By: Muhammad Asad Ayoob
Yemen is habitat of more than 30 Million people. Yemen is one of the poorest and undeveloped country in terms of infrastructure and is politically unstable in Middle East. Following the Arab spring in 2011, people of Yemen wanted to change the authoritarian regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh like other Middle Eastern countries. Protests started across the country to remove Saleh’s authoritarian regime. As a result of protests, Ali Abdullah Saleh handed over power to his deputy president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in November 2011.
However, the new president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi did not change the country’s situation. The new president struggled with the various problems, including attacks by rebels, separatist movement in the south and the continuous loyalty of security personnel to Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity, hence completely failed to change the situation of the country.
The Humanitarian crisis in Yemen began with the start of the Saudi led coalition campaign. According to UN, this might be the worst Humanitarian crisis since last 100 years. Saudi-led coalition was a campaign of relentless air strike with more than 19000 attacks since last four years according to latest reports. This is the openly violation of United Nations Human rights law. Saudi forces claim they have targeted the enemy, however, human rights groups accuse otherwise the coalition of bombing dozen of hospitals and schools killing thousands of Yemeni civilians.
The Armed conflict location & event data project (ACLED), an American based agency and Yemen’s local data base project recorded over 540 conflict event and at least 975 conflict related fatalities each month. ACLED has estimated more than 67,500 civilian combatants have been killed since January 2016, based on newspaper reports of each incident of violence. UN says at least 7025 civilian have been killed and 11,140 injured in the war since 2015, with 65% death attributed to Saudi-led coalition air strikes.
Human rights activists of international committee for Red Cross had visited the site and found human rights violation on both side of the conflict. Today Yemen is a highly divided country, which the civil war has contributed to further broken along regional, tribal, sectarian and political lines.
The Yemen civil war triggered massive humanitarian crisis. Beyond doubt this is one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in the modern era. Eighty percent of the population is in dire need of some form of assistance. More than 24 million people need food supply for survival; nearly the entire population of Australia. More than 7.7 million children lack proper diet and 3.3 million people have been displaced due to this war. Yemen does not have proper medical facilities like European countries.
The cholera epidemic is spreading on yearly basis, as a result, hundreds of people have lost their lives. Similarly, when talking about the drinking water, 10.7 million people out of 30 million people do not have access to clean water. In Taiz, a southern city, water is available only every 20 days. In a way, the health system and other national institute and infrastructure have collapsed. Most of the infrastructure of the country has been demolished.
If we talk about the education system of the country, there are 7.8 million children in the country who are not able to school. Whatever the reason, teachers are not getting their salaries, school buildings have been demolished, there are bigger problem the people of Yemen are facing.
Whenever disaster comes to the world the weak classes which includes women, children, and the elderly are most affected. Corona virus has caused further complication in Yemen. Yemen has 20 percent mortality rate for people who have the corona virus, which might be the highest number in the world. More than 40 NGOs and UN agencies are currently working in Yemen and helping the people, however, NGOs are not the substitute for government infrastructure and system in a country.
On 23 Sep 2020, United Nations reported critical aid was cut from 300 healthcare centers across war-ravaged Yemen due to lack of funding. Between April and August, more than one third of UN important programs in Yemen were reduced or entirely shut down.
This conflict can be safe to assume as part of regional power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Since Saudis supports the Sunni population of Yemen and Iran support Houthis rebels in Yemen, who are from a Shia sect. Saudi Arabia has his own interest in Yemen. Similarly, Iran has his own interests.
Both countries want to his hegemony and monopoly in the region, that why both countries area playing proxy war against each other. Saudi Arabia want to become a dominant player in the region. On the other hand Iran want to become a dominant actor of the region too. Saudi Arabia and Iran are using Yemenis territory for his proxy. The strong presence of international players in the region can volatile the situation which create huge instability in the region and misunderstanding in both rivals.
Saudi Arabia has accused Iran for supporting Houthis both militarily and financially, something which Iran denied. Moreover, the trust deficit between Iran and Saudi Arabia is another major concern for growing instability in the Middle East. There is a need that both states try to resolve their ideological differences by removing the misunderstanding for the greater goal that is to ensure peace of the Middle Eastern region for them.
On the other hand Yemen is also strategically important for Iran because it sits on a linking of the Red Sea with Gulf of Aden, through which much of world’s oil shipments pass. Argument of historical legacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the root cause of this conflict. Secondly, the weak leadership is one of the major issues in a context of Yemen. It is the inability of local leadership which is causing unrest in Yemen.
According to experts of Middle East, the current situation in Yemen is becoming worse due to incompetence in the part of the leadership of Yemen who are relying on regional players to resolve their internal issues. Thirdly, for achieving a long-term solution to the issue, the negotiation is important for both countries. Saudi Arabia being the biggest and most powerful contender in the region, must recognize and respect sovereign rights of other nations in the region.
Platform of OIC can be utilize as a diplomatic tool by the relatively small claimants in the region to face off Saudi Arabia for the peaceful end of the conflict. Code of conduct should be decided jointly by regional claimant states to regulate the region jointly and peacefully.
The writer is Strategic Studies student at National Defense Univeristy Islamabad.