Yemen: The Hidden Crisis

1 million contracted cholera. 

1 million contracted cholera. 

18 million are food insecure.

Over 1.8 million children are malnourished.

Over 5,000 children have been killed or injured.

Three quarters of Yemen’s population are in need of humanitarian assistance.

What is happening in Yemen? Why is Yemen ignored? 

The Houthi insurgency in Yemen is a primarily Shia Muslim rebellion group. In August 2014, the group and thousands of its supporters rose up against the Yemeni government, protesting that the government step down.The rebellion was unhappy with many of the government’s decisions and policies that didn’t reflect the rights of the people. On March 25, 2015, Saudi Arabia, who opposes the Houthis to support their ally with Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, began its first airstrikes in Yemen.Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis is now in its third year and does not show signs of ending soon. As a result of the bombings and airstrikes, businesses and markets have closed, food is in short supply, and hospitals are overwhelmed by the vast number of sick and injured people.

When the crisis began in 2015, the Obama administration could not decide what to do. Despite the clear and ongoing human rights violations inflicted by the battle between the Houthis and the Saudis, the US did not want to jeopardize its relationship with Saudi Arabia.Instead, the US continued to support Saudi Arabia’s fight against rebel groups. In 2017 alone, the US sold $17.86 billion in military equipment and training to Saudi Arabia while only contributing $667.5 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen. This means the US spent 27x more on Saudi weapons than they did on aid to Yemen. Even worse, this same military equipment is being used to target Yemeni civilians. A Saudi-led airstrike that killed 40 children and 11 others on a bus was sold by the US. Yet, major news outlets have ignored the crisis for years.

Jason Lapadula, a current student at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs who served as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and an infantry platoon commander in the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf, believes that geographical location plays a large role in explaining why there is less focus on Yemen and much more on Syria. According to Lapadula, the lack of media coverage is due to how refugees are dispersing in each of their conflicts. Refugees coming out of Syria are “filtering into the EU directly through Turkey” Meanwhile, in Yemen, many of the refugees are “coming through the BAM [Bab-el-Mandeb] strait and from Aden [a city in Yemen] over to the horn of Africa, and they get dispersed through Western Africa.” Thus there isn’t as much of a direct impact on the Western world because you have that “buffer of West Africa.” In Syria, you don’t necessarily have as much of a buffer so there is much more of a focus on Syria.

Looking at geographical location as an explanation, it is morally flawed for media to only focus on crises that impact the Western world, especially considering that spotlighted crises in media receive much more humanitarian aid and assistance.

Another reason there is less focus on Yemen is because the intervention in Yemen is led by the Saudi Arabian military, and not Western militaries. Saudi Arabia led a coalition of nine African and Middle Eastern countries in response to Yemen president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s call for support. Lapadula believes “for better or for worse, Saudi Arabia has pretty much taken the reins on this.” Meanwhile, in Syria there are a lot more Western militaries deployed so there is much more media coverage there than in Yemen.

The difficulty of raising awareness on the situation stems from all the potential causes of the lack of media coverage in Yemen. “It’s a very difficult question,” Lapadula said, “When it comes to US’s foreign policy, I don’t know if we should be engaging in Yemen as a country right now. I think the US is spread pretty thin.” One example of the US’s widespread military involvement is their war against terrorism that began roughly after 9/11 occurred. The US Counterterror War alone involves 39 percent of the world’s countries, and spreads from the Philippines to South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and West Africa.There is “just not enough political capital to go in and say ‘we’ll take the reins on this, Saudi Arabia’s doing a poor job.’” 

Despite Lapadula’s view that the US shouldn’t intervene militarily, he has a different take on the refugee front. “NGOs and Western Allies” can play a large role in addressing the refugee crisis and providing a “more stable livelihood”, “especially for those coming to Western Africa.” While there are a number of NGOs already taking action – such as the International Rescue Committee providing water, medicine, and food– there is only so much that these NGOs can do to make a large impact. Conversely, if Western Allies were more involved, the issue of lack of media coverage may be greatly reduced.

There is also the option of diplomatically confronting Saudi Arabia. Lapadula proposes the US could even use the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist for The Washington Post, to bring awareness to Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations and allow for the rise of the discussion of Yemen. Khashoggi had spoken out in the past about how Mohammad Bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and how he has been consolidating power. Recently, Khashoggi went into a Saudi Arabian consulate and was killed. Lapadula recognizes that this “news is putting a lot of pressure on the US right now to react.” While it is uncertain whether the Trump administration is going to react, it’s important that the US also “impose some sort of diplomatic sanctions or put pressure on Saudi Arabia” so that there is a leg to stand on with the Yemen Crisis as well. By stating that “what Saudi Arabia does at large in terms of human rights is a problem” and tying that in with the killing of Khashoggi, “we can apply pressure because there is now a public want for the US to impose diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia.” Personally, I do agree with Lapadula that this instance of Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations can be used strategically to bring about a greater good for Yemen. However, we must also recognize that we cannot predict what steps the US is going to make at the moment.

Lapadula thinks it is unlikely that “the Trump Administration is going to do very much as the US has taken this sort of isolationist standpoint.” Our “neo-conservative approach” with Iraq and Afghanistan with President Bush “got us in a lot of trouble then.” Barack Obama had “a little bit more of a realist approach with foreign policy.” Now, we are “swinging really far realist to the point of isolationism with the Trump administration.” While one would like to think that the US will put diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia and allow Yemeni refugees and displaced people a better chance to get out of the country, it is uncertain that we will.

Ultimately, the issue of raising awareness in Yemen is one that is slowly gaining attention. While it is not nearly as covered as other crises seem to be, recognition of its severity and the spread of awareness is essential.

