Forgotten Yemen

Published March 2, 2016

LATER this month, the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen will have completed its first year.

But far from restoring any semblance of order in the impoverished Arab state, the foreign intervention has aggravated a humanitarian disaster that has hit Yemen’s people very hard.

What was a civil war has been transformed into a larger regional tussle, with the Riyadh-backed government battling to regain control of the country from the Houthi rebel faction said to be backed by Iran.

Take a look: Air strike on Yemen market kills 30

Taking advantage of the chaos, the local branches of Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group have further entrenched themselves in this forsaken corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

While some voices of concern have been raised about the humanitarian plight, largely the world seems to have forgotten Yemen and its people. Among those critical of the military action in Yemen have been members of the European Parliament: last month, lawmakers called for an EU-wide arms embargo of Saudi Arabia due to its bombing campaign.

The coalition has been accused of repeatedly targeting civilians in schools, markets and hospitals. Earlier, the UN also criticised Riyadh and its allies for “widespread and systematic” targeting of civilians.

The humanitarian situation is by all accounts dire. Millions of Yemenis have been displaced or are food insecure, while half of all deaths in the military campaign have been of civilians.

The destructive foreign military intervention has been an abject failure and should be wound up without delay. Instead of fuelling the fire, regional powers — namely Saudi Arabia and Iran — must urge their Yemeni allies to lay down their arms and work for a political solution to the civil war.

All efforts should be made to rehabilitate the Yemeni people. Unless the conflict is peacefully resolved, it may spill over into Saudi Arabia itself, should the Houthis decide to march into the kingdom from their northern strongholds.

For regional stability and for the sake of the Yemeni people, efforts to broker a lasting peace must be made by all sides.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2016

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