The extent of the damage caused by Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war in Yemen has been catastrophic, with innocent civilians bearing the brunt of this brutality. Last year alone there were 1,020 incidents entailing harm to civilians, over 900 of whom were killed. Malnutrition and the number of children dying under the age of five in Yemen has reached such devastating proportions that UNICEF called it an “emergency” in its 2020 report on the conflict.
Last year ended with an attack at Aden International Airport in the South of Yemen. Explosions and gunfire killed 26 people and wounded 60 others, as members of the newly-formed Yemeni government were disembarking from their aircraft. Several journalists, civilians and government officials were among the dead. The attack signified a grim start for the ministers, who were attempting to mend rifts between the internationally-recognised government led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), the group currently in charge of Aden. Yet despite countless acts of war that have devastated the country, the world remains silent, and some countries such as the US and Britain have continued to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes on Yemen have not only killed and wounded civilians, but also destroyed their homes, devastated lives and created a climate of fear in society. Moreover, the war between the Saudis and the Iran-backed Houthis has witnessed indiscriminate shelling, the illegal deployment of landmines, the equally illegal recruitment and use of children, humanitarian aid being blocked, and attacks on schools.
It is estimated that there are 1.5 million children living in the most stricken areas of South Yemen. Children, indeed, are amongst the worst affected by the war, now approaching the sixth anniversary of the Saudi intervention. This was led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with a coalition including the United Arab Emirates and other allies. It has prolonged the conflict and created what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in the poorest country in the Middle East. Despite continuous calls to action from activists, charities and human rights groups, though, the world continues not only to remain silent but also complicit in its refusal to stand up for the rights of the Yemeni people.
According to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED), more than 100,000 people have been killed in the war, including 12,000 civilians. Furthermore, the World Food Programme estimates that 24 million Yemenis require humanitarian assistance, while 20 million have no food security and do not know where their next meal will come from. With these shocking levels of poverty, it is frustrating that world leaders continue to turn a blind eye to the conflict.
Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Bin Salman must reassess whether his actions are in line with the tenets of Islam; he is, after all, the heir to the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” in Makkah and Madinah, the spiritual centre of the Muslim world. The war that brought Yemen to the brink of starvation and death should be a matter of regret for the Saudi Crown Prince because it is in complete contradiction of Islamic values, including the requirement to care for those in need.
Sadly, calls to end the war and implement measures to rebuild and rehabilitate Yemen appear to have fallen on deaf ears. It is surely time for the international community to speak up and put pressure on those in power to act now to save the Yemenis from further heartache. Yemen cannot afford to have yet another year of Saudi Arabia and the UAE being allowed to act with impunity.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.