Sat, Jul 15, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Calamity developing in Yemen nearly beyond comprehension

While the world’s attention has been focused on Syria, millions face starvation and disease due to a conflict between a Saudi Arabian-led alliance and the Houthis

By Alon Ben-Meir

It is hard to imagine that along with the catastrophe that has been inflicted on Syria over the past six years, another calamity is unfolding in Yemen of damning proportions while the whole world looks on with indifference.

What is happening in Yemen is not merely a violent conflict between combating forces for power, but the willful subjugation of millions of innocent civilians to starvation, disease and ruin that transcends the human capacity to descend even below the lowest pit of darkness, from which there is no exit.

Seven million people face starvation, while 19 million of Yemen’s 28 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Both Saudi Arabia and the Houthis are restricting food and medicine supplies from reaching starving children, many of whom are cholera-ridden and on the verge of joining the thousands who have already died from starvation and disease.

More than 10,000 have been killed and nearly 40,000 injured in the conflict. The UN Children’s Fund has reported nearly 300,000 cholera cases, and a joint statement with the WHO declared that the infection is spreading at a rate of 5,000 new cases per day.

An Associated Press report documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Yemeni forces, where torture of unimaginable cruelty is routine.

The torture of prisoners is reducing them to less than an animal ready for the slaughter. One example of such extreme torture is the “grill,” in which a prisoner is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire.

Another method of slow death is where detainees are crammed in shipping containers and guards light a fire underneath to fill it with smoke, slowly suffocating detainees. Prisoners are blindfolded and shackled in place in a box too small to stand in for most of their detention. Constant beating by steel wires is common, which often results in the death of the detainee.

As Dostoyevsky said: “People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.” The US has been aware for some time of allegations of torture, but professes that there have not been such abuses.

Moreover, the blockade of imports of food, medicine and fuel, which Yemen is completely dependent on, is making the situation dire beyond comprehension. If humanitarian aid is not provided immediately, millions of children will starve to death, even though the international community is cognizant of this ominous situation.

The conflict escalated in March 2015, when the Saudi Arabian-led coalition (including Bahrain and Sunni-majority Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan, Qatar and the UAE) began a military operation to restore the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power.

Saudi Arabia’s targets are the Houthi forces, who are a Zaydi Shiite Muslim minority and have been fighting for control of the country. They are loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was deposed in 2011 following a popular uprising instigated by the Arab Spring.

The Houthis have suffered immense discrimination, and their grievances have been addressed neither before nor after the Gulf Cooperation Council’s March 2013 initiative that launched the National Dialogue Conference, which failed to resolve the dispute over the distribution of power.

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