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Ignoring the human disaster in Yemen

The West’s protestations about human rights sound hollow when one looks at Yemen where the U.S. and U.K. place profits from arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the carnage those weapons are inflicting.

by Alon Ben-Meir

Part 1

It is hard to imagine that along with the catastrophe that has been inflicted on Syria for the past six years, another calamity is unfolding in Yemen of damning proportions while the whole world looks on with indifference.

What is happening in Yemen is not merely a violent conflict between combating forces for power, but the willful subjugation of millions of innocent civilians to starvation, disease and ruin that transcends the human capacity to descend even below the lowest pit of darkness, from which there is no exit.

Seven million people face starvation, and 19 out of 28 million of Yemen’s population are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Both the Saudis and the Houthis are restricting food and medicine supplies from reaching starving children; many of them are cholera-ridden, on the verge of joining the thousands who have already died from starvation and disease. More than 10,000 have been killed, and nearly 40,000 injured. UNICEF reports nearly 300,000 cholera cases, and a joint statement from UNICEF and the World Health Organization declares the infection is spreading at a rate of 5,000 new cases per day.

The Associated Press documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Yemini forces, where torture of unimaginable cruelty is routine. The torture of prisoners is reducing them to less than an animal ready for the slaughter. One example of such extreme torture is the “grill,” in which the prisoner is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire.

Another method of slow death is where detainees are crammed in shipping containers and guards light a fire underneath to fill it with smoke, slowly suffocating detainees. Prisoners are blindfolded and shackled in place in a box too small to stand in for most of their detention. Constant beating by steel wires is common, which often results in the death of the detainee. As Dostoyevsky said: “People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.” The US has been aware for some time of allegations of torture, but professes that there have not been such abuses.

Moreover, the blockade of imports of food, medicine, and fuel, which Yemen is completely dependent on, is making the situation dire beyond comprehension. If humanitarian aid is not provided immediately, millions of children will starve to death, even though the international community is cognizant of this ominous situation.

The conflict escalated in March 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition (including Bahrain and Sunni-majority Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan, Qatar, and the UAE) began a military operation to restore the internationally-recognized government of Abu Rabu Mansour Hadi to power.

The Saudis’ targets are the Houthi forces, who are a Zaydi Shiite Muslim minority and have been fighting for control of the country. They are loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was deposed in 2011 following a popular uprising instigated by the Arab Spring.

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