For three harrowing years, Yemen has been ravaged by war, starvation and horror. The poorest Arab country in the world is experiencing shocking deprivation, which aid agencies are struggling to cope with.
On the 9th August 2018, the world witnessed another example of the crimes against the people of Yemen, when at least 29 children were killed and 30 were injured in a Saudi-led coalition air strike in Yemen, after a missile hit a school bus.
In total, some 43 people died and more than 60 were wounded in the air strike that devastated the market town in Dahyan in the northern province of Saada.
Images of wounded schoolchildren covered in blood being treated in hospital have been broadcasted. The Houthis’ Al-Masirah TV aired unverified footage of dead and bloodied children, many still carrying their blue Unicef rucksacks, being transferred to a hospital. Some children seemed too stunned to even cry.
In a statement carried by the official Saudi press agency, the Saudi-led coalition called the strike a “legitimate military action” targeting elements responsible for a Houthi missile attack on the Saudi city of Jizan on the 8th August 2018. “[The airstrikes] conformed to international and humanitarian laws,” the statement said. It accused the Iran-aligned Houthis of using children as human shields.
Sylvia Ghaly, Director of Advocacy in Yemen, Save the Children, said, “This is yet another example of the blatant violations of international humanitarian law that we have seen in Yemen over the past three years”.
The International Rescue Committee Yemen country director, Frank McManus, said: “Today should be the day the world wakes up to the atrocities going on in Yemen … a bus full of school children cannot be viewed as mere collateral damage. Even wars have rules, but rules without consequences mean nothing. If there is any chance of innocent lives, especially those of children, being lost in an attack, that attack should not take place.”
Unicef’s regional director in the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere, asked, “Does the world really need more innocent children’s lives to stop the cruel war on children in Yemen?”
The Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland called the bombing a “grotesque, shameful” attack that showed “blatant disregard for rules of war”.
The Yemen conflict has its roots in the shambolic failure of a political transition to bring stability to Yemen, following an Arab Spring uprising, that forced its longtime authoritarian President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.
The Houthi movement, which champions Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority and fought a series of rebellions against Saleh during the previous decade, took advantage of the new president’s weakness by taking control of the northern heartland of Saada province and neighbouring areas.
Many ordinary Yemenis, including Sunnis supported the Houthis and in late 2014 and early 2015, the rebels took over Sanaa.
The President escaped to the southern port city of Aden the following month.
The Houthis and security forces loyal to Saleh then attempted to take control of the entire country, forcing Hadi to flee abroad in March 2015.
Alarmed by the rise of a group, they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of eight other mostly Sunni Arab states and began an air campaign aimed at restoring Hadi’s government. The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.
The Saudi-led Coalition has continued to pound Yemen, which has left in its path a trail of blood and tears.
About 7 million people in Yemen, out of a population of 27 million, depend entirely on food aid and 4 million rely on aid groups for clean water.
According to the United Nations, at least 10,000 people have been killed in the war in Yemen.
The UN’s humanitarian affairs office said the figure, which is a low estimate, was reached using data from health facilities that have kept track of the victims of the war.
An estimated 130 children in Yemen die every day from extreme hunger and disease. A continuing blockade on the country’s northern ports of entry is likely to increase the death toll further, past the projected 50,000 children who were expected to die in 2017
Yemen struggles with the largest cholera outbreak in modern history. According to World Health Organisation figures, more than 1.1 million suspected cholera cases have been recorded in Yemen since April 2017, with more than 2,300 associated deaths.
The dynamics of the Yemen conflict are layered and complex, however it is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that has permanently stained their hands, with the blood of the children of Yemen. Boasting to be ‘the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has played the leading role in destroying Yemen and humiliating its people.
According to the Yemen Data Project, a group of academics, human rights organisers and activists, more than one-third of all Saudi-led air raids on Yemen have hit civilian sites, such as school buildings, hospitals, markets, mosques and economic infrastructure. Yemen Data Project recorded 8,600 air attacks between March 2015, when the Saudi-led campaign began, and the end of August 2015. Of these, 3,577 were listed as having hit military sites and 3,158 struck non-military sites.
Many academics have been collating data from Yemen, strongly suggesting that the Saudi Kingdom have purposely engaged in a campaign to destroy the rural livelihood of the people.
Martha Mundy, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics, has been researching through Yemeni agriculture ministry statistics and says that the data “is beginning to show that in some regions, the Saudis are deliberately striking at agricultural infrastructure in order to destroy the civil society”. She detailed 357 bombing targets by the Saudi Arabia in the Yemen’s 20 provinces, including farms, animals, water infrastructure, food stores, agricultural banks, markets and food trucks.
Saudi Arabia has even pressured aid groups to leave rebel areas of Yemen, saying that aid workers are at risk.
At least 11 people were killed on the 15th August 2015 and 19 injured in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a Yemeni hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières.
In January 2016, a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders was hit by a rocket, killing four people. A bombing carried out by the Saudi-led coalition injured at least six people at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in October 2015.
The conflict in Yemen is proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia shares a border with Yemen, and it fears Iranian expansionism, through its support for Shia armed groups. Political commentators often claim that Iran now controls four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.
However it is not only the Saudi- led coalition that is engaging in this blood thirsty campaign against Yemen. They have been supported by Britain and the United States in arms deals to Saudi Arabia. In 2013–17, Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer, with arms imports increasing by 225 per cent compared with 2008–12.
Millions of pounds and dollars have been spent buying up stock, to be used against the poor people of Yemen. These weapons of mass destruction have been bought by Saudi Arabia and built by Britain and the United States of America. These deals are facilitated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as he jet flies across the waters buying up weapons to murder and starve Yemen.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that, since 2013, around 100 British-made Storm Shadow missiles worth £80m, 2,400 Paveway IV bombs worth £150m, and 1,000 Brimstone missiles worth £100m have been sold to Saudi Arabia.
Donald Trump boasted about how Saudi Arabia is a “big purchaser” of American armaments. “A lot of people are at work” because of Saudi Arabia’s business, Trump said while welcoming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to the White House, adding that the kingdom has finalised $12.5bn in purchases of planes, missiles and frigates from US companies.
Absolutely, Yemen has been ruined by war and Saudi Arabia has led this with extensive support from Britain and America. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could not have committed these crimes against innocent men, women and children without their unwavering support.
Arms is a dirty and lucrative trade. It seems that the value of profit has a higher price, than the millions of people that are dying in Yemen today.