The War in Yemen: Overshadowed but not Forgotten

While the world is focused on the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, many countries have paid less attention to the war in Yemen. Millions of people living in Yemen are facing the consequences of war, as are the people in Syria. There is a shortage of food and many are on the brink of starvation. Further, water and essential medical care is in limited supply, leaving children and the elderly in a vulnerable state. The conflict began one year ago when Saudi Arabia launched air campaigns against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels that seized the capital of Yemen, Sana’a. The Saudi Arabians employ indiscriminate military methods, targeting schools, hospitals and public squares, killing innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. The war shows no signs of stopping; in fact, it is predicted that Yemen may soon come to a collapse. In this case, what will happen to civilians? According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Yemen provided political and economic stability for refugees fleeing war in the Middle East and Africa including Syria, Somalia and Ethiopia. Where will the Yemeni people seek refuge? Somalia has recently announced that it will not be able to take in any more refugees, forcing the refugees of Yemen to flee elsewhere.

The conflict derived from religious tensions between Shia Iranian rebels and Sunni Saudi Arabia, each fighting for control of the country. After uniting southern and northern Yemen in the 20th century to form one country, southern Yemen accused the government of economic and political marginalization. This resulted in a civil war in 1994 to reverse the unification, an attempt which ultimately failed. Although the conflict is between rebels and Saudi military forces, civilians are the ones to suffer. In addition to the ongoing civil war, corruption and political instability has resulted in high unemployment rates and has halted growth and improvement. Further, this has led to food shortages and forced the population to flee the country. However, some Yemenis are so desperate to escape the fighting that they have resorted to travelling with smugglers, often giving all the money they have to travel in rickety boats with no guarantee that they will reach their destination. Some refugees have even tried to settle in countries where the quality of life is not much better than Yemen. This includes Somalia, where political instability and corruption ravages the country. Syrians travelling to Europe in large numbers has prompted European countries to close their borders, preventing refugees from settling in safe havens. This has caused Yemenis to stay in their country rather than leave. This option is too dangerous.

While the international governments are working on a solution to safely settle thousands of Syrian refugees, Yemeni refugees must not be forgotten. The war in Yemen has reached a dire crisis. Saudi Arabian airstrikes have been somewhat effective in eradicating rebel activity, but have also killed innocent civilians in the process. The Saudi campaign is brutal and is endangering the lives of thousands of civilians. In this case, countries with modernized military knowledge, such as the United States, should act as a consultant to the Saudi Arabian airstrike campaigns. The United States has high standards when carrying out airstrikes. They are well organized in the sense that they only target areas that are far from civilian populated areas. In this case they can avoid unnecessary casualties. Further, airstrikes should not target rebels themselves, but their headquarters and their weapons supply to prevent them from growing in strength.

Yemen is currently facing an ongoing civil war between the Saudi Arabian government and the Iranian backed rebels that have seized the capital. While the conflict rests between two state powers, Yemeni civilians have been caught in the crossfire and are facing the aftermath. Many have been targeted and killed and further face a lack of food and adequate medical treatment and water is in short supply as well. The world powers need to intervene in the crisis and provide aid and offer to accept Yemenis as refugees. There is nowhere else for them to flee, with Somalia and Europe closing its borders. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s campaign is disorganized and therefore it should consult countries such as the United States because of their modernized technology.