Peace talk negotiations between Houthis, a Shia’a militant tribal group in northern Yemen, and the Saudi Arabian led-coalition is taking place concerning the port of Hoeidah and its implication on the Yemeni civil war. According to The Guardian, the United Nations (UN), led by special envoy Martin Griffiths, has suggested that Hodeidah has been a vital route to access humanitarian funds – which about 70% of all Yemen’s imports rely on – and for it to be handed to UN supervision. If all stakeholders agree, that might lead to a long-awaited peaceful turn in what has become one of the world’s most violent conflict. If the UN obtains control over the port, shortages and blocks on essentials items such as food and water can be lifted. However, according to Al Jazeera, as both sides of the conflict battle it out in Southern Hodeidah, thousands of civilians will be trapped and may become another humanitarian catastrophe. Hospitals and medical centres will soon run out of medical supplies, and food will become scarce as ever, according to the British news outlet. The port of Hodeidah has become yet another piece of the Yemeni civil war, in which civilians’ lives were negated by regional and international players, for the goal of maintaining political power.
Instability has been a key characteristic of the Arab nation throughout the late 20th century. One of the poorest countries in the Middle East, it has long suffered from military coups and a civil war that ended in 1990 with the reunion of South and North Yemen, according to the BBC. While under Ali-Abdullah Saleh’s control, Yemen did not develop economically because of corruption and mismanagement on the government’s side, according to Al Jazeera. Although the country remains well endowed with natural sources such as natural oil, 40 percent of Yemen’s population lived on less than $2 a day before the civil war erupted, according to the English news agency.
The Arab Spring protests, which put an end to Ali-Abdullah Saleh’s control were only the beginning of the chaos and brutality that the country will notice in the coming years. The resignation of Ali-Abdullah Saleh only worsened Yemen’s political turmoil as he left a government unable to support itself, which in turn, lead to the rise of the militants in the north, specifically, Houthis. The Houthis started to gain further power in the north and even advanced to the capital Sana’a, supported by former Saleh allies. Increased militant control concerned the neighboring Gulf countries and they intervened with the leadership of Saudi Arabia. Iran, on the other hand, which is considered to be Saudi Arabia’s rival, is rumored to have been supporting Houthis, according to Al Jazeera. The conflict also includes an international dimension, as the United States (US) supports and provides Saudi Arabia with arms in order to diminish Houthi presence in Yemen. The escalated regional violence only intensified further under US support, as Saudi Arabia committed more than 16,000 strikes in Yemen, according to The Intercept.
Now, midway through 2018, the war has caused the worst humanitarian crisis of the new century, with all stakeholders’ main concern being the political victory. The Guardian reported early on this year that the war has killed at least 10,000 Yemenis. 75 percent of the population of around 22 million requires humanitarian aid, according to the BBC, while at least 8 million Yemenis are in the danger of famine, and an additional 1 million are infected with cholera, CNN reports.
Yet, Yemeni students are attempting to prepare for their exams at the same time as bombs intensify in Hodeidah. This is only one example of children being heavily disadvantaged by the three-year-long war. The International Rescue Committee reported that one out of five children dies in Yemen from preventable causes. In terms of education, according to the UN News, a minimum 500,000 thousand children have had to drop out of school since 2014, because of the war’s increase in brutality. Two million children are currently out of school, according to the UN’s news website. Public schools’ conditions continue to worsen, as 75 percent of public school teachers have not been paid their salaries in over a year. If these schools were to eventually shut down, an additional 4.5 million children will also be greatly affected, the former website also mentions.
The coalition between Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries is only increasing the violence in Yemen. The coalition that started as an effort to return Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi government to power has now left Yemen a ruined country, with no hope for political or social stability. The Yemeni crisis is being handled in a completely disadvantageous manner. The conflict has grave international consequences as the country has strategic importance and is considered an important location for transportation of oil across the world, according to The Middle East Eye. The first step in ending the crisis in Yemen is to implement a peace agreement that includes all international and regional players. This concerns especially Saudi Arabia and Iran, the regional hegemons that are battling a proxy war on Yemen’s sovereign land. Restrains should be made on the weapons used in the war, and the US needs to stop supporting Saudi Arabia by ending its supply of weapons that have most likely been used to target civilians. The solution should also include the grant of humanitarian funds to alleviate the staggering humanitarian crisis. The funds should especially target children, who are the most vulnerable in terms of access to healthcare and education.
However, while humanitarian aid and peace agreement may provide a temporary solution to the Yemeni crisis, with the absence of political structures to govern the country it will inevitably relapse into violence once again or be unable to move forward. The issue is often spoken about from a foreign perspective, often downplaying the importance of the Yemeni citizens’ self-determination in the process of ending the conflict. Local politics, its tensions and many other social dynamics are the most important aspects to consider, according to the Middle East Eye. Saudi Arabia’s support for Al-Hadi’s government has been mostly to cut off Hotuhi’s advancement in the country. However, on the ground, Al-Hadi’s government is unable to manage the country and is one of the reasons why Yemen fell under militant’s power in the first place. For instance, the government has not been able to pay salaries for government workers and teachers, as mentioned earlier, according to the former news website. The government has also repeatedly failed to improve the political situation in the past and suppressing the corruption that dominated Yemeni politics for the last decades. In order for the international community to solve the present crisis, it needs to abandon general solutions that do not pay attention to the specific needs of Yemen and its people.
Baraa Shiban, a human rights researcher and activist, has discussed in an article on The Middle East Eye that the Yemeni grievances have yet to be answered. She mentions that these issues and concerns cannot be suppressed again under elites in Sana’a. In addition, she contributes the lack of vital options to end the conflict to the UN’s inability to stay in touch with Yemen’s reality, by taking an “elite approach” to handling the problem. In conclusion, the international community needs to understand that the Yemenis crisis is inherently political. Therefore, it needs to support solutions that uproot the remains of the failed and corrupt state instead of continuing an alliance with an elite vision of Yemen that can only present a shallow response to the crisis.
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