While much of the world is fighting to stop the outbreak of COVID-19, Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest countries, marks 5 years of its ostensibly intractable civil war on 26thMarch 2019.
The world is overwhelmed with the rapid spreading of the infamous Coronavirus as it's taking its death toll in many countries like Italy, Spain, the US, China in staggering numbers every day. On the other hand, the worst man-made crisis in Yemen has left the country with 100,000 civilian dead where 12,000 civilians are believed to be killed in direct offensive. Tens of thousands of civilians have died from disease, malnutrition and poor health.
According to an estimate of 'Save the Children', 85,000 children have died between April 2015 and October 2018 due to severe acute malnutrition. Around 80% of the population require urgent humanitarian assistance and immediate protection since they are considered only 'one step away from famine'. As BBC reported, almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare and almost 18 million do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation.
Consequently, a harrowing cholera outbreak had hit hard 2.2 Million people leading to unbearable sufferings with 4,000 deaths since October 2016. Last but not the least, more than 4 million people had been displaced from their home. Life couldn't be any worse for them. Recurrent violent air-strikes are part of life of Yemenis. The people who are yet alive don't know what the next minute is holding for them.
Often, we see the latest developments on the television or while scrolling down in the social medias but that doesn't make us much bothered since life is rewarding to us. We are blessed with lives full of health and hope, surrounded by our family in a furnished apartment or house, having access to healthcare, education, high-speed internet, iPhone, Netflix, Facebook and whatnot.
Now, when the outbreak of Coronavirus has grabbed the world so tight and major countries have gone under lock-down,suspending all domestic and international flights,forcing people to live under home quarantine to maintain social distancing, and apparently, we are so scared to sense the death from such a close proximity.
Maybe it's time to admit that life of downtrodden civilians in war-torn Yemen and Syria also matters. As the war on the Coronavirus pandemic is going on, the United Nations (UN) has called for a ceasefire in other wars such as in Yemen and Syria, suggesting that people should be fighting the pandemic, not each other. The warring factions in Yemen are thoughtfully backing the UN's plea.
The rise of Arab Spring in 2011 forced the country's long-time authoritarian President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country for 33 years, to step down from power. His deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, a former Field Marshal of the Yemeni Armed Forces, became the new President on 27th February 2012.
Although the political transition was supposed to bring peace and stability in the country, President Hadi faced a myriad of challenges ranging from corruption to militant attacks, a separatist movement in the south, unemployment, food insecurity and persistent loyalty of a portion of military commanders to former President Saleh.
The Houthi factions (alsoknown as Ansar Allah), Yemen's Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, who were at odds with President Saleh during his rule, capitalized the weakness of PresidentHadi and occupied northern part of Saada province and neighboring areas.
In late 2014 and early 2015, the Houthi rebels gradually took over the Yemeni capital Sana'a. In a bid to regain power, the Houthis along with military factions loyal to President Saleh attempted to take control of the entire country which forced President Hadi to resign from power.
Later in 2017, Mr. Hadi went into exile to neighboring Saudi Arabia.With a goal of restoring Mr. Hadi's government, Saudi Arabia along with eight other gulf states, mostly Sunni Arabs, formed a coalition with intelligence and logistical support from the US, UK and France and staged a campaign of economic isolation and military aggression against the Houthis.
The Saudi-led coalition feared that the persistent aggression of Iranian backed Houthi rebels might offer their rival regional power Iran a strong foothold in Yemen which Saudi can never permit.
Saudi and her allies always accused Shia ruled Iran for patronizing Houthis, the charge Iran always denied.Air assaultslaunched by Saudi-led coalition targeted different Houthi bases which also resulted in heavy civilian casualties, only to be seen as 'collateral damage' by Saudi and the west.
In August 2018, at least 29 children have been killed and 30 seriously wounded in a Saudi air strike in Yemen when the missile took down a school bus. Initially former President Saleh formed a political council with Houthis to govern Sana'a and much of northern Yemen. Later, Mr. Saleh was killed in an assault when he broke up with the Houthis.
Back in 2015, Saudi officials forecasted that war against Houthis would only last a couple of weeks, but five long years have passed since. The Houthi rebels could not be completely driven out from Sana'a and north-western Yemen rather they have siegedanother city called'Taiz' and regularly fired ballistic missilesaimingat Saudi Arabian territory and infrastructure including oil facilities.
The US and the UK have sold weapons and offered technical and logistical assistance to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to strengthen their offensive in Yemeni soil. In turn, Iran have delivered sophisticated arms, financial support and military advisers to the Houthi rebels further complicating the civil war.
Apparently, this is a proxy war which can be seen as a regional power struggle between Sunni state of Saudi Arabia and Shia ruled Iran which shows no sign of abating as of today. Tens of thousands of Yemeni people have simply become scapegoats in the show-off of two countries' military might. Besides the ongoing civil war, the US launched counterterrorism operations in Yemen against the Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and self-proclaimed Islamic State.
There are so many parties engaged in Yemen's war that sometimes it becomes toughto understand who's fighting for who. War is a perfect market for selling of arms and prolonged war means more revenues to the arms manufacturers.Beneath the veneer of combating terrorism and religious extremism, the arms manufacturers' syndicates in the US, UK and France might have a vested interest of not letting the war come to an end.
In a separate note, Yemen's geo-strategic location bears serious importance to Saudi and Iran as it sits on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow channel, linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world's oil shipments pass. Saudi shares 1,800 kilometers of border with Yemen and will never allow Iran to gain political or military hegemony over Yemen.
Seemingly, Iran wishes to keep its shadowy presence in Yemen and intends to use the Yemeni soil to teachSaudi, its arch rival, a lesson when necessary. As these sensitive dynamics unfold, it's quite apparent that sanity and humanity in Saudi Royals and Iran's Ayatollah can only free the Yemeni people from their unending sufferings.
The global outbreak of COVID-19 has already devastated Iran andwho knows might do the same to Saudi Arabia.Thanks to the pandemic, innocent civilians in Yemen might enjoy some relief from the life taking offensives unless the COVID-19 spreads in Yemen. All parties, including the US, should capture this rare opportunity to resolve the crisis.
Had the international diplomacy and UN actions and peace talks been successful, the Yemen conflict would not have come this far. Saudi and Iran are both Muslim countries and so is Yemen and upholds the teachings of the Holy Quran. Quran is the constitution of Saudi Arabia and Iran considers itself and an Islamic republic. They must know that their power hunger has turned Yemen into a living hell.
If they really believe in the philosophy of Quran, they must stop this non-sense right away. We implore to the Saudis and Iranis along with their friends in westand rebel allies: please stop the madness and come to sanity, let the innocent civilians live in peace.Enough has been done to ruin the world humanity.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
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