By Patrick Brogan
The conflict in Yemen shows no sign of abating as more casualties were killed by Saudi -led air strikes yesterday as The New York Times reported. Over 30 people were killed, and some have put this number as high as 70, near the Yemeni capital Sana’a.
Sana’a is held by the Houthis how are backed by the Iranians. The Saudis want to see a reinstatement of the old government. This war has gone on for two years now and has led to the deaths of 10,000 people and over two million displaced. The war has also seen a huge rise in the number of Yemenis with cholera, currently the highest levels in the world. Many human rights activists have criticised the Saudis for preventing adequate medical aid to treat civilians from entering the country.
The Saudi air force initiated a hiatus from bombing Sana’a and the surrounding region as it was feared this would cause a high number of civilian deaths. Indeed, this has been a reoccurrence in this conflict, the most infamous example being when an air raid killed over 100 people attending a wedding in the capital. This hiatus appears to be now over.
So, who are the Houthis? They are mainly a Shia organisation (Zaydism), but include Sunni as well. The group was set-up in the 90s by Hussein Al-Houthi. They felt that the Yemeni Government at the time was not representing them and they wanted greater participation in the political process. It was initially created as a peaceful organisation, but has been in an on/off conflict with the Government since 2004.
The crisis appeared to reach a head in 2015 after protests. The Houthis then seized the presidential palace which forced the resignation of President Abel Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the man backed by the West. Since then, the West and the Saudis have sought to oust the Houthis, which on the face of it, seem to be a more pro-democratic group than the people they replaced.
Given that Yemen is the poorest Arab country, many people are turning to khat as a way of making money. The World Health Organisation doesn’t consider this a highly addictive drug and some say it is similar to a cup of coffee, but it was made a Class C drug in Britain. Most of the Yemeni adult population are daily users and a lot of the children, too. Users experience a high which then gives way, sometimes to depression.
Yemen has many problems that need to be addressed, chief amongst them is this war. With the American backed Saudis having their eyes firmly fixed on the Houthis, it is unlikely this will be resolved anytime soon. Meanwhile, the West continues on, like over 200,000 people haven’t been infected by a cholera outbreak or are murdered for simply attending a wedding.
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