SHAFAQNA – Truth is power, so why did the UN not seek the knowledge of what is going on in Yemen, by forming an international committee to investigate war crimes in Yemen.
I think the majority of people around the world are not interested in political issues, but nonetheless there is an international growing lack of trust in the UN as a body. UN employees and missions have been affected by maladministration in UN offices and misdemeanours by UN officials; these stories are often seen in the social media. The results of these problems at the UN is an increase in dishonesty and manipulation of the truth, a lack of balance, inequality, racism, war crimes, and an absence of justice. This is now recognised by a number of nations throughout the world.
Out of a population of 25 million Yemeni people, 90% of them are not political nor are they linked to fighting forces, but they have been shocked by attitude of the UN secretary general and UN envoys to Yemen in this conflict. All the things that have been destroyed in Yemen seems to be for no purpose; thousands of Yemeni innocents including women and children have been killed for no reason; we have personally witnessed hundreds of despicable war crimes and they cannot see any reason why they needed to happen. Who will compensate all Yemeni individuals, or the Yemeni nation, for everything from the destruction of homes to the destruction of vital projects that have been bombed out of existence. What kind of international courts or international organization will dare to stop war crimes in Yemen, and ensure justice for Yemen innocents?
We hear of UN conferences, statements and announcements on social issues, such as ensuring justice for all and helping the world’s youth. It is almost laughable when this is compared with our reality today. In the UN strategic plan for 2030 they say they want to achieve so much in their youth programmes. Yet they have made no effort to protect Yemeni women and children from Saudis aggression, nor have they stood beside the victims to publicise the facts on the ground. How exactly will the UN be able to convince Yemeni youths about justice, truth, alleviating poverty, and the need for clear law, whilst the UN was not able to stop a Saudi dictatorship; their support of this regime that those in Yemen believe is associated with a form of religious extremism that spawns hate, revenge, lies, racism and discrimination all over the world.
What we learn is opposite what we live and face on our lives. This important announcement by a Yemen Mental illness team motivated me to write this article. They sent a message and an appeal to UN; please UN general assembly and all members and representatives to UN, can you pressurise Saudi Arabia to open the international Sanaa airport so that sick people can travel outside Yemen for treatment?
On September 9, 2016, The UN stated that ” the United Nations has included “mental health and wellbeing” in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.4, with the aim of reducing deaths from mental health issues by one third by 2030. It is time to turn this SDG into reality. At a side event held 7 September, ahead of the General Assembly, at UN Headquarters in New York, member states and UN representatives, civil society members, as well as mental health experts discussed implementation of this Goal on a global scale”
Yemeni civilians call to you, if you couldn’t stop war crimes in Yemen, please could you discuss how to lift the blockade that was imposed by Saudi Arabia on 25th March 2015, and open Sanaa International airport that has been closed by Saudis.
According to UN reports in 2016, Yemenis are encountering horrible war crimes at all kind of levels such ruined homes, schools and hospitals. I know many Yemeni friends of mine who have sick children. One of them has a daughter with cancer and he wants to travel to Egypt for treatment; he sold his home to pay for the tickets. Earlier, he sold part of his land to get tickets to go Jordan to treat his son. Unfortunately, they found Sanaa International Airport has been closed by the Saudis. Really horrible and shocking stories are appearing from Yemen, whilst the UN Secretary General only stated that he regretted and condemned killing of children and women in Yemeni hospitals and schools. The UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-Moon and UN Envoys to Yemen haven’t any choice. They feel under pressure by international and regional powers. By comparison, the GCC or one of Saudi monarchs has the ability to overthrow decisions made at UN conferences, and invalidate all the statements by Ban Ki-Moon. For example, the UN envoy to Yemen Mr Gamal Benomar stated in his last report that all Yemeni parties were about to find a solution to their political differences, and they had agreed to end all conflicts, but before his plan was put into practice, Hadi fled to Riyadh, the Saudis started their bombing campaign against Yemen, and Benomar resigned in protest at the lack of support for Yemen by the international community, and he was replaced by another envoy.
The Republic of Yemen is a sovereign and independent state that has been a full member of UN since 1947. It has an internal political system and is ruled by free elections according to the Yemen Constitution that was formed after the unification of Yemen in 1990. All Yemeni domestic political issues are subject to the Yemeni Constitution and the laws in Yemen. The internal conflict within Yemen did not need external coalitions to launch war against Yemen.
