SHAFAQNA – The War on Children [Yemen], broadcasted on August 23 2016, on ABC’s television program Foreign Corespondent , shed a long awaited light on the silent and deadly war on the children of Yemen.
Yemen’s war, which has been inaccurately painted as civil war by mainstream media is actually a war of democratic restoration and rebuttal of foreign diktat – and more particularly Saudi influence.
It all began in early 2015 when the Ansarallah movement, also known as the Houthis enacted popular will by assuming authority over Sana’a government. It is following calls for reforms, and the enactment of the National Dialogue that President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi chose to resign not once but twice, leaving the nation devoid of a presidency.
It needs to be remembered that it is to fill such an institutional vacuum that Ansarallah de facto took leadership – not out of a desire to promote any particular agenda. From the very beginning of its tutelage, the Ansarallah movement has made a point at including all parties and factions in order to reflect popular will.
Faced with a powerful popular democratic movement Saudi Arabia saw no other alternative but to wage a vengeful war of attrition against impoverished Yemen.
Since March 25, 2015 Saudi Arabia, and its allies have staged brutal airstrikes – more often than not against civilian targets.
In this process, thousands upon thousands of civilians have been killed -many brutally injured, countless of them children. Although it is currently very difficult to enter Yemen, Sophia McNeil and her crew managed nevertheless to travel to the war-torn nation to witness first-hand the devastation brought about by the Saudi-led coalition.
In the opening scene of the report, viewers witness an airstrike explosion while Sophie McNeil reports that ten children were killed and more than twenty injured as a result of Saudi warplanes hitting a local school. McNeil alarmingly states that “these children are casualties in a middle eastern war that you probably haven’t heard of”. In this exclusive report, we learn about a silent humanitarian crisis in which children are fighting on the front line, others starving, while the rest are traumatized to the extent that the thought of a new day is but a wishful fantasy for them.
McNeil experiences this reality as she talks to the people of Sana’a and visits different areas, she describes what she sees as an “unfolding tragedy of a city under siege.” During a visit to a Sana’a hospital she met eight-year old Faris, who has severe burns, stomach injuries, and a severely fractured leg caused by a missile that hit his home while he and his family were asleep. He is lucky to be alive, as his mother and brother died during the attack. We see Faris wounded and confused, lying on his hospital bed by his grand-father’s side, bravely asking him “will I live?”. Only meters away in the hospital, McNeil finds ten-year old Murad whose crime was simply picking up a shiny object on the grass while he was playing outside, that turned out to be a bomb, he says “I picked it up while I was playing and it exploded and I got injured.” Sophie narrates that it was a cluster bomb, and that “Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases of Saudi coalition dropping these widely banned munitions in Yemen.” As a result of this distressing attack, Murad’s cousin who was playing outside with him got killed, and Murad now has shrapnel pressed into his brain. Although Faris and Murad’s stories are chilling, they are but two of the thousands of experiences undergone by Yemeni children as a result of this lethal war.
A question that is probably on the minds of many readers is: why Saudi Arabia is so viciously immersed in Yemen?
For those who remain politically informed, the answer is rather simple: their motivation is driven by fear and animosity against Yemen’s democratic aspirations and a people’s will to reclaim its religious identity. Unknown to many Yemen is majority Zaidi. Yemen actually is home to many schools of thoughts: Sufis, Ismaili’s, Abadi, Sunnis – all of which have suffered under the genocidal wrath of al-Saud’s Wahhabi clergy.
Yemen’s Resistance movement it needs to be said once more is not an Iranian proxy. Such claims have been laid out to discredit the legitimacy of a people’s right to political self-determination.
Saudi Arabia however has benefited from much help from its powerful friends. It isn’t fighting alone. It is backed by US and UK military experts, who have advised them on which targets to hit. Not only is this highly questionable, but also utterly inhumane. How could countries whose foundations are based on democracy and human rights assist Saudi Arabia in targeting innocent civilians? How could they so openly commit war crimes while the rest of the world observes in silence? Political analyst, Hisham Al-Omeisy, features in the report, explaining that the Saudi attacks have increased local support for the Houthis, as they angered and united the Yemeni people. He further states that “I was a very vocal anti-houthi at the beginning of the war, but when the bombs landed next door with utter disregard for my life, for my families [and] for my kids, I’d stand with the Houthis.”
While these first-hand revelations may be heart wrenching and shocking for viewers, McNeil reports that the result of this war does not simply stop at bombings and feelings of constant fear and suffering, rather, it extends to consequences such as an economic downfall for Yemen, as well as an air and sea blockade by the Saudi coalition. McNeil reports that the Saudi blockade is crippling Yemen’s health system in many ways.
In the words of Jamie McGoldrick, from the UN, “The medicines are so severely priced, that they’re way beyond peoples means. There are many people dying here, silent deaths, and through preventable diseases that should never have happen.”
But Yemen’s troubles do not end with Saudi Arabia’s bombing, Yemen also faces the danger of Daesh and Al-Qaida.
The report ends in a moving speech of a father whose son was recently killed while fighting on the front line. He says “If somebody invaded your country, would you surrender? If your kids and country were destroyed and under a siege for years, would you be silent? Why is the whole world watching the persecution of Yemenis in silence? What would you do if ISIS invaded your country? We’re being asked to surrender ourselves to ISIS! They’re asking us to just surrender our weapons.” McNeil says that with each death comes a deeper hatred and a yearning for vengeance.
Although the civil disputes in Yemen are dreadful, there must be a global call to stop British and American arms sales and assistance to the Saudi War, and Saudi’s must be held accountable for their war-crimes. Yemen is not a war field, and Yemeni children certainly should not pay the price of this bloody war.
Alaa Al-Boarab – Exclusively for Shafaqna, edited by Catherine Shakdam