War in Yemen
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What’s Driving the War In Yemen?

On January 21, 2022, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the United States cut the power in Yemen for four days after Saudi-led airstrikes on the country. The internet outage affected the emergency services and people were not able to contact their loved ones.

The war in Yemen has entered its seventh year, and with the latest developments, there are no signs of slowing down.

There are an estimated four million displaced people, and five million people on the brink of starvation. The situation is dire, and we need to address this immediately — and see how we get here in the first place.  

In 2011, an uprising forced Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh to flee the country with Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi taking his place. His presidency was short-lived, as President Hadi was forced out of the country in 2015 by members of the Houthi movement, comprising mostly Yemen’s Zaydi Shia Muslim minority.

The Houthis are alleged to be supported by Iran. This prompted Saudi Arabia, which aims to restore Mr. Hadi’s government, to start airstrikes on the country. Saudi Arabia’s effort has been backed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and most recently the UAE.

The human cost of the war has been kept out of the limelight since it started in 2015. This is a strategic move to shield from criticism for two major parties – the United States and Saudi Arabia.

However, these outside forces have complicated the war immensely. Saudi Arabia supports the Hadi government and lends its support to Yemen’s government supporters. The UAE supports the Southern Transitional Coalition, a group of southern Yemen citizens advocating for an independent Southern Yemen.

While the Saudi-backed, and UAE-backed groups within Yemen are both fighting against the Houthi rebels supported by Iran, their end goal is not the same. For the Yemen government supporters, they want to restore the Hadi presidency, for the STC they want an independent Southern Yemen without Hadi. This has caused infighting between both groups.  

For the last seven years, civilians have been caught in the crossfire of this complicated and bloody war. There have been 233,000 deaths; the majority of which were caused by a lack of food, health services, and infrastructure.

The UN reports that all parties involved in this conflict have committed war crimes. Additionally, an estimated 2.3 million children under the age of five are malnourished. With only half of the country’s medical facilities in operation, it is only a matter of time before the number of deaths increases exponentially.

The UN has called the war in Yemen the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” which begs the question: Why haven’t we heard more about the conflict in Yemen? The human cost of the war has been kept out of the limelight since it started in 2015. This is a strategic move to shield from criticism for two major parties – the United States and Saudi Arabia.

During the Trump presidency, he provided almost $23 billion in weapons, warplanes, drones, and bombs to Saudi to lead their war effort. While President Biden has voiced a shift in the United States’ role in the war, they are not dropping support of Saudi Arabia entirely.

Whenever there is media coverage of the war, its criticism primarily focuses on Iran and their support of the Houthi rebels, while minimizing Saudi Arabia’s role in the conflict.  

What do Saudi, the UAE, and the United States stand to gain in this war? Both Saudi and the UAE have a strategic interest in the city of Aden. Aden has been the centerpiece of conflict within the war.

Ultimately, the war in Yemen boils down to this — wealthy, influential, powerful countries exploiting the suffering of poor countries because they can.

Aden is a port city with access to the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aden, where the majority of the world’s oil shipments pass. No matter what party wins in this war, one of them will have a hand in shaping Yemen’s future.

The United States takes any opportunity it can to take digs at Iran and its forces in a show of power. Ultimately, the war in Yemen boils down to this — wealthy, influential, powerful countries exploiting the suffering of poor countries because they can.

One thing that remains constant within this war is that innocent people — most of them Muslims — are dying. Whether they are Sunni or Shia is irrelevant. They did not ask for this war. They did not ask to be caught in this struggle for power, control, and influence. 

While there have been conflicts and wars between Muslim-majority countries throughout history, that does not excuse the fact that the leaders in these countries are hypocrites.

They call themselves Muslim, yet they actively participate in the killing of Muslims to further their own selfish interests. Who would have known that the country which was the birthplace of Islam would one day be the most powerful source in destroying the lives of millions of Muslims?

In fact, the Saudi leadership has been the greatest force behind the oppression and the suffering of Muslims, through complacency or support of imperial invaders. It’s amazing how selfishness and greed can change people.

They should be ashamed of themselves for using the same inhumane and barbaric tactics used in war by colonial and imperial forces in Muslim-majority and non-Muslim countries for decades.

How can they condone and allow the killing of Muslims and still have a clear conscience? How do they not feel the weight of the dead on their shoulders? Or see the pain and suffering they caused to millions of children?  

I am not saying that I expect the leaders in these countries — or anyone for that matter — to be perfect Muslims. That perfection is only meant for one person. As Muslims, we need to check our worldly aspirations and goals. If pursuing them means causing harm or death, the idea ends there.

There is no second-guessing or way around that. Killing innocent people is a sin. There is no reason or justification for it. The Yemeni people are not collateral damage, they are human beings.

We need to protect and help our brothers and sisters. We need to be there for each other and support each other through tough times. Doing the bare minimum should not be too much to ask for.

I guess when you expect too much from people, that creates more room for disappointment. You don’t deserve to be a part of this Ummah. You don’t have a place in Islam, and you are the farthest thing from being a Muslim. How are you going to answer to God for your crimes? Do you even have an answer?

The people of Yemen are still suffering and will continue to suffer if this war continues. It is up to us to call out the hypocrisy of these leaders and hold them accountable for their war crimes against the Ummah.

We need to continue to keep Yemen and the conflict in it at the forefront, spread awareness on social media, and keep the conversation going. We can’t be complacent or silent, because either means that we have accepted the war in Yemen as it is and don’t care enough to change it.

The people within Yemen need us and our support. As members of the Ummah and human beings, no group of people anywhere at any time deserves to go through pain and suffering like this — especially at the hands of figureheads who use their power to reshape the landscape of a country for their own gain.

We can raise the voice of Yemen if we do this together. It’s the bare minimum; it’s the least we can do.