The Yemen War

Image: Mohammad Hadi
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By AHMED ABDULKAREEM*

The conflict in Yemen produces far more human tragedy than the one in Ukraine, yet the West ignores it

“We are brutally bombed every day. So why doesn't the Western world care like it does Ukraine!!… Is it because we don't have blonde hair and blue eyes like Ukrainians?” asked, frowning, Ahmed Tamri, a Yemeni father of four, about the effusive international support and media coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as opposed to the total lack of such reaction to the war in Yemen.

Over the weekend, one member of Tamri's family was killed and nine family members were injured after being targeted by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in the remote al-Saqf area in Hajjah Governorate. Tamri claims that al-Saqf has been subjected to a brutal Saudi bombing campaign over the last seven years – far more, he says, than Ukraine has endured since it was invaded by Russia.

Despite the horrific bombings of Yemeni civilians, Saudi Arabia's human rights violations and war crimes have nowhere near reached the level of coverage and sympathy that the Western mainstream media have rightly given Ukraine. “They shed tears for Ukrainians, and ignore our tragedies… What hypocrisy and racism!” Mint Press News.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, effusive support for Ukrainians continues to be seen across the western world. The United States, Europe, Australia and the West in general have imposed severe sanctions against Russia, amid a flurry of emergency discussions in the UN Security Council. The speed of Western retaliation – which includes banning Russia from the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) international banking network and calls to treat Russians as international pariahs in sport, culture and even science – left Yemenis stunned. , which have been enduring a relentless air, land and sea bombing and blockade campaign for 2.520 consecutive days.

Since the day Russian forces began their wide-ranging assault on Ukraine, the Saudi-led Coalition, backed by the United States, has launched more air strikes on Yemen than Russia has launched on Ukraine. In Hajjah, a province surrounded by Saudi heavy artillery, Coalition warplanes carried out more than 150 airstrikes against the towns of Haradh, Heiraan, Abbs and Mustab, killing dozens of civilians, including a father of six who was killed in the end. weekend by a Saudi drone that targeted his car while traveling between Shafar and the Khamis Al-Wahat market.

Since the Russian incursion into Ukraine began, dozens of civilians, including many African migrants, have been killed and hundreds wounded by Saudi artillery and air strikes in Yemen's densely populated Sa'ada province, declared a military area by Saudi Arabia in early his military campaign in March 2015.

As media cameras and solidarity protests manifested much-needed sympathy for Ukrainian civilians, in Sana'a, Yemen – which has effectively been turned into a massive prison for the city's more than 4 million residents and refugees, thanks to a devastating Saudi blockade – warplanes bombed several densely populated areas, including the airport. A further 160 air strikes were launched in Marib, al-Jawf, al-Baydha, Taiz, Najran and Hodeidah provinces, the main entry point for trade goods and aid into a country facing the worst man-made famine of the XNUMXst century. .

Indeed, it appears that the Saudi regime is taking advantage of the media distraction to step up attacks on several sensitive targets along the Yemen-Saudi Arabian border and strengthen its grip on the Al-Mahra governorate. The United Arab Emirates – the other major Western-backed oil monarchy occupying Yemen – is also taking the cue, accelerating its project to change the demography of the prized island of Socotra, displacing the natives in favor of settlers more in line with its policies. . As the US prepares massive arms shipments and military aid for Ukrainian "freedom fighters" defending against a Russian invasion, Yemeni "rebels" shot down an American-made MQ9-1 drone flown by the UAE in al-Jawf and two Boeings Insitu ScanEagles, also American-made, in Marib and Hajjah.

As countries that have spent the last few decades building walls – literal and figurative – to keep out the brown and black refugees who desperately flee violence and foreign encroachment on their own lands, open their arms, homes and hearts to welcoming the fleeing Ukrainian refugees, Saudi Arabia launched an army of Yemeni mercenaries on their homeland with the promise of a permanent Saudi visa and security for their families, as payment for attacking their own countrymen. Ironically named “Happy Forces of Yemen”, the unit was shut down at the end of 2021, according to leaked military documents, with a mission to protect Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen and ensure Saudi security in exchange for the permanent visa and access to the Saudi social services that come with it.

In terms of the absolute cost in human lives, the tragedy in Yemen was far deadlier than that in Ukraine. It is true that the war in Yemen has lasted more than six years, but comparatively the numbers are frightening. Since 2015, the death toll has reached about 400 thousand people, including 3.900 children.