18 million are food insecure.

Over 1.8 million children are malnourished.

Over 5,000 children have been killed or injured.

Three quarters of Yemen’s population are in need of humanitarian assistance.https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2018/04/05/yemen-became-the-worlds-worst-humanitarian-crisis/#25af82335050

What is happening in Yemen? Why is Yemen ignored? 

The Houthi insurgency in Yemen is a primarily Shia Muslim rebellion group. In August 2014, the group and thousands of its supporters rose up against the Yemeni government, protesting that the government step down. The rebellion was unhappy with many of the government’s decisions and policies that didn’t reflect the rights of the people. On March 25, 2015, Saudi Arabia, who opposes the Houthis to support their ally with Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, began its first airstrikes in Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s campaign against the Houthis is now in its third year and does not show signs of ending soon. As a result of the bombings and airstrikes, businesses and markets have closed, food is in short supply, and hospitals are overwhelmed by the vast number of sick and injured people.

When the crisis began in 2015, the Obama administration could not decide what to do. Despite the clear and ongoing human rights violations inflicted by the battle between the Houthis and the Saudis, the US did not want to jeopardize its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Instead, the US continued to support Saudi Arabia’s fight against rebel groups. In 2017 alone, the US sold $17.86 billion in military equipment and training to Saudi Arabia while only contributing $667.5 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen. This means the US spent 27x more on Saudi weapons than they did on aid to Yemen. Even worse, this same military equipment is being used to target Yemeni civilians. A Saudi-led airstrike that killed 40 children and 11 others on a bus was sold by the US. Yet, major news outlets have ignored the crisis for years.

Jason Lapadula, a current student at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs who served as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and an infantry platoon commander in the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf, believes that geographical location plays a large role in explaining why there is less focus on Yemen and much more on Syria. According to Lapadula, the lack of media coverage is due to how refugees are dispersing in each of their conflicts. Refugees coming out of Syria are “filtering into the EU directly through Turkey” Meanwhile, in Yemen, many of the refugees are “coming through the BAM [Bab-el-Mandeb] strait and from Aden [a city in Yemen] over to the horn of Africa, and they get dispersed through Western Africa.” Thus there isn’t as much of a direct impact on the Western world because you have that “buffer of West Africa.” In Syria, you don’t necessarily have as much of a buffer so there is much more of a focus on Syria.

Looking at geographical location as an explanation, it is morally flawed for media to only focus on crises that impact the Western world, especially considering that spotlighted crises in media receive much more humanitarian aid and assistance.

Another reason there is less focus on Yemen is because the intervention in Yemen is led by the Saudi Arabian military, and not Western militaries. Saudi Arabia led a coalition of nine African and Middle Eastern countries in response to Yemen president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s call for support. Lapadula believes “for better or for worse, Saudi Arabia has pretty much taken the reins on this.” Meanwhile, in Syria there are a lot more Western militaries deployed so there is much more media coverage there than in Yemen.

The difficulty of raising awareness on the situation stems from all the potential causes of the lack of media coverage in Yemen. “It’s a very difficult question,” Lapadula said, “When it comes to US’s foreign policy, I don’t know if we should be engaging in Yemen as a country right now. I think the US is spread pretty thin.” One example of the US’s widespread military involvement is their war against terrorism that began roughly after 9/11 occurred. The US Counterterror War alone involves 39 percent of the world’s countries, and spreads from the Philippines to South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and West Africa.There is “just not enough political capital to go in and say ‘we’ll take the reins on this, Saudi Arabia’s doing a poor job.’” 

Despite Lapadula’s view that the US shouldn’t intervene militarily, he has a different take on the refugee front. “NGOs and Western Allies” can play a large role in addressing the refugee crisis and providing a “more stable livelihood”, “especially for those coming to Western Africa.” While there are a number of NGOs already taking action – such as the International Rescue Committee providing water, medicine, and food – there is only so much that these NGOs can do to make a large impact. Conversely, if Western Allies were more involved, the issue of lack of media coverage may be greatly reduced.

There is also the option of diplomatically confronting Saudi Arabia. Lapadula proposes the US could even use the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist for The Washington Post, to bring awareness to Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations and allow for the rise of the discussion of Yemen. Khashoggi had spoken out in the past about how Mohammad Bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and how he has been consolidating power. Recently, Khashoggi went into a Saudi Arabian consulate and was killed. Lapadula recognizes that this “news is putting a lot of pressure on the US right now to react.” While it is uncertain whether the Trump administration is going to react, it’s important that the US also “impose some sort of diplomatic sanctions or put pressure on Saudi Arabia” so that there is a leg to stand on with the Yemen Crisis as well. By stating that “what Saudi Arabia does at large in terms of human rights is a problem” and tying that in with the killing of Khashoggi, “we can apply pressure because there is now a public want for the US to impose diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia.” Personally, I do agree with Lapadula that this instance of Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations can be used strategically to bring about a greater good for Yemen. However, we must also recognize that we cannot predict what steps the US is going to make at the moment.

Lapadula thinks it is unlikely that “the Trump Administration is going to do very much as the US has taken this sort of isolationist standpoint.” Our “neo-conservative approach” with Iraq and Afghanistan with President Bush “got us in a lot of trouble then.” Barack Obama had “a little bit more of a realist approach with foreign policy.” Now, we are “swinging really far realist to the point of isolationism with the Trump administration.” While one would like to think that the US will put diplomatic pressure on Saudi Arabia and allow Yemeni refugees and displaced people a better chance to get out of the country, it is uncertain that we will.

Ultimately, the issue of raising awareness in Yemen is one that is slowly gaining attention. While it is not nearly as covered as other crises seem to be, recognition of its severity and the spread of awareness is essential.

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