UN: UK fuelling Yemen civil war with arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Britain is at war with Yemen. So why does nobody know about it?

Article for theguardian by Owen Jones:

Britain is arming and aiding a fundamentalist dictatorship that’s bombing and killing civilians. This is an incontestable fact. The Saudi tyranny – gay-hating women-oppressors who kicked off the year with ~a mass beheading – has been waging war in Yemen for 10 months.

If the 26 million Yemenis were being besieged and bombed by an official enemy of the west, we might expect emotive calls to “do something” and militarily intervene. Well, we are intervening: not simply by supplying weapons but even by providing the Saudi-led coalition of Arab dictators with British military advisers. As the SNP’s Angus Robertson put it to the prime minister’s face, Britain is “effectively at war” – and yet few Britons know anything about it.

Since Saudi-led forces intervened in the conflict between President Hadi and Houthi rebels last March, around 6,000 Yemenis have been killed, perhaps half of them civilians. With the country under naval blockade, what the UN was already calling a “humanitarian catastrophe” six months ago has been unleashed. Eight in every 10 Yemenis are now dependent on humanitarian aid, and most do not have “adequate access to clean water or sanitation”, according to the UN.

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I have never seen such destruction’ as in Yemen: aid worker

Article for PBS Newshour by Larisa Epatko:

Fighting in Yemen after rebels overthrew the government in early 2015 has created a dire humanitarian situation unparalleled even in places as battle-scarred as Syria, according to a Doctors Without Borders worker.

“I’ve worked in war zones for the past 11 to 12 years, in some of the worst conflicts like Syria, but I have never seen such destruction conducted in such a short period as in Yemen,” wrote Michael Seawright from Auckland, New Zealand.

Seawright served as project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in the Middle Eastern region. “I was based in Saada, in the north, in a Houthi-controlled area that was experiencing almost daily attacks from coalition air forces. These airstrikes were often close to our facilities and we clearly felt their effects,” he wrote.

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UK's International Development Committee - Government and stakeholders questioned on humanitarian crisis in Yemen

Wednesday 27 January 2016, Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster

The International Development Committee hears from non-governmental organisations and from Department of International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and the UK Government's response.

Purpose of the session
This session covers the scale of the crisis and how effectively DFID and other strands of Government have responded to protect civilians and ensure adherence to international humanitarian law.

Watch the video here

View a written transcript of the meetings here

This is a video of two one-hour meetings. If you have the time to watch it, it gives an invaluable insight into the UK's response to the Yemen Crisis.

In the first meeting at 1pm, the committee questions a panel of four expert witnesses on the Yemen crisis, as follows:

Julien Harneis, Head of UNICEF Yemen
Josephine Hutton, Regional Programme Manager, Middle East, Oxfam
Grant Pritchard, Director of Advocacy, Media and Communications on Yemen, Save the Children
Roy Isbister, Head of Arms Unit, Saferworld

I found this meeting encouraging in that it demonstrates that DfID (the Department for International Development) has a real desire to understand the facts about Yemen and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. However, it is also very clear from this meeting that the UK has a paradoxical policy towards Yemen. On the one hand, DfID is providing humanitarian assistance. On the other hand, the policy of the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to support the Saudi-led coalition and to continue its licencing of arms sales to Saudi is undermining the efforts of DfID. The first meeting makes it very clear that the UK must stop its arms sales to Saudi.

In the second meeting at 2.00pm, the committee questions the following members of the UK government:

Rt Hon Desmond Swayne MP, Minister of State for International Development
Juliette John, Head of DFID Yemen, Department for International Development
Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Nicholas Alton, Deputy Head of Arabian Peninsula and Iran, Foreign and Commonwealth Office

This second meeting is very disappointing in that it demonstrates the government's clear and unwavering support for the Saudi-led coalition, as well as justification for its refusal to support the Dutch call for an independent enquiry into human rights violations in Yemen. The meeting closes with the chair saying, "On that rather unsatisfactory note, I think we have run out of time", which about says it all.

