Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen make it as heinous as Islamic State, yet it escapes international criticism, writes Suraya Dadoo.
For over 100 days, Saudi Arabia, backed by a coalition of Arab countries, and with substantial logistical and arms support from the US and UK, has been bombing Yemen on an almost daily basis in a campaign against the Houthis – a rebel Shia group that has taken over large parts of the country, including the capital, Sana’a.
On March 26 – the day Operation Decisive Storm began – the Saudi ambassador to the US, Abdel al-Jubeir, declared that the airstrikes and operations on Yemen were to “protect” the Yemeni people and “the legitimate government of Yemen”.
Enter the US-backed, Saudi-led cavalry – without a UN mandate.
In order to “help” the Yemeni people, Saudi fighter jets, along with those from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain – armed with American and British munitions – have killed over 3 000 people and injured almost 15 000 more.
Hospitals, schools, a refugee camp, roads, electricity and water supply lines have been deliberately targeted.
The city of Saada has been flattened.
Human Rights Watch has just published evidence that internationally outlawed cluster bombs have been used in Yemen.
As if that weren’t enough, Saudi Arabia, one of the richest countries in the Middle East, is maintaining a blockade on imports of fuel, food and medicine to the Arab world’s poorest nation.
Yemen’s health system is on the brink of collapse – the country is a step away from famine.
Saudi tactics in Yemen are frighteningly reminiscent of Israel’s in Gaza: siege; ruthless airstrikes; targeted bombing of schools, homes and hospitals; and collective punishment.
All of this is supposedly to defend Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who came to power during the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.
But, let’s be honest. Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen has little to do with its love for democracy and everything to do with its loathing of the Shia Houthi rebels – allegedly backed by Saudi Arabia’s arch-rivals, Iran.
If Saudi Arabia and its Anglo-American allies were so concerned with restoring legitimate governments, why weren’t they and their motley crew in Cairo two years ago to ensure that a democratically elected Mohamed Mursi was still president of Egypt – rather than languishing in the prison of military dictator Abdel-Fatah Sisi who usurped Mursi through an illegitimate military coup?
Three weeks ago, an Islamic State bomber killed 27 Shia Muslims praying at the Imam Jaffar As-Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait during the holy month of Ramadaan.
Is this any different from a recent Saudi airstrike on a livestock market in Fayyoush, southern Yemen, that killed 45 civilians? While the world rightly condemned the Islamic State bombing in Kuwait, has there been any serious outrage over the Fayyoush massacre?
And while many Islamic leaders rushed to condemn Islamic State as an “aberration” and distance this group from Islam, those same voices are silent as Saudi Arabia – which claims to be the “custodian” of Islam – showers Yemenis with bombs and missiles during Ramadaan.
These Muslim leaders would do well to take heed of Al-Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hassan’s recent warning that those who fail to condemn the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen would struggle to condemn the next Israeli air war against Gaza.
Silence on Saudi Arabia’s bombings of Yemen is a serious political and human failure.
Yemen is a level 3 humanitarian emergency according to the UN –its most serious classification.
80: The percentage of the population in need of aid.
500 000: The number of children under 5 at risk of developing severe malnutrition.
1 000 000: The number of people forced to flee their homes.
6 000 000: The number of people who are severely food insecure.
* Suraya Dadoo is a researcher for Media Review Network, a Joburg-based advocacy group. Find her on Twitter: @Suraya_Dadoo
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.