#YemenCantWait: When will the world wake up to this crisis?

#YemenCantWait: When will the world wake up to this crisis? October 17, 2018

You could be forgiven for not knowing much about Yemen. The situation there has long been recognised as the worst humanitarian crisis on earth, but so far the world’s media has largely ignored it. Even with all eyes on Saudi Arabia this week following the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, there has been little mention of the horrors being inflicted on the people of Yemen.

When you see the true extent to the UK and US governments’ involvement in the ‘forgotten’ Yemen war, it raises some disturbing questions.

Yemen is a hell on earth, and it’s only going to get worse. Over 10,000 people have already died in the three-year conflict, and 22 million people (three quarters of the population) are in need of humanitarian aid. There have been over 18,000 air strikes launched by the Saudi coalition since 2015, many of which have killed civilians, including children. Schools and hospitals continue to be targeted. In July, the CEO of Save the Children called Yemen ‘the worst place to be a child on earth’. The economy and infrastructure are in tatters: people are queuing for days for food only to be turned away, and some are being forced to eat leaves to survive. Mothers are having to help their premature newborn babies to breathe because of a lack of medical assistance. Thousands have died from cholera. And as if that wasn’t enough, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen told the BBC earlier this week that an estimated 12 to 13 million civilians could be at risk of dying from starvation over the coming months if the war continues, making it the world’s worst famine in 100 years.

A huge amount of international effort is being poured into providing aid to the Yemeni people. But while the fighting continues, the humanitarian crisis is only going to get worse.

Who’s fighting whom – and how are the US and UK involved?

The war began in 2015 when a group of Houthi rebels took advantage of a weak and unpopular president and seized control of some key areas of Yemen. They were supported by many disillusioned Yemenis (and allegedly also by Iran). In response, neighbouring Saudi Arabia formed a coalition with eight other Arab countries and began an air campaign in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government. They were supported militarily and logistically by the US, the UK and France. The war has raged ever since. Both sides have committed war crimes, civilians continue to endure unimaginable suffering, and there is no end in sight. The conflict needs to find a political solution, but neither side appears to have any interest in peaceful negotiation.

For the horrific suffering of innocent Yemenis to end, the war needs to end – and this brings us much closer to home. The US and UK governments, who have supported this conflict from the start, could effectively end it if they chose to by withdrawing support for Saudi Arabia. Earlier this year Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition in Britain, accused the current government of “colluding” with Saudi Arabia in committing war crimes. He said that Britain “not only supports the war… but British military personnel advise the Saudi air force and military on targeting… which as we know has led to very large numbers of civilian casualties and very clear evidence of the targeting of schools and hospitals.”

Similarly, Trump and his secretary of state have continued to provide assistance to Saudi Arabia in the form of intelligence, military training, mid-air jet refuelling and billions of dollars’ worth of arms, despite serious concerns within congress about human rights violations.

Both nations have profited greatly from their trade with Saudi Arabia since the war began – British weapons companies have made well over £6bn,  and during a visit to Saudi Arabia last year Trump agreed to nearly $110bn of weapons sales over ten years.

Are we OK with this? Why is no-one talking about it? Where is the outrage, the public protests demanding justice for those dropping bombs on children, and an end to the war that is condemning millions to starve?

It’s possible that the current scandal surrounding the death of Jamal Khashoggi could lead to a withdrawal of support for Saudi Arabia from the UK and US. If this happens (which seems unlikely, considering the endless list of Saudi human rights breaches already swept under the carpet), how tragically ironic that the death of one Saudi man would have a greater impact than the desperate plight of an entire nation.

In an interview for the BBC’s ‘The Inquiry’ in April 2017, Nabeel Khoury (a former senior diplomat at the US embassy in Yemen) called the US and the UK the “main enablers” for the war, and stated that he didn’t “see much hope in the current governments in the US or the UK to change their policies unless there is a groundswell of pressure from the population”.

In the same programme, Yemen analyst Sama’a Al-Hamdani says: “What a shame on humanity, on the entire world to turn their back to this, when people are dying like that. Shame on us all.”

The presenter Ruth Alexander provides this summary: “Britain and the US could put pressure on Saudi Arabia, but to date, they’ve done the exact opposite, and actively supported its military. The UN has tried to draw attention to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Yemen, but that’s all it can do. That only leaves public opinion. That could change, putting pressure on governments to act, but so far, Yemen is struggling for attention in a world distracted by, or perhaps hardened by, dark conflicts elsewhere.”

So it would appear that the fate of the Yemeni population relies on public opinion. That’s us. People like you and me reading the stories, letting our hearts be broken and being moved to action. Getting informed, writing to our MP or congressperson, seeking out movements to be part of (or starting them), forcing our leaders to pay attention. The crisis is overwhelming, but by standing up and speaking out, we could become a part of the solution.


The world needs to wake up now.

Image via Pixabay

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I think that, in the midst of an election year (for Americans), this is the perfect time to sound the alarm.

    Last year, the popular show Prison Break included the war in the storyline.

  • Random_Lurker

    Not to try and minimize the horror, but by way of explanation at least, here’s my theory. There’s really nothing we as mere American citizens can do at the moment. We are fighting a fascist party for control of our own government, and we can’t even keep an attempted rapist from being appointed to high leadership by them. What good can we do in Yemen, until we get our own house in order? None, because they will ignore us. Furthermore, it’s hard to worry about an atrocity half a world away when actual real-life Nazi’s are beating people in Brooklyn, and flag-waving Brownshirts are setting up sniper nests over protests in Portland. We are a half step away from that same violence ourselves and all our effort needs to be focused on preventing it. If we don’t, we’ll no longer be in a position to help anyone else.

    Nothing can be done to stop this atrocity until the vote suppressing, foreign-power colluding, treasonous administration we have is removed. They can, will, have and currently are blocking any intervention we could possibly make. Removing them is a necessary first step for every other reform – including this one.

  • Scott

    Fascists, rapists, brownshirts. Yeah, that helps. The US policy towards the war in Yemen was solidified during the Obama administration. Back in 2016, before Trump Vox was writing about our misguided support of the Saudis in regard to Yemen. Trump isn’t responsible for every bad dead that goes occurs. You may need to seek some help for Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  • Random_Lurker

    My point is that he’s stopping us from fixing those problems.

  • Scott

    I just think nobody gives a damn, unfortunately, and hyperbole and rhetoric doesn’t help the situation. I’ve read more about Yemen in the past 12 months, which makes me very suspicious. Seems like the last administration was given a pass by the press. No surprise there. This is why we truly need an impartial press corp, which we lack.

  • The Mouse Avenger

    I’m sharing this on Facebook & Twitter!

  • Random_Lurker

    Obama was given a pass for a lot of things, especially his use of drones to target individual people and his middle east policies. Yemen is a true travesty, but my only point is we can’t fix it until we fix our own government. Trump is, as we speak, conspiring to cover up a murder that was probably (based on available evidence so far) committed by the Saudi government. There’s no chance he’s going to change policy on Saudi Arabia or Yemen, so if we want to fix the problem, the first step will have to be changing out him.

  • jcarpenter

    DT has been so driven to negate or over-ride any and all of Obama’s other policies, yet this one he has left alone.

  • christine gomez

    War is a crime! The UN is bluffing all of us! The UN has done absolutely nothing to “Unite Nations”. Most conflicts are manipulated by organized mafias and it does not involve just one country. I can tell you the LGBT is one big mafia!