The Phaserl


Breaking the Silence on the Destruction of Yemen

by James Corbett, The International Forecaster:

It seems one of the riskiest things you can do in Yemen these days is get married. This past Wednesday two Saudi airstrikes on a wedding in Dhamar province, 50 miles south of the capital, Sanaa, killed between 23 and 30 people (depending on the report).

This just one week after Saudi airstrikes targeted a wedding party in Taiz province, killing 131. That strike was the deadliest single incident since the start of Saudi airstrikes against Yemen’s Houthi-led rebels in March.

But as horrifying as the civilian death toll numbers are — with the UN estimating 5000 civilian deaths since fighting began earlier this year, including 500 children — these numbers are only the most visible symptom of a much deeper problem. Many of the 131 civilians that died at the wedding in Taiz last week, died, according to Hassan Boucenine of Doctors Without Borders, “because the Mokha hospital is closed because of supply — no drugs, no fuel, no electricity, no nothing, so the staff left.” Instead, the injured had to be transported to Hodeida province in trucks typically used for transporting livestock, with many dying en route.

This problem is not isolated to Taiz. Across the country, more than 1.4 million people have had to flee their home due to the fighting and up to 10 million Yemeni children are at risk of death from preventable diseases due to lack of basic medical care.

Despite this unfolding disaster, the war in Yemen has been met with virtual silence in the west. Coverage of the latest deadly incidents are consigned to isolated, context-free reports and are generally confined to the back pages of the newspaper and the “world in brief” newsflashes on TV network news.

Amidst this deafening silence, at least a short form summary of the conflict is necessary for many in the west who have never had the story properly explained to them.

From the formation of modern-day Yemen in 1990 until the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2011, the country was formally ruled by Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Colonel in the North Yemeni Armed Forces who became president of the predecessor Yemen Arab Republic (the former North Yemen) in 1978. Informally, the actual running of the country came to settle on three men: Saleh; Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, an influential army general who helped set up the Islamist “Islah Party” with Saudi support; and Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar, the head Sheikh of the Hahsid tribal federation and main bagman for Saudi patronage payments to the Yemeni tribes.

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