Yemen has always been a beautiful country with great historical architecture and fertile ground surrounded by land on one area and water on the other. However this has changed dramatically in recent years due to civil war and conflict amongst different internal and external groups.
What is Yemen like presently?
There are bombings every single day. There is mass starvation and deaths. More than 4500 people have been killed in Yemen since last year, if not more. The country is in a critical condition, severely close to famine which can begin in weeks or months.
How did the conflict begin?
Conflict in Yemen has been ongoing for many years now in the past decade due to instability and weak governance which caused significant tension and opposition and led to the uprising of different groups. In 2011, after the Tunisian revolution, in Yemen, streets filled with protesters who were against corruption, poverty, starvation and the president at the time who was Ali Abdullah Saleh. Originally Saleh was going to hand his power to his son, but later handed his power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
Who is the conflict between?
Presently, the main fight is between forces loyal to current President Hadi, and those loyal to Houthis, a group of Zaidi Shia rebels.
Who are the Houthis?
Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi was a Zaidi religious, political and military leader. He was influential in the Houthi uprising against the Yemeni government in North Yemen, which began in 2004. Houthi led the group’s first uprising in 2004 to win greater independence for the Saada province, and to protect Zaidi religious and cultural traditions from Sunni Islamists. When he died, the Houthi movement took his name in 2004.
How has the conflict affected nearby countries?
Yemenis have fled to Somali land and Djibouti seeking refuge which has put a strain on those countries. Also, Yemen’s geographical local is very significant because it is on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow passage of water connecting two seas, the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. Every single day, huge amounts of ships pass through the passage carrying oil. Neighbouring countries Egypt and Saudi Arabia worry that this passage which carries oil could be threatened by Houthis.
Which countries are involved in the conflict?
Saudi Arabia intervened in 2015 between President Hadi and the Houthis, and has formed a coalition supported by Britain and the United States. Both Britain and the United States have sold arms to Saudi Arabia, and are providing them with military support to provide air support to Yemeni forces battling Houthis. However, Houthi forces are dispersed across the whole of Yemen so it is very difficult to target air strikes accurately and effectively.
What has happened as a result of the coalition?
Coalition strikes have hit markets, hospitals and schools. Many innocent civilians have been killed and harmed. The United Nations human rights chief has condemned the coalition for their failure to prevent civilians from being harmed. Saudi Arabia has denied causing mass civilian deaths and has said that they are trying to avoid civilian casualties.
What can you do?
Donate money, food and clothes, draw attention on social media platforms, speak to your local MP and sign this petition: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/uk-stop-selling-arms-saudi-arabia
A beautiful poem for bleak times:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.