European Parliament resolution on the humanitarian situation in Yemen

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION, submitted 27/1/16

Read the full text of the motion here

Yemen: the devastation of a nation, largely ignored

Article by Labour MP Stephen Twigg for theguardian

We are waiting to see when we will die” – the words of a resident of the besieged city of Taiz in Yemen, retold by a British Yemeni at a meeting with cross-party MPs in Westminster last week.

Taiz has been under siege by rebels for months, cut off from humanitarian aid, with no electricity, no schools, and where the vast majority of health facilities have closed.

Britain’s international development committee (IDC) had invited representatives of the Yemeni diaspora to contribute to our inquiry into the crisis in Yemen. We were shocked to hear about the desperate situation in Taiz, which bears a worrying resemblance to Madaya in Syria. But the world is watching Syria while the crisis in Yemen is largely ignored.

The crisis is having a devastating effect on the whole country. According to the UN (pdf), an astonishing 82% of the population needs humanitarian assistance - 21.2 million people, compared with 12.2 million in Syria. The food situation is particularly concerning, with 14.4 million people struggling to find enough to eat, including 1.3 million children who are acutely malnourished. Millions cannot access safe water or basic healthcare and 1.8 million children are out of school. The Yemeni diaspora described the situation as collective punishment, with the population being punished for the actions of the rebels.

Read full article here

Who Voted to Bomb Yemen? Asks Angus Robertson SNP

goingundergroundRT video:

Afshin Rattansi goes underground on British backed airstrikes in Yemen with leader of the SNP in Westminster Angus Robertson. We talk about the UK military support for the Saudi-led coalition.

Saudi-led airstrike kills family of 8, incl. Yemeni judge who presided over Pres. Hadi treason case

RT article:

A woman walks past the house of court judge Yahya Rubaid after a Saudi-led air strike destroyed it, killing him, his wife and five other family members, in Yemen's capital Sanaa January 25, 2016 © Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

A Houthi-appointed national security court judge and seven members of his family were killed in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in the Yemini capital Sanaa, according to local residents.

The Sunday bombing partially destroyed the home of Yahya Rubaid, a judge who had prosecuted cases against militant groups including Al-Qaeda. He had also presided over treason cases against President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and other ousted opponents of the Houthis.

Seven members of Rubaid's family – everyone except one of his sons – were also killed in the bombing, residents told Reuters.

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SNP's Angus Robertson seeks meeting with David Cameron over Yemen

Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader at Westminster, has requested a meeting with David Cameron to discuss the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

He has urged the prime minister to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia claiming the weapons are being used in its military campaign in the neighbouring country.

Mr Robertson said the situation meant the UK was "effectively at war".

Read the full article here

MSF paramedic, civilian first responders killed in Saudi double-tap airstrike in Yemen

RT Article and video:

Almost two dozen people, including civilian rescuers and an ambulance driver from an MSF-affiliated hospital, have reportedly been killed after Saudi-led coalition planes carried out repeated airstrikes on the same target in Sa’ada province, Yemen.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed the fatal air raids in Sa’ada, saying the “planes went back to bomb areas already hit.”

The incident took place in the town of Dhayan, about 20 kilometers from the city of Sa’ada and not far from another MSF-supported hospital, Shiara, which was hit by a missile on January 10.

Above video shows 'double-tap' airstrikes - double bombings in short succession where the second strike targets the rescuers of those injured in the first.

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OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) - Yemen

Check out their Yemen page here

Crisis Overview
'Armed conflict has spread rapidly across much of Yemen since mid-March 2015, with devastating consequences for civilians. Partners now estimate that 21.1 million people – 80 per cent of the population – require some form of humanitarian protection or assistance. This represents a 33 per cent increase in needs since the conflict began.'

Read their full Crisis Overview here

Download their full report 'Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview 2016'

Angus Robertson: 'Britain effectively at war in Yemen'

PMQs: Robertson and Cameron on Yemen

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, said thousands of civilians were being killed in Yemen including by the Saudi air force.

Mr Robertson said this was happening using British-built planes, with pilots trained by British instructors and bombs “co-ordinated with the help of British advisers”, suggesting the UK was already effectively involved in a war in Yemen.

David Cameron said the UK was not a member of the Saudi-led coalition, its military personnel were not directly involved and that the UK was “not involved in the Saudi targeting decision making process”.

Watch the video here

Class of Endurance: Yemen students graduation pic at building bombed by Saudis

Graduating high school students at the Yemen Modern School in the country’s capital city, Sanaa, took a defiant photo to mark the end of their time in high school and depict what they went through to complete their education in a war-torn country.


I taught at the Yemen Modern School for 5 years, 1997 - 2002

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The forgotten war in Yemen

YouTube video by Joseph Tabona:

British and US military 'in command room' for Saudi strikes on Yemen

Article for theguardian by Emma Graham-Harrison:

British and American military officials are in the command and control centre for Saudi airstrikes on Yemen, and have access to lists of targets, although they do not play any role in choosing them, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister has said.

Human rights groups, the European parliament and the UN have all expressed concerns about airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, in support of the internationally recognised government.

Read the full article here

10 Amazing things about Yemen

Gulf News article:

Yemen might bring to mind war, poverty and the ongoing humanitarian crisis. But even before the war, Yemen was rarely known for the riches that the world normally associates with Middle Eastern countries.

Our guide introduces the Yemen which has warm friendly people, the best honey and coffee in the world, almost every type of geographical terrain and has cities as ancient as time itself.

Read the full article here

Lone children fleeing war in Yemen, seek safety in Somaliland

Report by UNHCR:

Yemeni teen Khayria Abdel Wahab was making the beds in the home where she was a housekeeper when a shattering blast signalled a heavy bombardment.

Panicked by the explosion, the 17-year-old ran out into the crowds fleeing towards the port in her hometown, all the while searching for her mother and her seven brothers and sisters. For three days, Abdel Wahab tried to find her family.

"I sat with strangers all desperately looking for someone," she says, remembering the moment in early November. "Mobile phones were not reachable, the network was down. Nobody could give me any hope."

She was warned that staying in Yemen was not safe. "I had no alternative," Abdel Wahab says. "I had to flee to Somalia."

The unaccompanied minor is among more than 168,000 people who have fled violence in Yemen since March, when years of political instability, economic hardship and sectarian tensions erupted into civil war. More than 9,500 of those who fled went to Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.

Read the full article here

Yemen: Another MSF-supported hospital bombed

Report by MSF (Medicin Sans Frontieres):

Sana’a – An MSF-supported hospital has been hit by a projectile in northern Yemen resulting in at least four deaths, 10 injured and the collapse of several buildings of the medical facility. Three of the injured are MSF staff, two in critical condition.

“All warring parties, including the Saudi-led coalition (SLC), are regularly informed of the GPS coordinates of the medical sites where MSF works and we are in constant dialogue with them to ensure that they understand the severity of the humanitarian consequences of the conflict and the need to respect the provision of medical services”, says Raquel Ayora, Director of Operations. “There is no way that anyone with the capacity to carry out an airstrike or launch a rocket would not have known that the Shiara hospital was a functioning health facility providing critical services and supported by MSF”.

“We reiterate to all parties to the conflict that patients and medical facilities must be respected and that bombing hospitals is a violation of International Humanitarian Law”, says Ayora.

Read the full article here

Inside the shattered city of Taiz, Yemen

BBC iPlayer Radio report:

Yemen is already one of the poorest nations in the Arab world. Now things have gone from bad to worse, since the start of an uprising launched by the Houthi rebel group. A Saudi-led coalition has gone to war against the rebels. Since March 2015, more than 6,000 people have died. The country's basic infrastructure is shattered, its economy is almost non-existent and at least 80% of the population is dependent on food aid. Safa Al Ahmad has travelled to the besieged Yemeni city of Taiz.

Listen to it here

MSF Blog post about Taiz Hospital

Blog post by Chris entitled 'Three Familiar Sounds'

Read it here

Hospitals in Yemen on brink of shutting down

Video by Al-Jazeera

Watch it here