Britain in Yemen
One of the Middle East’s poorest countries (at a collapsing GDP growth of -9.8%), Yemen finds itself at the epicentre of a dire conflict and civil war. Over the last 30 months almost 10,000 people have been killed, 50,000 injured and almost 20,000,000 people now need humanitarian aid.
What’s caused it?
Since Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi took charge of Yemen in 2012, criticism over his leadership and credibility catapulted the Houthi movement (representing the Zaidi Shia minority) to take force and control the Sadaa province up north. From there the movement (added with some Sunni support to the Zaidi Shia group) entered capital Sana’a to set up street camps and roadblocks.
By January 2015, President Hadi escaped to his hometown Aden, allowing the Houthis to assume power of the Presidency. President Hadi consequently requested Saudi support, and since March 2015, the Houthi movement has been in a war with a Saudi-led coalition backing President Hadi. The coalition supporting the president includes USA, Britain and France.
· 18% of Yemen is unemployed
· 72% of the population cannot access safe drinking water or sanitation
· 63% is what child malnutrition has risen to in the last year
· 50% of the country is considered food insecure
· 12% of people are internally displaced
Britain’s role in Yemen
Britain allies with Saudi Arabia, revolving heavily around trade. Despite growing evidence of human consequences, the UK government has allowed the export of a confounding £4.3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia to carry out its bombing campaign. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) fought the government in court in July for abusing human rights. CAAT disputed that arms sales to Saudi Arabia ought to cease. The next step for Britain is an internal conflict of a century-long alliance with a foreign power or self-interest. To avoid another human rights abuse, the government can start by insisting:
· free flow of goods within the country
· the blockade of all Yemen ports is ended (the blockade was initiated by Saudi Arabia)
· immediate ceasefire and re-energised peace talks.
The struggle is far from over, and tensions are not contained in Yemen. Iran backs the Shia-majority Houthi movement, whilst Saudi Arabia supports the Sunni-majority Hadi government. What occurs in Yemen is partly a result of the discordant views of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both sides share the blame for Yemen’s crises.
Houthis were blamed for shelling densely populated areas, laying mines indiscriminately and contributing to the humanitarian crisis that now afflicts the country. The UN blamed Saudi Arabia’s March 2015 air strikes for causing 60% of the estimated 4,000 civilian deaths at the time.