Saturday, December 31, 2016

Yemen’s 2016, the Year of Massive Atrocities

For millions of Yemenis, the year 2016 is certainly marked by the prolongation of massive atrocities; including the world’s apathy over the atrocities in Yemen. As 2017 begins, Yemen’s war enters its third year; and no end seems in sight for my home country, except more suffering lying ahead.

Yemenis could have found some glimpse of hope in the start of next year if they were not living under a blockade, if they were not being bombed at funerals, schools, hospitals, or if they were not dying in a slow death manner with preventable diseases as the health care system fell apart, or if they were not starving to death, or if they were not internally being uprooted from their homes, or even if their outcry was not falling on deaf ears.

This fills me with rage. My rage is one without scream or tears; it’s beyond me. How can one of the world’s poorest nations handle the hell of being caught between the Saudis’ power-machine and the Saleh-Houthi alliance’s aggression, as if life was not already harsh in Yemen? Even before the ongoing war in Yemen, nearly half of Yemen’s population were living under the poverty line. I vividly remember growing up in Sana’a and fantasising having milk and nuts which we couldn’t afford or having only yoghurt and bread for lunch for many years. Yemen was repeatedly ranked at the bottom in the Human Development Index. Yemen even failed to achieve decreasing the hunger rate, which was one of the UN’s millennium goals.

Today, the war has killed over 10,000 people since March 2015, in which one in three Saudi air raids hit civilian sites. Over half of Yemen’s 26 million population are going hungry. Health facilities are barely functioning with the lack of medical and surgical supplies. Every day passes, the human cost of the war goes higher, while no gains made by any of the warring parties. Or perhaps, the only result made is devastating the lives of million of innocent civilians caught in this raging war. These civilians are my family, friends and friends of friends.

I lost count of my relatives, friends and friends’ relatives who have died in the wake of the catastrophic humanitarian situation. I am even terrified of what the future holds. I think of my mother living in Sana’a who with the start of the war started to take half a pill of her daily one pill medicine for her high blood pressure because of the medicine shortage in the country, my aunt who passed away from cancer as the health care system in Yemen collapsed, and my best friend who weekly writes me as he got displaced from Sana’a to Taiz then to Aden and telling me how he’s surviving with only one meal per a day. They all ask, “why nobody cares about us? We’re facing hell in Yemen. What wrong have we done to deserve this?”

I know what wrong Yemenis have done. Our fault is that we are poor who are torn between saving our sick children or feeding the others, let alone of extensively televising and tweeting our tragedy like in other places, i.e. in Aleppo. Those who dared to let the words out are silenced; in the most horrific censorship case is that assassination of Yemen’s great investigative journalist, Mohammed Al-Absi ten days ago. This is well-explained by the fact that the Houthis are the second leading abductors of journalists in 2016 after the Islamic State. That is, Yemenis continue to suffer from a multi-faced evil. Our ordeal is summed up in Thucydides’ saying: “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

Fatigued by the war, we might not make it to the day when we realise human rights groups’ call for establishing an independent international committee that investigates the war crimes in Yemen - and presumably, later on, punish the war criminals. The devastation is immense and not all the atrocities are caught in cameras. The year 2016 meant a living nightmare for millions of Yemenis; facing a slow death in total despair.

The UN says that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is one of the worst in the world, and Yemenis will tell you it is worse than bad - it’s hell on earth. Innocent civilians are trapped in unwinnable, pointless and endless war – the Saudis won’t ever accept a defeat by one of the world’s poorest countries and the Saleh/Houthis’ alliance would fight till the last drop of blood and won’t surrender ever. What’s even more tragic is that London and Washington keep ignoring calls of halting arms sales and support to the Saudi-led coalition that is enabling the killing in Yemen. Only a miracle can end this war. The year 2017 can hold an end to Yemen war if that miracle was realised - only if the international community’s morality and conscious were awaken demonstrating more efforts to stop the war and proving that Yemenis’ lives have a value.