- Saudi crown prince bin Salman is in the U.K.
- A PR campaign is trying to reform his image to be more progressive and appealing
- But protesters are trying to shape the narrative towards his role in Yemen's war
- Bin Salman is behind one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today
By Ty Joplin
Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman has touched down in the U.K and has already dined with royals, met top officials, and been showered in praise by pro-Salman advertisements plastered over newspapers, streets and even taxis.
Equal to the pro-Salman hype are thousands of protesters organizing rallies throughout London against the crown prince’s visit. Their biggest grievances are bin Salman’s leading role in entangling Saudi in a war that has deliberately targeted civilians. Further, protesters have demonstrated against the U.K.'s burgeoning arms sales to Saudi, which skyrocketed in 2015 following Saudi’s decision to go to war in Yemen.
Feels like arriving in #Riyadh - when entering London from the M4 & M40 one is greeted by the “beloved leader” #MbS - @AEISaudi & the #Saudi lobby try to turn around the kingdom’s image in a not so subtle way @alekhbariyatv pic.twitter.com/Gb8rwuYiUK— Dr Andreas Krieg (@andreas_krieg) March 6, 2018
The U.K. has been one of the biggest military backers of Saudi’s war.
Protestors wearing masks depicting U.K Prime Minister Theresa May and prince bin Salman demonstrate against their parts in the ongoing war in Yemen (AFP/DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS)
Bin Salman is also receiving criticism for his quickfire purge in late 2017 that included the detainment of about 380 Saudi elites and members of the royal family. Pro-Saudi outlets and many media organizations claimed it was part of an ‘anti-corruption’ investigation, but others saw it as a un-democratic centralization of power around bin Salman.
While many outlets have simply reported on the fact that U.K. residents are protesting against bin Salman as an inhumane warmonger, they have not directly shown exactly what his war looks like or how it has affected the people of Yemen with real depth.
Bin Salman was appointed Saudi’s Minister of Defense in Jan, 2015. Just two months later in March, Saudi began its military intervention in Yemen—a move understood to be ordered by bin Salman himself.
As part of its military strategy, Saudi began systematically starving Yemen. Martha Mundy, a professor at the London School of Economics who began studying the patterns of Saudi’s military strikes, began noticing a trend. She eventually came to the conclusion that her data “is beginning to show that in some regions, the Saudis are deliberately striking at agricultural infrastructure in order to destroy the civil society.”
Saudi has reportedly been targeting farmland, cattle, water infrastructure, food stores, agricultural banks, markets and food trucks.
A Yemeni child sits among the rubble of a neighborhood (AFP/FILE)
Additionally, bin Salman has regularly forced the total closure of Yemen’s air and naval ports. Starting in the summer of 2015, then continuing into 2016 and 2017, bin Salman has consistently choked off Yemen’s access to food, fuel and medical supplies.
“Yemen is a catastrophic case. It is the man-made conflict that is driving hunger and driving the conditions for famine. Simple as that,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program. He then went on to say that, “if we end the war, we will end the starvation.”
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By early 2018, the Norwegian Refugee Council estimated that 22 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance—this in a country with a population of about 27.5 million people.
In spite of Saudi’s insistence that it is letting crucial aid flow to trapped Yemeni civilians, charity workers and civilians say otherwise. “Strangling Yemen’s main port with delays and time-bound restrictions is a sure way to prevent enough food and fuel to reach Yemen’s suffering civilians,” said Jan Egeland, a Norwegian diplomat said.
A severely malnourished and underweight child in Yemen (AFP/FILE)
The U.N.’s chief humanitarian described the suffering in Yemen as “unfathomable.”
Yemen’s deprivation has resulted in one of the worst cholera outbreaks in modern history. At its peak, over 2,000 were dead and a million infected. Seeking help to combat the disease and malnutrition was nearly impossible.
The BBC documented one Yemeni civilian’s attempt to find help in her war-torn country. Samira walked for miles with her malnourished, sick child to a makeshift cholera clinic. Their home destroyed by an airstrike and their access to food cut off, Samira and her family has been displaced and deprived.
She cannot breastfeed her children because she too is malnourished. She can only provide tiny rations of powdered milk mixed with water that is contaminated with bacteria that causes cholera.
A fighter inside the destroyed Taiz National Museum in Yemen (AFP/FILE)
Bin Salman meeting with Queen Elizabeth (AFP/JAMES PHEBY)
Billboards plastered with bin Salman’s face may be littering London, heralding him as a champion for women’s rights and progressive reform. But for the people of Yemen, bin Salman is just another despot ready to trade their lives for a chance at gaining more regional power.
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