Although Yemen is a state riddled with conflict and starvation, among other extreme difficulties. One might assume that this crisis would quickly gain traction in the international sphere, but this has not been the case. The world’s most powerful countries have chosen to ignore the disaster underway in Yemen, rendering its people among the worst off on the planet.
Located at the bottom of the Arabian peninsula and straddling North Africa and West Asia, Yemen is a country which has been plagued by political instability, infighting, and strife for several decades. As of late, Yemen has fallen prey to numerous attacks from its neighbour to the north, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These attacks have effectively pushed Yemen to the brink of collapse and have created one of the worst humanitarian crises the modern world has ever seen.
A brief history of the conflict in Yemen
Yemen has always been poor in comparison to its oil-rich neighbours and was a site of conflict long before the Saudi-led coalition made an entrance. Poverty and conflict are closely interconnected, and this resulted in Yemen being a breeding ground for strife and violence. While Yemen was never particularly peaceful or prosperous, the conflict which endures today can be traced back to the 2011 civil uprising, which saw Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was President at the time, hand power to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, his deputy.
This was immediately followed by fighting between the two largest religious sects in the country; the Houthis, a Shia group, and the Sunnis, who were later backed by Saudi Arabia. Since this broke out, Yemen has been in a state of flux with many important territories falling to one group and then to another in an incredibly violent manner.
Religious dynamics have certainly added another dimension to the crisis in Yemen, and warring Shias and Sunnis have increasingly complicated the multitude of humanitarian issues.
Yemen has faced extreme difficulty and strife for many years and is likely to continue, with conditions perhaps even worsening, with Saudi Arabia inflicting unspeakable atrocities upon the country, with the unbridled assistance of the U.S. Moreover, the fact that Yemen has a history of poverty and conflict seems to have worsened the crisis. Outside attacks, coupled with internal complications, as well as a lack of strategic international assistance, have resulted in Yemen experiencing a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions.
Dynamics at play in the international sphere
It is no secret that, in the contemporary world, the most powerful countries align with each other, resulting in the least powerful countries being left at their mercy, helpless. This has undoubtedly been the case with regards to the crisis in Yemen.
The United States of America has taken on the role of global hegemon in the current era. This, of course, has led to the U.S. dominating international politics and shaping the dynamics of the world in its entirety. Despite considering itself to be a champion of democracy and human rights, the U.S. has closely aligned itself with Saudi Arabia. This can be seen as a strange allyship, when taking into account the fact that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled over by the Saud family, and the fact that it has - time and time again - been accused of gross human rights violations. The U.S. has, however, chosen to partner with Saudi Arabia on many occasions, in spite of their myriad asymmetries.
While some might brand this partnership as being composed of strange bedfellows, this is not entirely true. The U.S. has committed just as many - if not more - human rights violations as Saudi Arabia, both at home and abroad. One might argue that the U.S. is simply just better at hiding their atrocities, or perhaps more capable of swaying public opinion in their favour.
Under the leaderships of both Democrats and Republicans, the U.S. has sold weapons to Saudi Arabia. These sales have not only taken place due to the amiable relationship between the two countries, but also because the U.S. is fully aware of the fact that Saudi Arabia has used, and will continue to use, these weapons against the people of Yemen.
Thus, despite the U.S. claiming to be a beacon of democracy and human rights, it has not used its power to speak out against Saudi Arabia’s numerous atrocities in Yemen because it, like all hegemons, prioritises its own interests over the lives of approximately 30 million people.
Ultimately, the U.S. shapes international opinions and actions, and due to the fact that America has sided with Saudi Arabia at the expense of thousands of Yemeni lives, many other countries have followed suit.
About the author:
Humairaa Mayet is incredibly passionate about issues of social justice and strives to make a difference in the world through as many avenues as possible. She spends her days listening to music, cooking and baking, attending protests, and raising her plants.