Magazine

Has the West forgotten the war in Yemen?

air_strike_in_sanaa_11-5-2015

Ben Krasa

A country on the brink of a famine. With a population of 27 million, 18 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. Three million have been forced to flee their homes. An estimated 10,000 are dead. Serious allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law have been made. It is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of the twenty-first century. Yet no one is talking about it. The Yemeni war began with a bang, but has quietly slipped through our media. The occasional news report here and there highlights what horrendous times the country is facing and the suffering endured by what is left of its population. But the crisis is largely ignored by the West.

Surprisingly, a politician who has come under intense scrutiny, Boris Johnson, has been the politician to question Saudi Arabia’s motives and actions in the war. Johnson recently criticised Saudi Arabia’s involvement but quickly came under fire by his own party. Despite having personal views that conflict with the party lines, it is evident that the man who gave the US State Department the biggest smile, is indeed one of the few politicians in the West, who is showing leadership. Despite stating that the party’s views do not align with Johnson’s, some Conservative party figures defended him as well as some from the opposition. Unfortunately, the spotlight will shine on the Yemeni war only if public figures will speak out about the horrific events taking place in Yemen. With Saudi money invested in many powerful Western nations, especially in England and the USA, it is a breath of fresh air that not all politicians turn a blind eye to the silently reported catastrophic war in Yemen.

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A destroyed house in Sanaa, an example of what the war leaves behind throughout Yemen. Photo by Ibrahem Qasim.

Various reports have indicated that the West in centrally involved in the hushed up Yemeni war. The finger is constantly pointed towards the UK, whose bombs are being dropped by the Saudis. Saudi Arabia’s influence is prominent in the UK and the USA, and even with the ongoing horrors, neither country would want to displease a nation that is important for them. Even if Boris Johnson is an unpopular politician, it is clear that his views on the Saudi involvement are one-hundred per cent accurate. Both the US and the UK are proud of their advocacy for human rights and equality. Britain, which proudly reminds others of its involvement in establishing human rights via the Magna Carta, will continue to do so despite innocents being killed by its bombs, which in turn create a famine cycle.  This again highlights that nations who are proud of their battle for human rights in history will put their head in the sand for national interest. The exacerbation of the war by the West would undoubtedly stop if they would think of the innocents being killed rather than of their own national interests.

Despite its best efforts, the United Nations has hit stumbling blocks in its attempts to help the Yemeni people. Many ceasefires have been agreed but ultimately broken between the sides involved. Warring factions have blocked UN convoys from entering villages. The little interest shown by states indicates that they do not actually care about what is happening in Yemen, and are happy that the war remains largely undetected. The lack of influential leadership from the UN again makes us question the organisation’s worth as it can do little to improve conditions in dire situations.

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A mobile UN health clinic set up outside Sadeh, where the fighting makes it dangerous for civilians to reach health services. Photo by Julien Harneis.

But how is the Yemeni war being forgotten about? The terrible Syrian war is taking up column inches and is constantly reported on. And rightly so. There are parallels between the Syrian and Yemeni wars. Yet the Syrian war is taking up most coverage. It could be argued that the West is cherry picking which wars to report. Why can’t it report on both? Both are horrific. Innocents are suffering in both wars. The West is involved in both – albeit for very different reasons. Media outlets should not choose which war to report, if that is what is happening, but both should be reported. Does the media feel that only so much human suffering can be touched upon for the public not involved? Or does it feel some wars deserve more public attention than others?  Maybe the public is apathetic when it comes to wars in far flung lands. The hundreds of columns about celebrities and the latest trends highlight that perhaps people are more interested in less worthy topics. Yet, it is up to boisterous politicians, such as Johnson, to ensure that the public understand what is happening in Yemen. Hopefully the public will soon learn about the atrocities and apply pressure on governments to act before Yemen is full of debris and bodies.

Click here for more by Ben Krasa

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