Yemen burns, but where is the outrage?

2015-07-15 18:24

Saudi Arabia’s destruction of Yemen is being ignored by the world,  writes Suraya Dadoo

For over 100 days, Saudi Arabia, backed by a coalition of Arab countries, and with substantial logistical and arms support from the US and UK, has been bombing Yemen on an almost daily basis in a campaign against the Houthis - a rebel group that has taken over large parts of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.

On 26 March - the day Operation Decisive Storm began – the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, assured the world that the air-strikes and operations on Yemen, were to “protect” the Yemeni people  and “the legitimate government of Yemen.”

Liberating Yemen though siege and destruction

Enter the US-backed, Saudi-led cavalry - without a UN mandate.  In order to “help” the Yemeni people, Saudi fighter jets, along with those from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain – armed with American and British munitions  - have killed over 3000 people, injured 15 000 more, and destroyed over 300 000 homes. A million people have been forced to flee their home. Hospitals, schools, aid warehouses, a grain mill, a refugee camp, roads, electricity and water supply lines have been deliberately targeted. The entire city of Saada has been flattened. Human Rights Watch has found that internationally-outlawed cluster bombs have been used in Yemen. The word ‘war-crimes’ is being increasingly used. As if that wasn’t enough, Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the Middle East, is maintaining a blockade on imports of fuel, food and medicine to the Arab world’s poorest nation. Yemen’s health system is on the brink of collapse, the country a step away from famine.  Eighty percent of Yemenis require aid, half a million children face severe malnutrition, and six million people don’t have access to food.

Saudi tactics in Yemen are frighteningly reminiscent of Israel’s in Gaza: siege; ruthless airstrikes; targeted bombing of schools, homes and hospitals; and collective punishment.

What’s the real reason?

All of this is to supposedly defend Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. But, let’s be honest. Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen has little  to do with its love for democracy, and everything to do with ensuring that Hadi, a loyal American and Saudi ally is in charge in Yemen. There is also the not-so-small issue of the Houthi rebels being aided by Ali Abdullah Saleh, Hadi’s predecessor who was ousted during the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011. Oh, and did I mention that the Houthis were possibly aided by the House of Saud’s regional arch-rivals, Iran?

After all, if Saudi Arabia and its Anglo-American allies were so concerned with restoring legitimate governments, why weren’t they and their motley crew in Cairo two years ago to ensure that a democratically-elected Mohammed Mursi was still president of Egypt -  rather than languishing in the prison of military dictator Abdel-Fatah Sisi who usurped Mursi through an illegitimate military coup?

Parallels with Daeesh Almost a month ago, a Daeesh bomber (I refuse to legitimate this monstrous group by calling them by their preferred name. They are neither Islamic, nor a state. They are, however, like those who crush things underfoot – as the name Daeesh accurately describes) killed 27 Muslims while they performed their Friday prayers at the Imam Jaffar As-Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait during the holy month of Ramadaan.  On July 7, the Saudi coalition bombed a mosque in Lahj province, killing ten civilians. While the world rightly condemned the Daeesh bombing in Kuwait , has there been any serious outrage over the Lahj mosque massacre that was perpetrated by everyone’s favourite energy and political ally in the Middle East? International media has devoted extensive coverage to the barbaric destruction of museums and archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria by Daeesh,  yet Saudi Arabia’s cultural terrorism in Yemen has been ignored. On  June 12, Saudi air-strikes destroyed Sanaa’s Old City, a UNESCO heritage site that has been inhabited for more than 2 500 years and which is culturally significant not only for Yemenis, but for Muslims around the world. Ten other sites in Yemen are on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage List. One of these, the old city of Saada, has also suffered extensive damage from Saudi air attacks. Twenty-five  sites and monuments have been severely damaged or destroyed since the Saudi-led bombings began in March. Saudi Arabia’s cultural terrorism in Yemen is no different to that being perpetrated by Daeesh. But, where is the outrage?

And while many Islamic leaders rushed to condemn Daeesh as an “aberration” and distance this group from Islam, those same voices are eerily silent as Saudi Arabia – which claims to be the ‘custodian’ of Islam’s most sacred sites - showers Yemenis with bombs and missiles during the holy month of Ramadaan.

These Muslim leaders would do well to take heed of Al-Jazeera journalist, Mehdi Hassan’s, recent warning that those who fail to condemn the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, would really struggle to condemn the next Israeli air war against Gaza.

A 10-day humanitarian ceasefire, which was meant to come into force at midnight on July 10 has failed dismally. As far as ceasefires go, this one should go down as one of the most irrelevant ever. It lasted for somewhere between 30 seconds and two hours.  Since the declaration of this ceasefire, Yemenis have indicated that Saudi bombing was getting progressively worse, with more intense and increased targeting of civilian areas.

So, as Hadi and the Houthis play the blame, it is the Yemeni people that bear the brunt of a humanitarian catastrophe.  Under siege and facing daily bombings, they, like those in Gaza last year, are caught up in a devastating strategic war not of their own making.   And all the while, there is global silence.

Suraya Dadoo is a researcher for Media Review Network and the co-author of Why Israel? The Anatomy of Zionist Apartheid: A South African Perspective (Porcupine Press, 2013).

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