(I drafted this a few weeks ago, but didn’t get around to posting it….)
Prepare yourselves people, it’s Friday afternoon and I’m climbing onto my soapbox….
One of my incredible colleagues has just come back from a few months living in the war zone that is now Yemen, and he reduced me to tears while describing the horrific war crimes and unbearable suffering of the people of Yemen at the moment. The entire country is teetering on the verge of a severe famine, even the war lords are begging for aid agencies to bring food, while cities and towns are battered daily by coalition air strikes sanctioned by the UN Security Council.
The British, American and many other governments are deeply implicated in this situation, the UK for example having signed an arms treaty promising not to sell weapons that are knowingly being used for war crimes, yet continuing to sell weapons to Saudi which we know are definitely being used in Yemen in illegal manouvres.
A country which relies on imports for 90% of it’s food is being deliberately and cruelly starved in a total blockade (air, sea and road) for the last 6 months. Again, this has been sanctioned by the UN Security Council members, including the UK and US.
To give you an example of some of the flagrant breaches of international humanitarian law happening there, the entire city of Sa’Dah was declared a military target and civilians were given less than 24 hours to evacuate. They informed the people that carpet-bombings were imminent by air-dropping flyers, and they started bombing before the deadline had even expired.
Elderly, sick, and disabled civilians were largely the ones who couldn’t get out in time, and the city was flattened by coalition bombs.
Our teams on the ground have witnessed a vast number of atrocities and are experiencing air strikes, shelling and mortars every single day. They are witnessing first-hand war crimes being committed by coalition governments, and the only reason you aren’t reading about this in every newspaper around the world is because Saudi has been blocking journalists trying to enter the country, and in many cases physically removing them from airplanes.
Take this Newsnight report: it took 3 months before the BBC could gain access to try and document the crimes being perpetrated, and when they did, both Saudi and UK governments flatly denied that any of this is taking place, and refused to investigate it (See the full Newsnight report on iplayer for more on this). If another country was accused of committing war crimes on this scale, the world would be in uproar demanding a full and fair investigation.
Wanna know why there aren’t any Yemeni refugees? They are not allowed to leave the country – 1.5 million people are displaced and none of them can escape the constant barrage of air strikes. They can’t leave, and there’s not much food left, so the whole population is trapped and being left to starve, and news outlets can’t go in to witness and share what is happening.
So please, please please – read this story, watch the footage, SHARE it, tell your friends, write to your MPs, and shout about the horror of what is happening in Yemen, because if you could hear my colleagues tell you first hand what it’s like, you’d be weeping for the people of Yemen too.