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The Saudis Are Starving Yemen to Death

Nawal al-Maghafi reports [1] on the situation in Yemen:

Everywhere I went, from the Internally Displaced Persons camps to primary schools that had been turned into makeshift shelters, I was quickly surrounded as soon as people spotted my camera. Everyone offered the same plea: for someone to tell their story to the world.

This broke my heart, because I didn’t have the guts to tell them the simple, blunt truth: that beyond its borders, very few people care about Yemen. Despite horrific human rights abuses, including war crimes committed by all parties to the conflict, being documented for months, this war has not captured the attention of the Western public at anywhere near the level Syria has.

I have remarked before on the general indifference to the war on Yemen in the West (and almost everywhere else), which is in some respects baffling and in others entirely unsurprising. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is as severe as any in the world, and may well be the worst when we consider how many millions of people are at risk of starving to death, but it generates none of the attention or outrage that other conflicts have provoked in the last twenty years. There are many possible explanations for why this is the case, and I have offered some in previous [2] posts [3], but it continues to be somewhat shocking that a group of states can wreak such gratuitous havoc on an impoverished country with the blessings of Washington and London and face so little scrutiny or criticism. No doubt lobbying by the Saudis and their allies account for some of this, but some of it unfortunately seems to come down to the fact that almost no one cares what the Saudi-led coalition is doing to Yemen with U.S. and British support if they are even aware of it.

Despite the fact that the Saudi-led blockade is depriving millions of people of basic necessities and creating near-famine conditions (al-Maghafi writes that “[t]wenty of Yemen’s 22 governorates are precariously poised on the verge of devastating famine”), the blockade and its effects are barely mentioned in most reports and then only in passing. Regrettably, one of the side-effects of the blockade is that it makes it very difficult for anyone to enter the country to document what is happening. Another is that it prevents Yemenis from being able to get out of the country where they might find some relief, and those that manage to get out of the country find few places to seek refuge. While refugees from Eritrea and Syria are able to call attention to the terrible conditions in those countries, most Yemenis are trapped in the war zone where few are able to tell their stories, and so they remain effectively invisible to outside audiences. Al-Maghafi describes what this means for the people hoping to flee:

When the war began on March 26th, all of the country’s exit ports were instantly closed and a blockade imposed on the movement of people as well as goods, both in and out of the country.

Countries that once welcomed Yemenis without a visa, such as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, have closed their doors. Anyone seeking a visa will soon discover none of these countries have functioning embassies in Yemen today.

Thousands of Yemenis have managed to flee to Djibouti by boat. Many do not survive the extremely perilous journey, while those who do are met with the most tepid of welcomes. With no official refugee camps in the country and hotels charging exorbitant rates, the majority return.

While there is hope that peace talks in Kuwait may lead to a halt in the fighting, it is the blockade that is doing the greatest harm to most of the population, and the civilian population desperately needs the Saudi-led coalition to lift that blockade on their country. If that doesn’t happen, the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen is sure to grow much worse in the coming months. The disgrace of our government’s ongoing support for the Saudi-led war also gets worse with each passing day.

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8 Comments To "The Saudis Are Starving Yemen to Death"

#1 Comment By Bill H On April 20, 2016 @ 12:50 am

Same reason that death, destruction and starvation in Gaza are ignored; the “good guys” are the perpetrators.

#2 Comment By Not News On April 20, 2016 @ 12:51 am

“If that doesn’t happen, the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen is sure to grow much worse in the coming months.”

Everyone knows this. And yet it continues with the connivance of Obama, the media, and the “foreign policy elites” (whatever that means).

“The disgrace of our government’s ongoing support for the Saudi-led war also gets worse with each passing day.”

As does the probability that we will pay the price for it in terror attacks and new refugee flows.

And when that happens the media will be all agog: “Tell me, General, no one saw this coming, did they? What did we ever do to Yemen? And how do you suggest we respond to these animals?”.

#3 Comment By Chris Chuba On April 20, 2016 @ 8:17 am

What can change things in Yemen?
A mass refugee exodus to Europe could make this an issue for the west.

What prevents this from happening?
The Saudi’s would love it as it would kind of solve their problems. Do asylum laws in Europe somehow favor Africans and Syrians over Yemeni’s? Don’t know.

#4 Comment By Sean Scallon On April 20, 2016 @ 11:49 am

What’s amazing is this is an issue which can easily be picked up in the campaigns this year. Going after the Saudis over 9-11 and what’s happening in Yemen and their repressive society and sinister influence in the U.S. with their threats of economic catastrophe could be something right up the ally of campaigns like Trump and Bernie and yet they don’t do so. Can you imagine a campaign ad so powerful as the Twin Towers coming down and in the background a picture of the Saudi Royal Family the ones who helped the terrorists do it and cover it up? We talk about Israeli influence over American politics yet rarely about how the Saudis control the agenda but it’s there and its real and real people are dying because of it.

#5 Comment By John Gruskos On April 20, 2016 @ 12:22 pm

Hunger strikes in front of the Saudi and Israeli embassies could help break the blockade.

#6 Comment By a spencer On April 20, 2016 @ 3:24 pm

Chris Chuba,
>> A mass refugee exodus to Europe could make this an issue for the west.

But how would they get there? Not north through KSA, not likely through Oman or any other GCC country, which leaves East Africa to follow Somalis and Eritreans up through Libya, but then they’d have to cross the Indian Ocean from closed ports. They really are trapped. “Sitting ducks.”

Nawal al-Maghafi writes,
>> Countries that once welcomed Yemenis without a visa, such as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, have closed their doors.

Of course, Jordan and particularly Lebanon have already taken in multitudes of Syrian refugees (many who were Iraqi refugees in Syria before that), the latter sounding like its cracking under the strain.

#7 Comment By Donald On April 21, 2016 @ 8:17 am

Obama is responsible, so most Democrats won’t say a word.

And a party which picks Clinton as its nominee obviously doesn’t place a high priority on the lives of people killed by our allies.

#8 Comment By lysias On April 21, 2016 @ 2:17 pm

With the blockade in place, there’s no way for Yemenis to get out. So this will not result in a refugee crisis.