Where’s our outrage over Yemen? Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere
On March 9, a joint statement was released with the support of 20 local residents, regarding the importance of fostering peace, both globally and locally. While the full text of the statement has not been published, let me highlight our aim: to paraphrase the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, the goal is to remind that we are all God’s children.
This was one of my earliest lessons when attending Sunday school at St Paul AME, from the age of 4. There, one of our favourite songs was Jesus Loves the Little Children. The lyrics go on to say: “All the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight ...”
Such a simple concept that even four-year-olds could get it. It became one of my guiding principles as I grew, evolving it in that same spirit — recognising that each member of the human family is precious.
Our statement expressed solidarity with those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as other, less publicised wars — such as that being waged for the past seven years by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the people of Yemen.
The United Nations has reported that some 380,000 people have been killed in Yemen during this war. Other lowlights include:
• Saudi Arabia maintaining for seven years a total air, land and sea blockade, including food and medicine, while attempting to strangle the Yemeni population
• Global health organisations reporting that this brutal blockade has put 160,000 children in danger of dying from malnutrition in the near term
• Unicef reporting that the aggression led by the Saudis means that at a child in Yemen is made a refugee nearly every second
They (All) are precious in His sight.
Why is it that this devastation visited by the Saudis et al on the people of Yemen is known by so few?
The answer is that the global status quo does not consider many as precious. We have witnessed by way of the ample media coverage of the Ukraine conflict that some neighbours are barring entry for non-White refugees.
Sarah Leah Whitson is the executive director of the organisation called Dawn, which was founded by the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally assassinated in Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Turkey. She is campaigning for the status quo to “balance the playing field” in addressing these wars. While she notes that the Saudis effectively undermine media access, she contends that “racism is rearing its ugly head” in this regard so that cruelty against Ukraine is called out by government leaders of the West, but the same devastations visited upon Yemen is being overlooked by the vast majority of them.
This difference is seen in the United States president Joe Biden’s administration rightly encouraging an open-door policy for Ukrainian refugees, but flying hundreds of Haitian refugees back to the scene of their tragedy. This is so much of an injustice that the US Ambassador to Haiti resigned in protest.
These same Western leaders are framing their approach to challenges globally as one supporting democracy for all. However, the Saudis and UAE are some of the least democratic:
• Recall that prime Saudi campaigner for democracy was killed in that country’s embassy
• While basic democratic tenets are absent, women are especially disadvantaged
• Amnesty International has expressed heightened concern — on the back of 81 executions in Saudi Arabia — for the deeply flawed judicial system in that society where most are considered anything but precious
Ms Whitson points out that in this context, we have the West bargaining with the Saudis, balancing the plight of the children of Ukraine against the children of Yemen — this over the price of oil and the super profits to be earned by a few.
Ironically, the US Congress, on three occasions in the past few years, had limited and even eliminated American support for this brutal, Saudi-led war. However, the Biden Administration has recently “opened that gate”.
British prime minister Boris Johnson and Biden have arranged separate visits to Saudi Arabia within this fortnight. As four-year-olds can appreciate that all are precious, those leaders and the rest of us could actively live by that principle.
• Glenn Fubler represents Imagine Bermuda