenis remained distraught as the old elites restituted their power. As tensions escalated in the state, some of Yemen’s factions decided ‘no more.’ This entails the entry of another major player in the war, the Houthis – A Shia Muslim Minority from Northern Yemen. They claimed to have been marginalized and were actively involved in the revolutions against Saleh. The entire scenario took a swivel when the Houthis and Saleh became allies as they felt sidelined by the GCC’s plans. In 2014, the Houthis and Saleh joined forces and conquered Yemen’s capital Sanaa. Hadi ran away to Saudi Arabia. Saudi formed a coalition with 20 Arab nations in the fight to restore its puppet Hadi to power.
The two warring parties i.e. the Saudi led-coalition and the Houthis backed by Iran drove Yemen to its lasting calamity. The Yemen Data Project released that since 2015 the Saudi led intervention has conducted over 18,500 unbridled airstrikes in Yemen’s cities. They allege that the strikes are against the enemy but they have ruthlessly bombed schools, homes, hospitals, markets, roads, factories, and farms wrecking every corner of Yemen.
Millions of civilians, families, and children have been killed and crippled by these airstrikes. The Houthis have blood on their hands too. They arbitrarily detain and torture citizens and have killed thousands by their barbaric shelling.
THE PRESENT DYNAMICS.
The decades-old Saudi-Iran proxy war has been feeding on the internal conflicts in Yemen. Iran is backing the Houthis by arming them with technology and weaponry. Iran denies any involvement in smuggling weapons like rocket launchers, yielded rifles, and anti-tank guided missiles to the Houthis but successive reports from the UN experts prove otherwise. Another major player entered in 2017, the STC (Southern Transitional Council) a political body established to seek independence in South Yemen. These southern separatists are backed by UAE, a former ally to the Saudi-led coalition. Also, in 2017, Saleh publicly broke-off ties with the Houthis on live television, and two days later he was assassinated by the Houthi Rebels.
THE GUILTY WEST.
A recent UN report which flooded various headlines stated that ‘US, UK and France may be complicit in Yemen war crimes.’ In my opinion, there should be no room for a ‘maybe.’ They hold enough culpability for every life lost and suffering in Yemen by providing logistical and armed support to Saudi Arabia. France has participated by selling tanks, howitzer cannons, and laser-guided missile systems. The UK has supplied weapons and offered ‘targeting training’ to Saudi soldiers. The US has aided immense military support, fighter planes, cluster bombs, and billions of dollars’ worth weaponry. The US is also directly involved in radiating terror as they refuel Saudi planes that bomb Yemen. Their arguments in a nutshell claim that their efforts are to curb terrorism in Yemen and offer defence to Saudi. But the truth is that swathes of Yemenis live in terror from the weapons supplied by these Western countries.
In 2020, the poorest war-torn Arab country faces the coronavirus pandemic, a cholera outbreak, and a famine. For many, a plate of boiled leaves is the meal for the day. Half of their hospitals are in tatters due to the ground violence and aerial bombings. 80-90% of Yemen’s population depends on imports for basic needs. Saudi’s vile tactic of blockading only makes matters worse. Their naval and air barriers imposing intense restrictions on the supply of food, fuel, and medicines have only led to starvation, sickness, and death.
On April 9, a two-week unilateral ceasefire was put forth by the Saudi-led coalition. However, the ceasefire was extended by a month to focus efforts on curbing the pandemic. On 22nd June, Monday, the warring parties have reportedly agreed on a ceasefire and will begin talks on a peace agreement to call a truce. The question is will Yemen finally see an end to its prolonged suffering? Or as the UN warns, by the end of 2020, we will lose 18.4 million innocent Yemenis to this catastrophe.
In quotes source- TRT World Now