SHAFAQNA – Speaking on the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Muhammad, a date marked across the Islamic world by prayers and religious processions, Seyyed Abdel Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis and Yemen Resistance movement, warned that his country would continue to stand its ground against Saudi Arabia, no matter the hardship and the sacrifices.
Defiant before Saudi Arabia’s grand military coalition, Seyyed al-Houthi’s message came as peace talks in Geneva led to yet another diplomatic failure, yet another attempt to coerce Yemen into forfeiting its national sovereignty.
And while Saudi Arabia has been keen to portray its intervention in Yemen as one of benevolence and righteous concern, nine months of merciless destruction and one inhumane blockade against this poorest nation of Southern Arabia, paints a very different picture indeed.
Riyadh seeks not to free Yemen from the shackles of dictatorship, it only ambitions to enslave its people by controlling its political and institutional future. Saudi Arabia’s colonial agenda against Yemen was best demonstrated in 2011, when its officials exerted immense pressure onto both Sana’a and the United Nations to introduce a power transfer which would fit within its desired parameters. Democracy was never of course part of the equation – Riyadh only ever ambitioned to replace then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh with a more pliable figure, a puppet who would do al-SAud’s bidding and play by al-Saud’s rules.
For all his political failures, President Saleh did warn back in 2011 that by opening Yemen to the will of the GCC council (headed by Saudi Arabia) Yemen would in fact become a vassal of the kingdom – another pawn on Riyadh’s Wahhabi chessboard.
But for Yemen this realisation might have come much too late indeed.
Besieged by a military coalition which has so far has been shielded from any, and all forms of accountability, Yemen stands very much alone in a sea of fire.
Still, some voices have attempted to break this tacit code of silence, opening a window onto the ravages Riyadh committed against its neighbour.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, told the UN Security Council on December 22sd, that the Saudi-led coalition’s military campaign in Yemen appeared to be responsible for a “disproportionate amount” of attacks on civilian areas. Speaking at the UNSC’s first meeting on Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition began its campaign nine months ago, Hussein said he had “observed with extreme concern” heavy shelling from the ground and air in areas of Yemen with a high concentration of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools.
“I further call on the council to do everything within its power to help restrain the use of force by all parties and to urge all sides to abide by the basic principles of international humanitarian law,” Hussein noted.
This is not the first time that such accusations have been laid against Saudi Arabia. In October Amnesty International – a prominent rights group – issued a damning report against the kingdom, stressing that the Saudi military had authorized a series of airstrikes against civilians, a decision which qualifies as a war crime under the Geneva Convention.
Amnesty said in its October report that it had examined 13 deadly air strikes by the coalition, assembled by Saudi Arabia, that had killed about 100 civilians, including 59 children.
“This report uncovers yet more evidence of unlawful airstrikes carried out by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, some of which amount to war crimes. It demonstrates in harrowing detail how crucial it is to stop arms being used to commit serious violations of this kind,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera, who headed the group’s fact-finding mission to Yemen.
“The USA and other states exporting weapons to any of the parties to the Yemen conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the arms transfers they authorise are not facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law,” she added.
The extent of Saudi Arabia’s war crimes against Yemen run deeper still.
In Spring 2015, another prominent rights group, Human rights Watch, slammed the kingdom for its systematic and callous use of unlawful weapon of war in northern Yemen. Credible evidence indicates that the Saudi-led coalition used banned cluster munitions supplied by the United States in airstrikes against Houthi forces in Yemen,” Human Rights Watch told media.
“Saudi-led cluster munition air-strikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “These weapons should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members – and the supplier, the US – are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians.” he added.
Despite overwhelming evidences of abuse, war crimes and aggravated human rights violations, the United Nations has not but move one muscle against Saudi Arabia. While Yemenis have been made to suffer intolerable hardship, the UN Security Council has called onto Yemen to lay down its weapons and bow to al-Saud’s imperial might.
Only Yemen is a proud and tenacious nation.
It is such message of resistance Seyyed Abdel Malek al-Houthi conveyed today when he addressed both the world and his people.
Yemen is not a country at war for it ambitions more territories or more influence. Yemen is not a country at war because a faction usurped officials’ constitutional legitimacy as it has often been alleged. Yemen is a country at war against oppression and colonialism.
Yemen is resisting and opposing a political and religious agenda which intends to lay waste its people and its traditions.
History one may hope will remember Yemen’s stand as one of bravery against unfathomable oppression.
As Seyyed al-Houthi put it: “Yemen will meet the oppressors for as long as it takes …”
By Catherine Shakdam – This article first appeared in the American Herald Tribune