In the modern era, every democratic state is ruled by domestic constitutions and laws that are devised to protect the integrity of nations and states. Yemen is one of the countries which ruled by three powers, judicial power, legislative power and executive power. Since the Yemen uprising in 2011 and the handover of power by Saleh to Hadi, these had been under scrutiny. This review was driven internal political groupings that were backed by international powers such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. These countries had also financed Yemeni political groups and militias and that action in itself had furthered the destabilisation of Yemen; they worked to change the basic Yemeni democratic system and principles of law and replace them with contracts and treaties that appeared to favour the GCC.
In the name of freedom and democracy the Saudi-led coalition has only caused chaos and instability. Because of international pressure the UN was not neutral, many of their announcements and decisions appeared to be against the needs of Yemeni people. If we noticed carefully what happened after the Saudi led bombardment began, while the events on Yemen were horrific and deserved concern, the UN was silent. Evidence was collected by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Oxfam, the ICRC amongst other organisations of many war crimes that violated humanitarian and human right laws, directly caused by the actions of the Saudi led coalition, but UN seems unable to respond to these violations. While the international community has been blinded about the war crimes against Yemen, there are many background issues that fire the anger of the ordinary man in the street in Yemen. It seems that the UN Security Council and the UN’s most prominent officials have been influenced by Saudi money and stand behind Saudi policies, rather than standing up to wealth and power. If UN officials don’t appear to respect the UN charters, then how can the Yemeni nation and Yemeni people respect UN decisions. We feel powerful GCC nations have flounted UN rules in order to gain advantage, and Yemeni lives and property has not been considered important. Super Power policy is simply not fair on the weak and poor.
The UN needs reform. It is clear, that UN Security Council is biased to serve the permanent members of that council. The UN forgets its real missions; they have left behind their responsibilities towards humanity. They don’t care about the world’s other nations, as if they are only half human. While there are many reports of illegal actions in the UN, such corruption and racism. All nations have right to be part of UN Security Council according to the human right rules, all nations suffering should be treated equally. The UN Charter needs review to ensure it is fit for purpose, and matches the dreams of new generations.
The UN needs to respond to a changing world. The UN charters and rules were formulated in 1945 and are not appropriate for 2016. It is not fair that notions, ideas and thinking of the five permanent members of the UN security council that were appointed in1945, are unchanged and unchallenged in 2016. Globalisation has meant that all the world has become as one village – the UN needs to be more connected by developing different instruments and finding easier ways to understand what is happening around the world.
The world is changing. For example, according to the last population survey, the Indian nation has a population of about 800 millions, whilst Islamic nations are more than one billion people around the world. They have no adequate representation in the UN. These nations want reform. People are the same around the world no matter what gender, ideology, nationality or colour. Modern technology seemed to be enjoyed by a few rich countries, whilst other nations are banned from getting advantages of the best developments and modern technology. Bad and good people are everywhere, and no nation has more than its fair share of dangerous people. It is not fair that individual states have right to gain modern, terrible weapons for self-defence and the right to use them how, when and where they want, whilst other nations such as Yemen are denied the right to gain any sort of weapons for their self-defence. Why should some nations have access to uranium and the right to nuclear power, even though they have acted aggressively in many part of the world, while others who haven’t demonstrated such aggressive behaviour have nonetheless been denied the right to develop their own weapons. There is a race for the development of armaments and weapons that is becoming more and more unequal; arms treaties for non-proliferation seem to be ignored by powerful states.
