Citizens of Yemen: the war's 'unworthy victims'

Published July 12th, 2015 - 07:26 GMT

Four months on and the war in Yemen is still raging fiercely. Across the country, there have been over 19,000 people killed and injured as a result of the violence. The number of displaced has grown to over 1.2 million. These numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate. Yemen, this devastated place, torn by violence, has victims unfairly perceived and treated as unworthy by all warring parties.

Citizens in the southern part of Yemen in particular have been treated as unworthy by the Houthi movement’s militias and its ally, the ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces, since they started bombarding president Abdurabu Mansour Hadi’s house and Aden airport on 19 March (before the start of the Saudi-led airstrikes). After Hadi fled the country, Houthi/Saleh forces began targeting people in the south systematically on the pretext that they are militants and al Qaeda. Then they shifted their propaganda to claim that they were fighting ISIS [Da’esh].

All these slogans have ripped off southerners’ worthiness in the eyes of the Houthi/Saleh forces. And at the same time, Houthis mastered local and international media to stress how the Saudi-led coalition was murdering in northern Yemen, while overlooking atrocities committed by Houthis in the south. For the Houthis, the victims of the Saudi-led airstrikes are the only worthy victims. Meanwhile, southern resistance fighters perceive and treat victims as nothing but unworthy, why is that? Probably because antagonism has reached an irreversible point. It is astonishing how these stances are so totally isolated from any moral principle.

The Yemeni people have been the greatest unworthy victim by the Houthis’ attempted coup d’état against president Hadi in September last year. Houthis have cracked down on dissent, which includes Hadi himself, ever since their expansion from Sa’adah to Sana’a in July last year. Specifically, since September 2014, there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of activists, journalists, and human rights defenders across Yemen who were harassed, abducted and tortured - some to death - by the Houthi militias in their own bloody purge. 

Without giving any justification to the Saudi-led airstrikes campaign, which was initiated with the blessing of Yemen’s president Hadi, the airstrikes came as a reaction to the Houthis’ already existing violence. On 26 March, the Saudi-led coalition consisted of 11 Arab countries, while the other 11 Arab states stood and watched in silence. The coalition’s aim was to restore president Hadi’s legitimacy, viewing Hadi as its only worthy victim who deserved to remain safe in the palm of comfort in Riyadh.

But are the strikes really an effective way to solve the problem? Of course not, and more importantly they have led to a situation that is nothing but disastrous. As the Saudi-led coalition continues to claim that it is firing only against military points, the airstrikes’ horrifying collateral damage tells us another story; namely that Yemeni citizens are unworthy victims in the name of restoring a president’s legitimacy.


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