“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ― Albert Einstein
While few will be under any illusions that wars are by definition violent and bloody, some crimes – especially when orchestrated, are far too gruesome for anyone to argue military pragmatism, so that silence could be rationalized.
And yet silence is what the international community has offered Yemen.
However one chooses to look at this brutal conflict that has seen pitted one of the world’s poorest nations: Yemen, to arguably the wealthiest: Saudi Arabia, war crimes have been too many and too calculated for any one party to allege ignorance.
Beyond all manners of politics, legal justifications and calls for a general crackdown on all things ‘independent’ in Yemen, we should not stray from one heartbreaking reality: civilians have been earmarked for slaughter so that Saudi Arabia could achieve military victory.
Let me quantify for you the hardship which befell Yemen since war clouded its skies.
In January 2017, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Jamie McGoldrick confirmed that the civilian death toll had reached 10,000, with 40,000 others wounded – a number he admitted was overwhelmingly conservative given the scope of destruction.
Those numbers only account for those lives which were forfeited by enemy fire, omitting the tens of thousands famine and/or cholera stole to its fury. A giant moratorium, Yemen sits a nation interrupted – a people condemned to the implacability of a will which failed to recognise those boundaries we should never cross for fear of losing our humanity.
Yemen has suffered every humiliation and every torture … from the use of illegal weapons of war by the Saudi-run military coalition, to the targeting of civilian infrastructures, and organised famine, no horrors has been spared … and still, few voices have risen above a murmur to demand, if anything, an armistice.
I would settle for compassion.
Compassion for those whose innocence has been ravaged.
Compassion for the many futures that will never be … compassion for a little girl: Buthaina, who today sits in a hospital room, broken and alone, an other orphan of war, another victim of Saudi Arabia’s war coalition.
Buthaina’s home was the target of an airstrike this August. From among the wreckage, only she survives. How do you tell a little girl that all she knew is now gone forever? How can anyone justify such loss and still claim itself a victor over chaos?
Impunity is Yemen’s biggest enemy today – war has been but its rationale.
“A peace agreement, including a well-articulated security plan and the formation of an inclusive government, is the only way to end the war that has fuelled the development of terrorism in Yemen and the region,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed called in a statement earlier this January before adding:”The current political stalemate is causing death and destruction every day. The only way to stop this is through the renewal of the cessation of hostilities followed by consultations to develop a comprehensive agreement.”
It is indeed terrorism when homes become legitimate targets of war.
One face among many, Buthaina has captured Yemen’s heart, teaching the world a lesson if not resilience, determination to survive the abominable.
If this one little girl struggles to open her swollen eyes, bruised as she is, it is surely us who continue to be blind to the pain of a people whose crimes – whatever we may claim them to be, surely do not warrant such cruelty.
There was a time not too long ago when nations came together to assert that ‘never again’ would the world stand in silence before crimes against humanity. How much more will we ask of Yemen before canons are made silent?
How much more of our humanity are we willing to forfeit as we allow children like Buthaina to be made orphaned?
Wars may be an unavoidable reality but our silence is not.
#NoMore sounds about just right, just about right now!
By Catherine Shakdam – Director Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies