Saudi Bombing and Blockade Are Devastating Yemen, And Yemenis Know the U.S. Bears Responsibility

U.S.-backed Saudi aggression is stoking anti-American sentiment in Yemen.

Nasser Arrabyee

Yemeni teachers protest against the ongoing conflict and the suspension of their salaries, outside the UN offices in Sanaa, on October 3. The Arabic writing reads: "Receiving our salaries is a basic right." (Mohammed Huwais / AFP / Getty Images)

SANAA, YEMEN — Two years of the U.S.-backed Sau­di war in Yemen has caused a dis­as­trous human­i­tar­i­an sit­u­a­tion in the poor­est Arab coun­try. The con­flict is increas­ing­ly stok­ing anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment among Yeme­nis, many of whom see the U.S. gov­ern­ment as a killer using Sau­di hands. 

Yemenis believe the Saudis would not have dared to fight them without American support and consent.

The con­flict began in 2015, when Pres­i­dent Abed Rab­bo Man­sour Hadi resigned and went into exile, and Sau­di Ara­bia led an armed coali­tion alleged­ly to restore Hadi’s legit­i­ma­cy. Hadi now leads a gov­ern­ment-in-exile while the rebel Houthi move­ment surges in Yemen.

Accord­ing to the UN, around 13,500 civil­ians were killed in the con­flict between March 2015 and June 2017. The UN Human­i­tar­i­an Coor­di­na­tor for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, tells In These Times that the UN has not been able to reg­u­lar­ly update its fig­ures due to lack of doc­u­men­ta­tion. Local human rights groups say the num­ber might be sev­er­al times high­er, espe­cial­ly when you include the impacts of the block­ade and a recent cholera out­break, made much worse by Sau­di bomb­ings of health clin­ics and oth­er effects of the war.

Abdul­lah Allaw, chair­man of a local human rights obser­va­to­ry, the Mid­dle East Foun­da­tion for Devel­op­ment and Human Rights, gives In These Times a much high­er num­ber for the total death toll, due to direct and indi­rect con­se­quences of the con­flict. From our active vol­un­teers work­ing all over the coun­try in rur­al, urban and sub­ur­ban areas, we have doc­u­ments show­ing that 500,000 Yeme­nis died because of aggres­sion over the last two years,” main­ly of dis­ease and mal­nu­tri­tion, he says.

About a mil­lion gov­ern­ment employ­ees have received lit­tle to no salary over the past year, in part because the Hadi gov­ern­ment moved the bank.

Before the war, the coun­try import­ed 90 per­cent of its food and near­ly all of its med­i­cine. Now, because of the block­ade, Yeme­nis can­not eas­i­ly receive these or oth­er essen­tial items, such as fuel.

More than 55 per­cent of the coun­try’s health facil­i­ties are destroyed or only part­ly func­tion­ing due to Sau­di airstrikes, and the clo­sure of the Sanaa air­port thanks to coali­tion-imposed air­space restric­tions has made it more dif­fi­cult to access oth­er health­care. Tens of thou­sands of Yeme­nis can­not go abroad for med­ical treat­ments or any oth­er civ­il pur­pos­es, and many more can­not even come back home,” said Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion Zakaria Al Shami.

The clo­sure of Sanaa air­port is … a fla­grant vio­la­tion of all inter­na­tion­al laws, human­i­tar­i­an laws, human rights laws.”

Many fam­i­lies are hav­ing to make do with less. We now buy 90 per­cent less food and oth­er essen­tial things than we did before this war,” says gov­ern­ment employ­ee Raghad Ahmed, who sup­ports six chil­dren on her and her husband’s salaries. 

We have not received salaries for six months now, we do not have any oth­er income and our sav­ings are near zero, despite the fact that we have only 2 meals per day,” she told In These Times ear­li­er this year.

Water access is also now a prob­lem for all of the low­er class and most of the mid­dle class in Sanaa, as water has become more expen­sive because of the rise of fuel prices due to the Sau­di block­ade. They receive water only from local char­i­ties that installed water tanks in almost every neigh­bor­hood. If these [char­i­ties] did not bring us this water, we would have died of thirst by now,” says Um Ibrahim, moth­er of five, whose hus­band is a con­struc­tion worker.

Her 13-year-old son Ibrahim and his father Ahmed stay 24 hours at the site of an under-con­struc­tion build­ing to sup­port their fam­i­ly. Ibrahim helps his father by watch­ing the site and equip­ment when work­ers are not there. 

The war killed us all, my kids don’t go to school any­more. I need Ibrahim to help me,” Ahmed says.

Anti-Amer­i­can Sentiment 

Yeme­nis know that most of the Sau­di weapons are U.S.-made: Abrams tanks, Bradley vehi­cles and some clus­ter bombs, not to men­tion the F‑16 and F‑15 fight­er jets that fly over their heads around the clock.

As a result, anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment is on the rise. Yeme­nis have repeat­ed­ly tak­en to the streets chant­i­ng against the Unit­ed States. Many of those who have lost friends and fam­i­ly to Sau­di airstrikes show more hatred toward the Unit­ed States than toward Sau­di Ara­bia. They believe the Saud­is would not have dared to fight them with­out Amer­i­can sup­port and consent.

So activists have orga­nized a nation­wide cam­paign using the slo­gan, The U.S. kills Yemeni peo­ple,” hop­ing to embar­rass the Unit­ed States before the world.

Huge posters in the streets of major cities pro­claim, Amer­i­ca kills Yemeni peo­ple.” Tele­vi­sions, radios and papers have dai­ly shows using the hash­tag #Amer­i­caKill­sYe­meniPeo­ple.

We made this cam­paign because the Sau­di war was declared against us from Wash­ing­ton, not from Riyadh,” says Mohammed Haidra, who coor­di­nates the campaign.

Al-Qae­da and ISIS Win

The U.S. has not only turned the Yemeni peo­ple against it, but has also been sup­port­ing its ene­mies, al-Qae­da and ISIS, by sup­port­ing the Sau­di Wah­habi régime which pro­vides the ide­o­log­i­cal basis of these ter­ror­ist groups. These groups are also exploit­ing the chaos to fur­ther expand and recruit.

Mul­ti­ple mem­bers of the exiled Hadi gov­ern­ment are des­ig­nat­ed by the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment as glob­al ter­ror­ists and com­man­ders of groups labeled as terrorists.

Some of these men are senior offi­cials and hold posts in Hadi’s Sau­di-backed gov­ern­ment-in-exile, and some of them are field com­man­ders fight­ing in Yemen with Sau­di forces against Houthis. 

Nayif Sal­ih Sal­im al-Qaisy, for instance, was appoint­ed by Hadi in 2015 as a gov­er­nor of al-Bai­da, an al-Qae­da strong­hold. As a senior mem­ber of the Hadi gov­ern­ment, al-Qaisy receives polit­i­cal and finan­cial sup­port from the Saud­is — and he also sends mon­ey and weapons to al-Qae­da in Baiha. 

In the mean­time, al-Qae­da and ISIS con­tin­ue to grow. For instance, this Jan­u­ary, al-Qae­da fought off the Houthis for con­trol over Taiz, which is the cap­i­tal of the most pop­u­lous province in Yemen with around 3 mil­lion people.

But many Yemeni peo­ple remain ready to fight back against the al-Qae­da, Sau­di Ara­bia and their U.S. back­ers. I and all my sons would go and fight Saud­is, killers of our peo­ple, and I would call every Yemeni to take gun and go defend our coun­try,” said Mohammed Rubaid Jan­u­ary 25. He was speak­ing to thou­sands of peo­ple who had gath­ered in Sanaa to com­mem­o­rate his broth­er, Judge Yahya Rubaid, who was killed by a Sau­di airstrike asleep in his house with his wife and sev­en chil­dren one year before, on Jan. 25th2016.

We must defend our­selves from such crimes and such Sau­di tyran­ny and brutality.”

Some of the mate­r­i­al in this piece has been adapt­ed with per­mis­sion from the author’s web­site.

Nass­er Arraby­ee is a Yemeni jour­nal­ist and film­mak­er based in Sanaa, Yemen. He is founder and cur­rent pres­i­dent of media pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Yemen Alaan.
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