Ideology is used to justify past war and present war, and hides illegality of what is happening. Ideology helps some favoured nations to gain dirty privileges and further their political interests. This same scenario has happened in Yemen. Yemeni women and children have been killed on a false pretext; they have imagined a situation where Yemenis support Iran, but it was never so. Saudi bombs have destroyed roads, bridges, ports, airports, factories, farms, schools, hospitals, ancient monuments, all in the name of helping Yemen. Logically, that cannot be true. According to the UNDP Report in 2008 the majority of Yemeni people were living in poverty. The average income was 300 dollars per months. The whole Yemeni government’s budget around 6- 8 billion dollars. The biggest form of employment of the Yemeni population is farming, and 80% of the main income for Yemen is oil. Now Yemen doesn’t export anything. They can’t farm because lack of oil and electricity, so they can’t pump irrigation water. Yemenis have been living without electricity, under siege since 26 March, 2015 till today. I personally lost my grapes farms and corn farms. I sold all my sheep in order to buy flour to feed my family. My children Ahmed and Kahlan want bicycles but I couldn’t afford it; I had earlier promised them to buy bicycles after Eid. My Daughters want new clothes and shoes for Eid but they can’t have them. I have been forced to borrow more than 500,000 Yemeni rials because of war. I don’t like to mention on my private situation and complain to anyone except Allah, but I want to inform you “readers” how the normal people are forced to live in Yemen. They don’t deserve this huge horrific war. The Yemeni situation could easily be solved without war, but external actors are creating a situation which means the war is forced to continue. Thousands of families have lost their loved ones, relatives, brothers and sisters because of war. Many Yemenis who are fighting think they are fighting in self-defence, because naturally no one will surrender their own country to a foreign power, especially when that foreign power is conducting a war against them and they can see with their own eyes the war crimes that have been committed
All international constitutions allow nations the right to self-defence against any physical threats. Every human has the right to free speech, to practice any religion, and live independently according to the law. No country in this world has the right to terrify, threaten, to imposed a blockade, to kill innocents, to use the language of force and threat. We in Yemen believe that Saudis’ foreign policy and money calls the shots at the UN. For example, the UN envoy to Yemen Mr. Gamal Benomar described the Saudis involvement in Yemen; he stated that because of the onset of their military involvement, it caused the negotiations between Yemeni groups to cease and directly stopped the Yemeni parties from finding an agreement.
UN charters are clear, they to promote international security, peace and cooperation, to prevent the scourge of war. The Yemeni Constitution doesn’t allow for a President to ask an outside nation to bomb his own people. The UNSC resolution 2216 does not give permission for any nation to attack Yemeni infrastructure and indeed, it stated that member states should refrain from taking any actions that undermine the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen. To most Yemeni people, 2216 was a one-sided and flawed document, because it was written in April 2015 when Saudi Arabia had already started its campaign of destruction against Yemen, but this was ignored in this resolution, instead the document focussed on the actions of one party, the Houthis.
This year, the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon removed Saudi Arabia from a blacklist, where it was placed because of the deaths of Yemeni children caused by them dropping bombs on homes and schools. Ban Ki-Moon stated that he was pressurised to remove Saudis from the blacklist, who threatened to stop funding other programmes in the Middle East if they remained on the blacklist. Surely this threat should not have affected UN decisions. Similarly, whilst 2216 called for an arms embargo, it did not allow for an embargo against the Yemeni people, yet UN has not moved to stop the embargo that is causing famine and death in Yemen. They were not given the rights to stop flights to Sanaa International Airport, nor was Saudi Arabia mandated to force all flights bound for Yemen to land at Baishah Airport, where Yemeni passengers are searched and humiliated.
Saudi Arabia’s excuses for war were to offer support for Hadi whom the international community see as the legitimate President, but within Yemen this is and was an contested issue; the alleged involvement of Iran in Yemen although in Yemen the Iranians have had no presence and have little influence, and Saudi security, although this is hard to understand as Saudi security has worsened since this war began. It is an imagined proxy war, for which Yemeni are paying a very high price. The conflicts in the Middle East are for hegemony and control of the Middle East by world super powers, using the UN for decisions to justify their power games, to give a veneer of legality on their illegal operations in Yemen and the Middle East, and using Saudi Arabia as a puppet to implement their will and buy weapons from the powerful West to do so.
Finally, all Yemeni people clearly understand that Saudi Arabia is backed by the West; USA and UK are implicated in the destruction of Yemen and the killing of Yemeni civilians, including children. The blood of Yemen will chase them year after year. Justice will happen one day; the facts will appear sooner or later. Our nation had rejected Hadi’s dictatorship, and the Yemeni nation will never forget Saudis’ war crimes nor to give up on their determination to bring war criminals to justice. The Yemeni nation will one day live free and independently on Yemen lands. And they will keep on searching to unmask war criminals, in Yemen, the Middle East, and all over the world.
By Mohmmad Humran for the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies