Venus Azal on a forgotten tragedy of the century
Yemen is a beautiful country located in south-west Asia, which was nicknamed “Arabia Felix” or “Happy Arabia” by the Greeks and Romans thousands of years ago because of the prosperity, wealth and stability its people enjoyed. Tragically, Yemen has become grief-stricken while suffering from the worst humanitarian crisis in the present-day world, according to reports by UN organisations.
This crisis is a result of an aggression by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who have waged a devastating and relentless war against Yemen since March 2015 under the pretext of restoring the so-called “legitimate government” of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who had previously resigned and fled the country. President Hadi had originally come to power after a popular revolution in 2011 was followed by a fraudulent election imposed by the Gulf Initiative in which he was the only candidate. The election was boycotted by the majority of Yemeni people. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been deliberately bombing civilian targets located in Yemen, and the Saudis have also set up an air, sea and land blockade so that hardly anything can get into the country.
Over the past seven years of war, 17,734 people have been killed, including 4,017 children, while the number of wounded has reached 28,528, including 4,586 children. In a speech last year to the Security Council, UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore asserted, “A child dies every ten minutes in Yemen, whose death could have been prevented,” noting that about 11.3 million children need humanitarian assistance to survive.
The number of victims increases daily. Among these victims are families whose homes were bombed by Saudi and Emirati planes in civilian areas far from any military confrontations. These crimes amount to genocide, as they are being repeated despite knowledge by the Saudi coalition leadership that the targeted areas are civilian areas devoid of any military.
For more than seven years, the aggression has caused millions of Yemenis to suffer from severe shortages of food and medicine, lack of services, and almost complete destruction of infrastructure and civil facilities, including schools, hospitals, markets, farms and factories as well as drinking water wells and power plants. These are supposed to be protected under international humanitarian law that prohibits the bombing of civilian targets. Saudi Arabia has cut off salaries for millions of Yemeni employees and their families. It has also blocked the arrival of ships carrying oil derivatives and foodstuffs to Yemeni ports, causing the prices of oil and gas to rise dramatically, and meaning millions of people are unable to obtain their most basic needs because they lack purchasing power. This has pushed an overwhelming majority of Yemenis below the poverty line.
Other victims of the aggression are the medical patients who are unable to travel for treatment abroad because of Saudi Arabia’s closure of the airport in Sana’a. This has resulted in the deaths of thousands of individuals because they did not receive the necessary treatment in a timely manner, especially considering the deterioration of medical services in Yemen due to wartime conditions and the bombing of medical facilities.
“Patients in Yemen are trapped even when there is a way to save them. The past years have been a death sentence for thousands of Yemeni patients who urgently need medical treatment abroad. Over the course of five years, Yemenis were deprived of their right to travel abroad to seek medical care, do business, work, study or visit the family. For thousands of Yemenis living abroad, they have been stranded or have difficulties visiting their homeland,” stated the acting director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Isaac Okou.
The closure of the airport has also caused billions of dollars in economic losses, exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen. Despite an agreement to open the airport and operate two flights per week, according to the terms of the last initiative between the Saudi-led coalition and the de facto authority in Sana’a, the impossible terms imposed by Saudi Arabia on travellers, and its ongoing delay in opening the airport and allowing Yemeni planes to fly to and from it, has meant that many people will die because they will not be able to leave the country to receive medical treatment
The actions by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are backed by the United States and the UK, seek to put in charge of Yemen parties affiliated with their own agendas in order to interfere in the affairs of the Yemeni people. First, to take over the strategic location that controls the most important global shipping routes represented in the Bab al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden. Second, to have authority over oil and gas sources, ports and important islands, including Socotra Island that is currently occupied by Emirati-backed forces.
The only way to achieve peace and stability in Yemen is by stopping external interventions in the country’s internal affairs so that its people can solve their own problems through comprehensive dialogue between all conflicting parties, and by entering into a system of power-sharing based on national interests. Once that happens, then Yemen can return to its former glory of being Arabia Felix.