By Ali Ahmed Habib
I want to start this piece by apologising to the 250,000 Syrian people who were killed by the Assad regime, pleading for a no fly zone to States such as Saudi Arabia and the United States. I want to apologise to the 14 million Syrian people who have been displaced internally and externally by the Assad regime, imploring for a no fly zone from the powerfulstates of the ‘free world’ and perhaps not-so-free world in thfor the past four years. I want to apologise to the people of Rohingya, the people of Palestine and the Central African Republic who have cried out to the all-powerful states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt to help them during their moments of dire desperation, and yet – all their pleading fell on deaf ears
Why do I apologise? I apologise because on Wednesday night, without the consultation of the Yemeni people, the Saudi led coalition imposed a no fly zone and starting bombarding Sanaa.
This article will not attempt to change your opinion or educate you about Yemen, frankly because it is not the matter at hand. Rather, its aim is to clear some misconceptions about Yemen in light of recent events. The situation in Yemen is not as simple as people think it; it is not a sectarian conflict. The people of Sanaa who had previously been anti-Houthi have now become changed in light of this bombardment, yet the Yemenis who have a sense of justice and decency strongly oppose Iran’s support of Assad’s regime – and its support of the Houthi militias who catalysed the destabilisation of Yemen.
The common sectarian rhetoric many are selling at the moment is but feeding into this Shia-Sunni proxy war, which is incredibly damaging when assessing the solutions for the ongoing upheaval in the region Prior to Saudi and Iran involvement in the country, Yemen had no sectarian issues amongst its nation. We Nor are they are particularly keen on these two powerful regional players to sort out their differences on Yemeni soil – by using the Yemeni people as collateral damage. A question posed by many Yemenis currently living the bombardment begs common sense: do you really think the falling bombs will distinguish between those who are Houthi and those who are not? Do you honestly think this intervention in Yemen is going to encourage ‘humanitarian’ intervention in Syria? Is causing upheaval in one region the response to quelling chaos in another region?
Claims have been made that the Saudi-led coalition is using its force in Yemen to maintain the ‘legitimacy’ of the unopposed, democratically-elected President Hadi. Sunni Muslims who are naïve about the whole situation argue that this is justified since this “Sunni coalition” appears to be mounting against a “Shia” militia, which will result in intervention in Syria. This notion makes no sense; this aggression will only distract regional states away from Syria and continue to allow the Syrian people to die in silence. Syrians have been pleading with the international community for a no fly zone for four years and they were not granted this wish because ‘China and Russia opposed it’. Yet in Yemen, without anyone asking them, they decided to bomb the nation overnight whilst both Russia and China oppose the act. This is why I say Arab leaders are responsible for the deaths. Not a care is given about religion, human life, or morals. They are only there to serve their own interests.
In terms of the strikes, the Saudi led coalition forces did not just strike Houthi military strongholds but they also targeted residential areas all over Sanaa. A Saudi Arabian general stated Houthis are using human shields; does that sound similar at all? In Yemen, the people do not like Saudis and their cronies attacking Yemen, no matter the reason. In fact in Yemen, the people are saying if the devil is Yemeni, let the people of Yemen deal with him. If you support these strikes because the Houthis are supposedly being targeted then you may as well support the Drone strikes conducted by the United States as they claim to target Al-Qaida fighters.
A small journey in the region’s history, reminds us this is not the first time the Saudis have feared the situation south of their border. When Gamal Abdel Nasser invaded Yemen in an attempt to establish a republican regime in the north during the 60s the Saudis actively opposed it and supported the Zaydi Shia monarchy, fearing the effects destabilisation would have on the Saudi monarchy. Hence the Iranian power in Yemen is just the latest excuse for the Saudis to rally against, after the perceived Egyptian and Communist threats of the past. It is no surprise that Saudi Arabia (as well as Iran for that matter) wants to see a weak Yemen. It is reported that Whilst on his death bed, Ibn Saud told his sons that they should keep Yemen weak.
To those who ask questions like “What is the alternative? Do you want Iran to continue taking over?” I say that mistakes by both internal and external actors have led to this catastrophic situation. Actions such as Saudi giving immunity to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. Are we really supposed to believe that Yemen’s neighbor to the north and the rest of the GCC have Yemen’s best interest at heart?
Say, even ifthe Yemeni people were to accept what is going on, how are the GCC and its allies going to defeat the Houthis with only airstrikes? When have airstrikes alone solved a country’s problem? Internal actors are too weak and divided, you cannot use Yemen as a way to give Iran the middle finger. There is no simple answer to answering the catastrophe in Yemen, and nothing is worth the decimation of Yemen’s defense force as well as existing the very existence of this great nation.
In midst of trying to decipher right from wrong in my country’s current situation, all I ask of is to put yourself in the shoes of a Yemeni mother whose only remnant of her son is a shoe found in the midst of rubble this morning. Bombs don’t distinguish between Houthi and non-Houthi.
We don’t want Yemen to turn into a war playground between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
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