Amidst the chaos in Syria and the controversy in Israel-Palestine, Yemen is a key region in the Middle East which is often overlooked by major news media. There are more people dying there from preventable health diseases than from war itself. It is estimated that every 10 minutes a Yemeni child dies of a disease which is easily preventable in the real world. How did this all come to be?
Yemen is a country that borders Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Arabian Sea, lying on the southernmost part of the Arabian peninsula. The nation was formed after the traditionalist North Yemen and the communist South Yemen united in 1990. Now, the small and troubled Middle-Eastern country is currently battered with many problems, with many nations urging the international community to help the Yemeni people.
But what exactly is happening in Yemen?
Despite uniting, the North and South still had heavy tensions, resulting in a short civil war back in 1994. In 2009, a rebel group known as the Houthis appeared and clashed with the North, resulting in the deaths of hundreds and about a quarter million displaced. The Houthi is a Zaidi-Shia rebel group who claim to be fighting for the Zaidi-Shia minority and emerged from North Yemen. In 2011, huge waves of protests, inspired by the Arab spring, forced the autocratic and authoritarian President Ali Abdallah Saleh to resign. Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi took his place and attempted to bring order to the powder keg of a nation.
In January 2015, however, he resigned and fled Yemen when the Houthis took Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, plunging the nation into civil war that continues to this day. The war is between the Houthis and the supporters of Hadi’s government. Houthi, being a Shia militant group, became an enemy of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni muslim nations in the area, who have formed a Saudi led coalition against the Houthi, supported by the United States of America. The Houthi claim to fight because the Zaid-Shia are discriminated and oppressed and are now fighting back, however, nations like Saudi Arabia disagree. They claim the Houthi are being supported with money and weapons from Iran and this is a new front for the struggle of dominance in the Middle East that rages between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The coalition declared support for the government loyalists and joined in the war.
The civil war continues today with little end in sight. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia started to bomb the Houthi controlled regions in Yemen in an effort to help the loyalists to win the war. However, the bombing has created thousands of civilian casualties, with more than a few human rights violations. But while Saudi Arabia is doing the bombing, the United States of America also has a part to play in this as well. The US government has been selling arms to Saudi Arabia since the Second World War and today, Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of US produced weaponry, including the F-15s and the cluster bombs Saudi Arabia is currently using in Yemen.
Canada isn’t guilt free either, as last year, Canada sold $15 billion worth of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, which are most definitely used in the conflict in Yemen. The bombings carried out by the Saudi Arabian military destroyed schools, universities, markets and worst of all, the seaport of al-Hudaydah, a port Yemen relies on to import a lot of their food. This just increased the starvation in the already poor, war torn nation. The US even helps refuel their jets! They do so by using KC-135 Stratotankers, giant jets that are for refueling fighter jets while still in the air. The US use them to refuel the Saudi F-15s in mid-air so that they don’t need to land and refuel, increasing the amount of time the F-15s have for their carnage in Yemen.
The US has started speaking out against the campaign, however, and have started to ask the Saudi Arabians to “minimize civilian casualty”. But the US’s weak responses to the Saudi Arabian military’s atrocities in Yemen has resulted in US almost being complicit to it. The reason why this is happening is because of two factors. The first factor is the long standing relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. The other factor is the fear of Yemen becoming a safe haven for terrorists. Already, the militant group al-Qaeda already controls some parts of Yemen, and it’s al-Qaeda’s most active branch at that. So the US wishes to make sure that the militant groups don’t take advantage of power vacuums that appear in the war torn nation.
If the Yemeni people didn’t have it hard enough, WHO has recently announced that there appears to be a cholera outbreak in Yemen. An estimated 26 000 people have been infected since the outbreak back in October. Little can be done to help the country as it’s health facilities have been torn apart by the war. WHO states that less than 45% of their health facilities are still functioning.
According to the UN, more than 8 010 people have been killed in the conflict since March 2015. Most of the people who were killed are civilians. Not to mention the 44 500 people injured as well. Now, with the cholera outbreak, the numbers are going to get bigger. Yemen is now one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world. But a question must be asked. Why doesn’t this conflict get as much attention as other humanitarian crises in the Middle East. With the conflict in Iraq and Syria (where the US is very loud about the topic of Bashar al-Assad and his human rights abuses) getting all the international attention, no attention is being given to Yemen.
As the world asks about what to do with Syria, the world turns a blind eye to the crisis in Yemen, where civilians are either dying of bombings, or diseases. It is time that the Yemeni calls for help are finally answered.