Saudi Ambassador compares airstrikes on Yemen to a husband beating his wife

Published November 6th, 2016 - 12:57 GMT
10,000 people have died in the Yemen conflict (Stringer/AFP)
10,000 people have died in the Yemen conflict (Stringer/AFP)

Remarks made by the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Abdullah Al-Saud, comparing the use of cluster weapons in Yemen to a husband beating his wife, raised eyebrows on Friday. 

When asked “will you continue to use cluster weapons in Yemen” by a reporter from The Intercept, Mr Saud responded by joking that “this is like the question, ‘Will you stop beating your wife?’” He went on to add that “if anyone attacks human lives, and disturbs the border, in whatever region, we’re going to continue hitting them, no matter what.”

A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015, at the request of the exiled government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. However, the ongoing campaign has faced criticism by human rights groups for its use of internationally banned cluster bombs, which scatter into explosive fragments, and are thus highly dangerous to civilians, and particularly to children. The coalition has been responsible for the majority of the 10,000 deaths in the conflict, including 140 people who were killed when a funeral was targeted in the capital Sanaa in October.

Following the release of a 12-second video of the exchange, Yemenis and Saudis took to social media to criticize the remarks both for showing a lack of compassion for Yemeni lives, and a lack of respect for Saudi wives.

“We offer our blood cheaply, so that #Saudi does not disparage or insult us, and others accept the 'shoes' [an insult in Arabic] of their rule so that they [can] insult them and insult us. #SaudiAmbassadortoWashingtonInsultsYemen”

“I swear, I don't know if this is an insult to Yemen or to Saudi wives, as "a Saudi spokesman" talks about beating with humor. #SaudiAmbassadortoWashingtonInsultsYemen”

Moreover, some Saudis suggested that the comments do not represent Saudi Arabia.

“His response was far from professional and close to audacity, and he does not represent us at all as a people or officially... Yemen is us and we are them.”

However, others have criticized what they saw as the misrepresentation of Mr Saud’s words, suggesting that his statement was meant to indicate that he felt that he was not being questioned so much as accused. 

"#SaudiAmbassadortoWashingtonInsultsYemen In difficult circumstances we must choose the appropriate words as enemies lie in wait for us."

Moreover, a longer, six-minute clip, later uploaded to Youtube by Capitol Intel Group, shows the Ambassador accusing the reporter of “coming here with questions you have already in your mind.” This led some to argue that it was aggressive reporting on the part of the Intercept journalist, which pushed the prince to use evasive western political tactics.

“The comments were just western diplomacy and have nothing to do with humiliation or impudence.”

Mr Saud was speaking at the annual Arab-US policymakers conference, which is partly funded by oil companies and arms manufacturers. The US and UK have both come under increased pressure to cease arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as it is feared that western-manufactured weapons are being used to kill Yemeni civilians.

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