A Forgotten War: The Devastating Human Rights Crisis In Yemen

Yemen’s crisis is one of the many human rights emergencies the world is dealing with in our modern society. Yemen has been involved in a terrible conflict for more than eight years, leading to numerous human rights breaches. The Civil War started in 2014 and it sees Houthi rebels fighting against the Yemeni government, supported by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. The conflict’s effects on the Yemeni people have been terrible. Around 24 million people, almost 80% of the population, require humanitarian aid, making it one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, according to the United Nations. Millions of people have been displaced, with many escaping to nearby nations like Saudi Arabia and Oman. Yemen has a terrible human rights situation, with all parties to the conflict engaging in abuses such as extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, and torture. The Houthis, who rule over Sana’a, the capital, have been charged with exploiting child soldiers and enlisting minors in the fighting. They have also denied access to humanitarian aid, worsening the nation’s conditions. Also, the Saudi-led coalition, which has been using airstrikes to target the Houthis, has been charged with violating human rights. Women and children have been among the numerous civilians killed by coalition bombings. The humanitarian catastrophe worsened after the naval blockade of Yemen, restricting access to food, medicine, and other necessities. Along with destroying the nation’s institutions and infrastructure, the conflict has been devastating on the economy, leading to a profound absence of essential services, such as healthcare and education. And as the economy of Yemen is on the verge of collapse, many people cannot access primary services.

Ansar Allah, popularly known as the Houthi, the Iranian-backed Zaidi Shia armed group that effectively governs Sana’a and northern Yemen, received a letter in December from a group of UN personnel. The letter detailed extensive discrimination and systematic abuse of women’s rights, such as limitations on their freedom of expression, mobility, health, and employment. According to Houthi authorities, women must only travel with a mahram, or male relative or husband. They can’t travel within Ansar Allah-controlled territory without a male guardian’s written consent, not even for work-related reasons. The prohibition also applies to female UN employees. Even though mahram is not a requirement under Yemeni law, it has now been made a de facto law throughout the Houthi-controlled region. Since assuming control, Ansar Allah has been enforcing it, and local organizations allege that the wave of limitations picked up in the second half of 2022.

Amnesty International claims that Yemeni women employed by UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations are also subject to travel limitations, such as mahram restrictions. The letter explains that humanitarian groups must include the name of a mahram when submitting travel requests to the Houthi authorities for Yemeni female staff members traveling on business. Amnesty International notes that many women do not have a mahram to travel with them on business, and they are compelled to quit their employment and lose the income necessary to sustain their families. As such, Yemeni women and girls are cut off from humanitarian aid because of these limitations. The Yemeni Human Rights Organization claims that since 2017, the Houthis’ restrictions have effectively stopped women from receiving any healthcare, including reproductive healthcare. Since many Yemeni women are unwilling to travel without a man’s company, many female medical professionals, the only ones qualified to care for women, are also unable to do their duties, which prevents a sizable number of women and girls from receiving medical care. Due to the Houthis’ ongoing hurdles, organizations in Yemen regularly modify their work plans.

In numerous medical centres in the group’s home district of Sa’dah, Ansar Allah started blocking the prescription of contraceptives in early 2017; this restriction was expanded to include additional regions of the nation in 2020, depriving locals of family planning techniques, counselling and other reproductive health services. Women’s clothing retailers now stock only long, black abayas. Armed gang members seized plastic female mannequins from stores because they aroused desire and violated religious beliefs. In 2018 they covered the heads of mannequins in bridal gown shops, as well as the faces and bodies on billboards. Nowadays, many public spaces, including cafes and restaurants, are off-limits to women. According to the non-governmental organization Mwatana for Human Rights, ladies can’t apply makeup at ceremonies. Indeed, in order to ensure that they are not applying makeup and are dressed appropriately for wedding celebrations, Ansar Allah has hired female personnel in various districts to work in the rooms where weddings are held. The international community must give the human rights issue in Yemen immediate attention. Widespread human rights violations, such as discrimination against women, the deployment of child soldiers, the denial of humanitarian aid, and the use of bombings that have killed civilians, have been brought on by the conflict. In addition, to address the conflict’s underlying causes and hold individuals accountable for human rights breaches, the UN and other humanitarian organizations must continue to offer assistance and support to those affected by the violence. The suffering of the people, particularly the women, cannot be ignored by the world, and the international community must act immediately to end the conflict and defend the human rights of all Yemenis.


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