Cri­sis in Ye­men be­ing ig­nored be­cause it doesn’t fit the right nar­ra­tive

Ottawa Sun - - COMMENT - FARZANA HAS­SAN

Of the sev­eral hu­man­i­tar­ian crises un­fold­ing in the world, it is the catas­tro­phe in Ye­men that is most con­sis­tently ig­nored.

That is per­haps no sur­prise since the main in­sti­ga­tor is Saudi Ara­bia. The king­dom has led a coali­tion of Arab states to fight the Houthi rebels from the mi­nor­ity Shia sect. The si­lence from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and es­pe­cially from Sunni Is­lamic coun­tries, is deaf­en­ing.

Of course, the Is­lamic world can­not use Ye­men as a ral­ly­ing cry. It is not an­other classic Arab/Is­raeli skir­mish, and it can­not be at­trib­uted to Western de­signs on Is­lamic lands or re­sources.

Nor can it be con­nected to the Myan­mar govern­ment’s blind­ness to the treat­ment of its Ro­hingya Mus­lims. It is no more po­lit­i­cally use­ful than Dar­fur, where the Arabs of Su­dan op­pressed mil­lions of Dar­furis for sev­eral years.

Is­lamic rage over the treat­ment of Mus­lims is pal­pa­ble when the op­pres­sors are nonMus­lim. But the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Ye­men is by far the worst in the Mus­lim world, and we hear not a whim­per from Is­lamic na­tions.

Could it be that the Sunni ma­jor­ity in most Is­lamic coun­tries sim­ply wishes to ig­nore the mis­ery of the mi­nor­ity Shias?

The war has claimed more than ten thou­sand peo­ple in Ye­men, which bor­ders Saudi Ara­bia to the south. Around 20 mil­lion Ye­me­nis need some sort of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, which is slow to ar­rive, some­times be­cause Saudi Ara­bia blocks it.

Among the dead are chil­dren, be­cause air strikes have tar­geted schools. Count­less vic­tims have suc­cumbed to star­va­tion, mal­nu­tri­tion and dis­ease.

The BBC has re­ported that the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis has been brought about be­cause of “at­tacks on res­i­den­tial ar­eas and civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture; the use of land mines and clus­ter bombs; sniper and drone at­tacks against civil­ians; de­ten­tions; tar­geted killings; the re­cruit­ment and use of chil­dren in hos­til­i­ties; and forced evic­tions and dis­place­ment.”

The re­port adds that about three mil­lion peo­ple re­main dis­placed within the coun­try and close to two hun­dred thou­sand have fled the war.

Added to this is dam­age to in­fra­struc­ture and Saudi em­bar­goes of Ye­meni ports to pre­vent more hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to the coun­try’s starv­ing pop­u­la­tion.

The con­flict in Ye­men has been por­trayed to the world as a civil war between the north­ern Shia fac­tion, known as the Houthis, and the Saudibacked Sunni govern­ment in the cap­i­tal, Sana’a.

No doubt it is, but this sim­plis­tic in­ter­pre­ta­tion down­plays the dev­as­ta­tion and will­fully ig­nores the in­ter­fer­ence of the most in­flu­en­tial player in the con­flict, Saudi Ara­bia.

There are sev­eral ac­cu­sa­tions of for­eign med­dling in the war. The Shia rebels are pur­port­edly sup­ported by Iran and Eritrea, and the Saudis by the U.S. and UK.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the in­ter­ests are ap­par­ently based on greed. Saudi Ara­bia wishes to con­vert the state into a vas­sal of its own be­cause of its de­sire to con­trol an im­por­tant oil pipe­line.

Pres­i­dent Trump has con­tin­ued for­mer Pres­i­dent Obama’s pol­icy on Ye­men, in fact con­clud­ing an arms deal with Saudi Ara­bia worth more than a bil­lion dol­lars. The US has also led air strikes in the coun­try, stat­ing that Iran needs to be con­tained and ISIS and al Qaeda de­stroyed.

The po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary mo­tives are con­vo­luted, as they al­ways are, but the civil­ian suf­fer­ing is sim­ple and hu­man.

The world must step up its ef­forts to de­liver ur­gently needed hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance in Ye­men.

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