Listen to What Yemenis Are Saying About the War on Yemen
Abdulrasheed al-Faqih, executive director of the Yemeni human rights organization Mwatana, recently wrote a letter to the editor at The New York Times about Yemen’s plight and the U.S. role in creating it:
I cannot so easily ignore the human toll of the war in my country. All sides have committed violations against civilians, but Saudi Arabia’s 16,000 airstrikes have caused the vast majority of the thousands of civilian deaths. Its blockade has obstructed humanitarian and commercial shipments, sending over eight million Yemenis to the brink of starvation and causing the worst cholera outbreak in modern history.
Some opponents of the Senate resolution argued that the Senate needed to wait and more fully debate America’s role in this terrible conflict. But three years of war in my country have made clear that Yemen can’t wait much longer for America to realize it has been on the wrong side of history.
Americans rarely get to hear from Yemenis about what is being done to their country with our government’s support. There are many Yemeni journalists and activists that report on the deteriorating conditions and the crimes of all parties to the conflict for the last three years, but their views are almost never cited in Western media coverage and receive even less attention in our policy debates. That inevitably causes our coverage to be distorted and guarantees that most of our leaders don’t take the destructive effects of our policies fully into account. While the Saudi-led coalition may have made it very difficult for people outside Yemen to go there and see for themselves what is happening, that doesn’t excuse the inattention to world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the almost complete ignorance of Yemeni perspectives in this conflict. It is their country that our government has helped the Saudis and their allies destroy, and so we have an obligation to listen to what they say and we need to take them seriously when they hold us responsible for the disaster that has engulfed Yemen.
Yemen’s recognized government doesn’t speak for its people, and it has been reduced to irrelevance throughout most of the country. That means that Yemen’s civilian population has no reliable, credible advocate to speak on their behalf at the state level, and so it necessarily falls to civil society and organizations such as Mwatana to do this. Instead of credulous reporting about Saudi benevolence and puff pieces about Mohammed bin Salman, our media outlets should make the effort to learn more about them and make sure to include Yemeni perspectives in their coverage of the war on Yemen.