The SOYMB blog makes no apology for its number of posts that draws attention to the neglected suffering of Yemenis and the culpability and complicity of the British government and British weapon sellers in this tragic war. More than 10,000 dead. Approximately 19 million people in desperate need of humanitarian aid, including 7.3 million on the brink of famine. The figures in Yemen’s two-year-old civil war are staggering – but they don’t convey the daily suffering of civilians.
“The numbers do not show the human aspect. Unlike Syria, where news about the devastation and death makes it to the media very quickly, Yemenis suffer in silence,” said Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute.
With the country’s airports as well as land and sea borders controlled by neighbouring Saudi Arabia, no Yemeni refugees are fleeing to Europe in their thousands. Without any perceptible impact on the West or overspill of violence, the conflict has remained largely invisible.
Saudi Arabia and its regional partners have used the spectre of Iran to justify an extensive bombing campaign over the country.
“Saudi Arabia is going to make certain that Yemen does not completely break down, it will keep the country in a situation of constant need,” Ms El Taraboulsi-McCarthy said. “Their interest in Yemen is solely asserting leadership and power in the Arab world.
Much of the devastation has been caused by arms sold to the kingdom by Western states such as the UK and US – a move which officials within Barack Obama’s administration worried could amount to complicity in war crimes.
The Saudi economic strangulation, blockades on Yemen’s air and seaports preventing the import of food and medicine and the targeting of vital infrastructures such as roads and bridges – and in some cases civilian buildings such as hospitals and funeral gatherings – have contributed to the dire situation Yemenis are now facing.
“It is painful to describe the things I have seen in recent months,” said Tawfeek Al-Ganad, a writer and historian, “Not only are people starving. Those who try to alleviate the situation are prevented from doing so.”
“We need the UN to commit to a timelined peace process in Yemen now. Aid is useless as long as the war remains. To help us is to end the war, not send shipments of guns, and hold a “sorry” conference every other year,” said Farea al-Muslimi, a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC.