For the majority of us, it’s universal knowledge that the Middle East is both a political and economic point of tension – including the injustice which we see throughout Western media. Conflicts such as the crises of Syria and Afghanistan have filled headlines for years. Perhaps one of the less reported atrocities however, is that of Yemen – although its current crisis is equally as horrific and newsworthy as its neighbours.
Before the conflict, Yemen was an epicentre of culture, following the 1990 unification of north and south, the societies blossomed and Yemenis lived in peace. It was the Arab Spring, a revolution starting in 2010 that saw the introduction of both peaceful and violent protesting. Initial protesting began on the grounds of employment rights but by May 2011 it had progressed into ‘urban warfare’ against the current president.
2011 President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi was chosen to fill the new presidential position opening. Deep religious tension through opposing groups, the Shia and Sunni Muslims, fuelled more unrest. By 2013 ‘The Houthis’ advanced to the capital Sana’a in their uprising against their lack of say in the running of Yemen. President Hadi eventually fled the country; backed by Saudi Arabia he began the Yemen project.
The Yemen project, created by Saudi Arabia, was to help solve the unrest. By 2016, Saudi Arabia had continued its ‘quest for bringing peace and stability’ through the heavy bombing of both ‘rebel’ and civilian targets. ‘Regional stability’ is why Saudi Arabia claim bombing is necessary to prevent further instability arising – which is essentially fighting conflict with conflict, right? ‘National security’ is another key issue, as instability and corruption are rife, with no sense of direction terrorist groups like al-Qaeda has moved into the Yemen with a strong presence.
Here a few more facts:
- Saudi’s own kingdom has been attacked through Houthis
- Houthis have claimed responsibility for the deaths of civilians
- Houthis had positioned themselves in vital civilian services such as hospitals and schools, inevitably making them targets.
- 54% of Yemen’s population living in poverty
- Nearly 50% of Yemen’s population (Reaching over 25 million) falls into the malnourished category.
- Amnesty International claims 4,600 civilians have died in the conflict
- Amnesty also claims around 2 million children are out of school
The most shocking aspect of this conflict is the impact on the children living in Yemen. On the 20th of January 2017, a primary school took an air strike in the Nihm district. Their lives brutally cut short in a war they play no part in, being bombed all because they took the decision to go to school, the same decision many of us in the western world don’t even have to think about. Similarly in 2016 on the 14th of August 10 children were killed in air strikes while attending school in Saada province. Whilst many children in this world feel college ad school might be a mundane part of their day, children in the Yemen are forced to stay in their equally unsafe villages in the fear of being killed whilst they try to better themselves. Doctors without borders claim the victims of this conflict lie within the age categories 8-15, the school attending ages.
Who is funding this war you might be asking? There is no right or wrong side in this conflict but many of the attacks on the civilians are breaching what we call ‘International Law during a Conflict’ a set of laws put in place to try to protect civilians and their homes/facilities such as hospitals and schools. Saudi Arabia is the second largest customer to the UK owned BAE systems, which by 2014 had sold £3.8bn in arms under the leadership of David Cameron. A proposed £1.6bn was agreed and another £4bn had been discussed for new typhoon jets. The USA overshot UK’s £3.8bn by selling $115bn under Obama’s leadership. These figures prove many of our western home countries are providing cluster weapons (designed to cause large scale damage), rockets and bombs to Saudi Arabia allowing these atrocities and breaching of laws to continue.
“The irresponsible and unlawful flow of arms to the warring parties in Yemen has directly contributed to civilian suffering on a mass scale. It’s time for world leaders to stop putting their economic interests first” James Lynch, Amnesty International.
It’s a dark and horrifically inevitable that civilian death is always a consequence of both war and revolt. From either side’s perspective, the conflict is deep running and therefore the Yemen continues to suffer.
Words by Megan Tarbuck