The Shite insurgency in Yemen began in June 2004 when cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi launched an uprising against the Yemeni government. The Yemeni government alleged that the Houthis were seeking to overthrow it and to implement Shī’a religious law. The rebels counter that they were ‘protest[ing] against the economic and political marginalization of the provinces that made up the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen [South Yemen…]Saleh reacted to demonstrations in the 1990s with a bloody crackdown that ignited calls for secession’. He was forced out of power in 2011. The Shia insurgency intensified after Saleh’s replacement, Hadi, took power, escalating in September 2014 as anti-government forces led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi swept into the capital and forced the government’s mass resignation in January 2015, dissolving parliament and declaring Mohammed Ali al-Houthi Yemen’s interim authority. Hadi fled to Aden where he called for recognition as constitutional president of the country and declared Aden Yemen’s new capital in the hopes to somewhat halt the Houthis’ advance to the South of the country – to no success. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia and on the 26th of March, Saudi Arabia announced its intentions to lead a military coalition against the Houthis.
Meanwhile, Islamist groups have taken advantage of the chaotic situation to gain new territory. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and so-called Islamic State are both now present in the strategically important southern port of Aden.
No one seems any closer to actually winning the war, so it is harder to become invested in its outcome, especially as neither side has made any real move to negotiate and UN-led peace talks have been postponed.
And what of the systematic attacks on civil targets? ‘Human rights groups have been pressuring the UK in particular to reconsider its arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which last year were at a record high – 2.8 billion pounds ($4.2 billion) in the first three quarters alone’. Apparently even the US contributes to Saudi Arabia’s sales ‘totaling more than $21 billion’. What it boils down to is political agenda: Saudi Arabia is a key part of US and UK foreign politics and considered to be the stablising force of the Middle East. From this point of view, one could also speculate on whether or to what extent the Saudis have the power to manipulate the very information we as an audience get ahold of on Yemen.
Grappling with ‘Syria and Iraq, whose impact on the West is so much clearer to define in terms of refugees, extremist attacks, and geo-political dangers’, Western media veers – much like donors – towards bigger, regional conflicts, already fatigued by these aforementioned emergencies. But it takes very little to understand how truly devastating Yemen’s conflict is on its people: at the beginning of 2016, an estimated 14.4 million Yemenis were unable to meet their food needs (of whom 7.6 million were severely food insecure), 19.4 million lacked clean water and sanitation (of whom 9.8 million lost access to water due to conflict), 14.1 million did not have adequate healthcare, and at least two million had fled their homes within Yemen or to neighbouring countries. Access to health-care services for 14.1 million people has been disrupted and 1,600 schools have reportedly been closed, leaving 560,000 children out of school.