These deaths included attacks on civilians so heinous that they attracted media attention but, inevitably, no sanctions, little international condemnation, not even a cessation of military aid and support for the perpetrators. Bombings of schools, funerals, wedding halls, refugee camps, even a school bus full of children hit by the most advanced US weaponry on the market, none of these were enough to provoke the reaction that Ukraine quickly got.

Since 2015, warplanes of the Saudi-led Coalition have carried out more than 266 air strikes on Yemen, according to the Yemen Army Operations Room, which records airstrikes against civilian and military targets. Seventy percent of these attacks hit civilian targets. The rising smoke, debris and flames now seen across Ukraine have been the status quo in Yemen for years, while Western media often find images of parents pulling pieces of their children out of the rubble of their homes or schools shown on Yemeni channels too graphic to air.

Thousands of Yemen's economically vital facilities such as factories, food storage facilities, fishing boats, food markets and fuel tankers were bombed by the Western-backed Saudi Coalition. Critical infrastructure – including airports, seaports, power stations, water tanks, roads and bridges and countless other schools, farmland and places of worship – were destroyed or damaged. The Saudi blockade and airstrikes on hospitals have paralyzed Yemen's healthcare system, leaving it unable to cope with even the most basic public health needs and leaving the 300 facilities that remain across the country hanging on a thread as covid-19 spreads like wildfire.

As condemnation of the Russian invasion continues, Western governments have sent huge aid packages to Ukraine and social media campaigns are filling the gaps – already in Yemen, the United Nations announced that by March would likely cut aid to eight million people in a country that the institution recognizes as the site of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Food insecurity in Yemen hangs over 80% of households. Almost a third of the population does not have enough food to meet even basic nutritional needs. Underweight and stunted children have become an everyday sight. And the worst is yet to come, as the Russian invasion has led to rising fuel and food prices as humanitarian funds are depleted, according to the UN World Food Program.

In March 2015, more than 17 countries led by Saudi Arabia's oil monarchy launched a military invasion of Yemen, a sovereign state and member of the United Nations. Ostensibly, the war was launched to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to power after he was ousted following popular protests amid the Arab Spring.

On March 26 of that year, the Saudi Coalition, supported militarily and diplomatically by the United States, would start a bombing campaign that killed, maimed and destroyed indiscriminately for seven years. Saudi Arabia, arguably the most repressive dictatorship in the world, has not only forced Hadi back into power under the guise of protecting democracy, but has also occupied huge swathes of southern Yemen from al-Mahara to the Bab al-Mandab straits. .

Yemeni journalists, activists and politicians are left wondering why Western governments – in particular the Joe Biden government – ​​condemn Russia for invading Ukraine under the guise of national security, while defending the Saudi regime’s “legitimate right” to invade Yemen under the same pretext.

Despite the horrific human rights violations carried out by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Western nations, and the United States in particular, not only provided lethal weapons, training, maintenance, intelligence, and political and diplomatic cover to the monarchy, but imposed restrictions on its coverage of Saudi regime human rights abuses in Yemen, pressuring tech and social media companies to delete from their platforms and openly ban Yemeni activists and media critical of the war.

While Western mainstream media radiate coverage of Ukrainians resisting their foreign invaders and occupiers – and Western leaders applaud Ukrainians’ steadfastness and resistance and send them aid, weapons and moral support – this same media labels Yemenis as terrorists and target them with smart bombs and US-made drone strikes. Yemenis who take up arms against invading Saudi and enemy forces are sanctioned and rejected as proxies for Iran by liberal media outlets that claim to oppose the war.

The United Nations Security Council extended an arms embargo and a travel ban on Yemeni forces. The resolution strongly condemned what it called cross-border attacks by the "Houthis", a derogatory term used to refer to Ansar Allah, the single largest force to challenge the Saudi invasion and occupation. The resolution further condemned "attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates", referring to Ansar Allah's missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia-led Coalition airports and oil storage facilities.

Commenting on the resolution, Ansar Allah leader Mohammed al-Houthi made a simple request: that Saudi Arabia's deliberate targeting of civilians in Yemen lead to a ban on Saudi weapons. Essentially, al-Houthi called for an end to double standards, a seemingly impossible request in today's political climate.

*Ahmed Abdulkareem is a yemeni journalist.

Translation: Mauricio Ayer to the website Other words.

Originally published on the website Mint Press News.

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