Yemen’s political crisis ignored by Western media
Media coverage of the Middle East over the past year has honed in on the atrocities of the Syrian civil war, the battle between Israel and Gaza and projections of what is to become of the United States-Iran nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, a brutal civil war blazing in impoverished Yemen is overlooked, and the pivotal ramifications of the situation remain amiss in the mass media.
Last month, the country witnessed 140 dead at a funeral bombing and 58 killed during an air-strike on a prison. Since the official break out of the war in March 2015, at least 10,000 Yemenis have died, including an astounding 4,000 civilians. More than 35,000 have been injured, according to BBC and the Guardian.
Even worse, a third of casualties were children.
Additionally, three million Yemenis are internally displaced, and more than half the population, 14 million, is starving from a widespread famine.
The under representation of the Yemen civil war seems to deny its intrinsic importance.
The civil war is the product of tensions in the country accumulating over several years.
In 2011, the authoritarian president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was ousted and replaced with Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who failed to resolve contested topics such as corruption, the separatist movement and food insecurity and could not stop continued loyalty to Saleh, especially among military officials.
The Houthis, a rebellion group against Hadi comprised mostly of the Zaidi Shia Muslim minority in the country, stormed into the capital in late-2014. Radical Houthis still dedicated to Saleh attempted a government coup in March 2015, causing Hadi to temporarily flee the country.
The catastrophic skirmish between the rebel Houthis and the Sunnis, who are pro-government, has proceeded to escalate and now involves several foreign countries.
Terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIL have taken advantage of the growing instability, gaining large swaths of territory. Al Qaeda seized lands on the eastern side of Yemen and raked in tens of millions of dollars from controlling the third-largest port in the city of Muklalla.
Suicide bombings and other attacks by ISIL have increased in the region as well. Widespread terrorism in Yemen is not only a problem for the Yemenis, because, as these terrorist organizations expand, they generate a greater threat to neighboring countries.
Saudi Arabia supports the Sunni pro-government movement extensively and has executed extensive air strikes in Yemen against the rebels. Saudi Arabia, a predominantly Sunni country, fears Iran could gain a foothold in Yemen.
Iran, a Shia majority, supports the Houthis and has been caught distributing weapons to the rebel forces.
Several Arab nations formed a coalition with Saudi Arabia, along with Western nations such as the U.S., U.K. and France to fight the rebels and keep Hadi in charge.
Why? Yemen is situated on the Bab al-Mandab strait which links the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden together, where a majority of the world’s oil shipments pass through.
Western countries want control over the region to ensure oil stability, thus Saudi Arabia and Western nations want to prevent Iran from seizing control of more territory.
If Iran gains a foothold, it could launch attacks directly (or indirectly through disguised “terrorist attacks”) on oil barges headed for global markets.
Yemen, like Syria, is unfortunately a strategic stomping ground between much larger and much richer nations with their own interests, which leaves Yemeni civilians vulnerable.
The World Health Organization announced this month that more than half of Yemen’s healthcare facilities are closed or partially functional. Not only does this leave the large number of injured civilians unable to receive necessary healthcare, but it also puts the entire population at risk of the rapid spread of infectious diseases. And as nearly half of the population suffers from a food shortage, malnutrition and sanitation issues contribute to the declining welfare of citizens.
Yemenis are not granted the same urgency as Syrians. Despite similar, unfortunate circumstances, the civil war in Yemen often goes unheard.
Destiny Pinder-Buckley is a freshman English and
major from Mitchell, S.D.