SHAFAQNA – Yemen …. One needs to pause at the mention of the war-torn nation. One needs to pause and wonder where humanity has gone to before the sheer extent of the suffering, misery and unpalatable ignominy a people has been subjected to by the hands of Oil giant Saudi Arabia.
If media have intermittently reported on the unravelling humanitarian catastrophe which Yemen has become, little has been said of the many and grave war crimes the impoverished nation has had to endure so that Riyadh could assert political hegemony. But today the blood of the innocent has surfaced too thick, and too stubborn to be dismissed by a co-opted press.
Yemenis are being decimated. Yemenis have been butchered, slain, murdered, tortured, starved, trafficked and sold out by those powers, which to this very day, continue to claim sanctity and immunity for they wield power.
Power has now become a justification in itself – the rationale by which all logic and all narratives are measured against. Might makes everything right by absolute necessity!
For all the efforts which have been spent rationalising Yemen’s war, a war we were told of political restoration – a necessary war to assert and preserve democracy, media spin doctors have long abandoned their campaigns to instead concentrate on hiding Yemen from view altogether.
Indeed, humanity still shudders at the sight of charred bodies and starved children. Humanity still masters concern and righteous anger before wanton killing and genocide. But if Yemen was meant to stay a hidden scar on humanity ‘s conscience, Yemenis proved to be more resilient in their pride and determination to assert their sovereign rights than Riyadh and Co. could ever have anticipated.
Began an atrocious war of attrition pitting the might of several military super-powers to the stubborn will of Southern Arabia. If readers permit, we ought to recognise in Yemen the strength of all our humanity. Who could have suspected unassuming Yemenis to hide within their hearts and their arms such boundless strength? It is likely Yemen would be remembered as the fire which brought the House of Saud to a screeching halt.
It is likely History will recall how from Yemen Highlands tribesmen reclaim Arabia’s pride and in the fire of revolution cleanse the filth of tyranny.
Yemen is dying! This statement no longer sits alone on the lips of rights activists; it has become an acknowledged reality – the very work of Saudi Arabia’s illegal humanitarian blockade against a nation which had the indecency of demanding that it be allowed to exercise political self-determination.
A report from the BBC this September read: “The war in Yemen has pushed the country to the brink of famine.” While the BBC has been careful to downgrade its numbers to not frighten readers, media no longer can bring themselves to ignoring Yemen’s plight.”
According to a survey conducted by the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies in coordination with the Mona Relief Organization (a Yemeni-based NGO) Yemen’s death toll stands at over 14, 000, with an estimated number of casualties nearing 50,000.
Sheba Rights has estimated the loss of life to be just over 9,000 for the last 365 days of the conflict.
If such numbers are harrowing in themselves the reality they imply is unbearable.
“Saudi Arabia appears to be using US-supplied white phosphorous munitions in its war in Yemen, based on images and videos posted to social media, raising concerns among human rights groups that the highly incendiary material could be used against civilians,” read a report published by The Independent this September.
A highly toxic and deadly chemical agent, white phosphorus is considered an illegal weapon of war. Of course this has not stopped Saudi Arabia from drowning Yemeni civilians in it to secure victory. Interestingly enough and in a parallel which will certainly lead readers to ponder over the nature of Riyadh regime, only Israel has ever dared of late use white phosphorus on civilian populations. If nothing else tyrants seem to agree on their toys of mass destruction!
If burning women and children alive was not cruel enough Saudi Arabia has also taken a liking to cluster bombs.
“The US has sold Saudi Arabia cluster munitions, a weapon most countries have rejected due to the harm they cause civilians,” said Steve Goose, in May 2016 arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition, the international coalition of groups working to eradicate cluster munitions. “Saudi Arabia should stop using cluster munitions in Yemen or anywhere else, and the US should stop producing and exporting them.”
The words war crimes have now become a euphemism for Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen. And though many parties and organizations have made their case – evidences in hands, international bodies such as the United Nations have yet to intervene.
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition has unlawfully hit civilian economic structures in Yemen which may amount to war crimes, says Human Rights Watch. The attacks killed 130 people and 171 more were hurt, according to the latest HRW report.
The group urges Saudi Arabia to agree to independent international inquiry into the attacks and says the country should be suspended from membership on the UN Human Rights Council.
The 59-page report titled ‘Bombing Businesses: Saudi Coalition Airstrikes on Yemen’s Civilian Economic Structures’ studies in detail 17 airstrikes on 13 civilian economic sites: factories, warehouses, a farm and two power facilities.
These facilities employed some 2,500 people, and after the strikes, many of them ceased operations, with hundreds losing their jobs.
The strikes killed 130 people and injured 171 others.
All of the attacks involved breaches of international humanitarian law, or the laws of war, and some of them could amount to war crimes, the report said.
Dr Riaz Karim from the Mona Relief Organization has documented frightening war crimes over the past 18 months: “Children bear the signs of chemical burns on their malnourished bodies, civilian populations have been earmarked for slaughter by drones and warplanes, businesses and civilian infrastructures have been exploded, bridges destroyed, water tanks poisoned by Saudi mercenaries and crops were hosed down with deadly chemicals. There is no crime the kingdom has not committed, no atrocity it has not stooped to and still the United States is happy selling those monsters more weapons,” he noted.
Amid mounting evidences of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the United States government approved this September the sale of $1.15 billion worth of weapon, under the premise that it is good business.
By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Programs for the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies