The brutal war in Yemen is now approaching its sixth year, with no clear end in sight, and as millions of Yemeni civilians find themselves displaced, terrified, desperately ill, and excruciatingly malnourished. It’s not at all surprising the conflict has been described as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
“The war there does not stop. Our houses are destroyed, we don’t have anywhere to stay, nothing,” Houriya Muhammad, a 40-year-old mother-of-three from Saada, told The New York Times. “We are dying of the cold. My kids and I sleep wedged together with three or four blankets on us.”
Her heartbreaking words not only speak to her own reality but also that of another 3.6 million Yemenis who find themselves refugees within their own country as a result of fighting between the Western backed Saudi-UAE coalition and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
This a proxy war in which the fingerprints of alleged war criminality lay on every bombed-out school, water duct, electricity grid, bakery, mosque, and residential building. In 2018, the world caught a brief glimpse of these horrors when every international news media outlet on the planet showed grainy footage recorded from a cell phone showing 51 children, aged 6 to 15, playing and chatting together on their school bus seconds before it was struck by a US manufactured missile fired from a Saudi warplane.
“A US made laser guided bomb did this to a bus full of school children,” tweeted Hussein Albikaiti, a Saana based journalist, the day of the attack. “The bus was directly hit by a Saudi-UAE jet, fueled by USA plane, coordinates by US and UK satellites. One bomb sent these happy children to the graves after burning them alive and cutting them to pieces.”
The deaths of more than 100,000 civilians has done nothing to stop the flow of billions of dollars worth of US and UK manufactured bombs and missiles reaching the Middle East’s most impoverished country.
The deaths of more than 100,000 civilians has done nothing to stop the flow of billions of dollars worth of US and UK manufactured bombs and missiles reaching the Middle East’s most impoverished country, where more than 23 million find themselves in urgent need of humanitarian aid and stalked by the world’s largest outbreak of cholera.
Despite Western complicity in this ongoing psycho-catastrophe, American and British mainstream news media outlets have carried next to zero coverage of the conflict, as exemplified by the fact that even MSNBC, a left-leaning cable news network, has not run a single segment related to the conflict in Yemen since early 2017, according to FAIR, a media analysis service.
While Saudi-led and US/UK complicit war crimes have received a measurable amount of scrutiny and coverage, atrocities and human rights abuses carried out by Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attracted almost none. A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), however, sheds light on these crimes.
“Houthi forces have used banned antipersonnel landmines and fired artillery indiscriminately into cities such as Taizz and Hodeida, killing and wounding civilians, and indiscriminately launched ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia,” observes HRW. “Houthi forces have held people hostage. Yemeni officials in Aden have beaten, raped, and tortured detained migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa, including women and children.”
“The Houthi militia is a racist group that has no regard for peaceful coexistence, human rights, civil society, and democracy.”
When I spoke with Mohammed Al-Rumim, a Yemeni journalist based in Taiz, he told me, “The Houthi militia is a racist group that has no regard for peaceful coexistence, human rights, civil society, and democracy,” adding that it has “killed thousands of civilians, including women and children,” alongside dozens of journalists.
“Houthi rebels have planted more than 850,000 landmines in eleven different Yemeni provinces,” says al-Rumim.
When I asked how his friends, colleagues, and family members felt towards the respective belligerents, he told me, “Yemenis were initially hopeful the Arab coalition would end the Houthi coup in 2015, but today they feel that UAE and Saudi Arabia are part of the problem, not the solution.”
Also part of the problem is US President Donald Trump, who, in August 2019, vetoed a bi-partisan congressional bill to end US military involvement in the war in Yemen. Had the president not favored the Kingdom over the will of the American people, then it is probable Saudi Arabia would have had no other choice but to negotiate a peace with Iran and the Houthi militias. Indeed, the Saudi-UAE coalition’s war fighting capability is dependent on US control and command platforms, satellites, and in-flight refueling capabilities.
If there is a glimpse of a silver lining to this five-year long human-made tragedy, then it’s the fact that diplomatic efforts have led to a decrease in air strikes in recent months, which, in turn, has allowed much needed humanitarian aid to reach places that were previously unreachable.
The international community must continue to pressure all belligerents into complying with their obligations and responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law.
Until peace is finally restored, however, the international community must continue to pressure all belligerents into complying with their obligations and responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law.