April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. Last year, we commemorated the month through a series of posts remembering the devastation and lives lost to genocide and mass atrocities in the past. This year, we will commemorate Genocide Prevention and Awareness Month by highlighting current conflicts where the ongoing atrocities urgently demand an effective U.S. government response.
According to the U.N. Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, the crisis in Yemen is a “man-made” “humanitarian catastrophe.” Thousands of Yemenis have already lost their lives to violence, starvation, and impediments to medical care. Millions of civilians are displaced, facing famine, and living in imminent danger while the world either continues to watch or enables the ongoing violence.
The current conflict in Yemen between the Houthis and the Yemeni government dates back to 2004, but escalated and engulfed the entire country in 2014 when the Houthis took control of the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led coalition of Gulf Arab states responded by launching a counteroffensive in support of the Yemeni government. Fighting between the two groups continues today with no end in sight.
U.S. involvement in Yemen has perpetuated the violence. Through the 2000s, the U.S. conducted drone strikes in Yemen and backed Yemeni security forces as a part of a military strategy against Al Qaeda. Reports indicate, however, that many of these drone strikes actually killed civilians with no known links to extremist groups. In the current iteration of the Yemeni conflict, the United States provides the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence and fuels Saudi jet planes that enabled the coalition’s 3,000 airstrikes. Additionally, the U.S. has sold more than $115 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia, including weapons used to decimate civilian areas. In 2015, at the same time as the U.S. was enabling deadly strikes on Yemeni civilians, the U.S. government suspended aid for civilian-led conflict management, democracy, and governance programs to the country. This strategy is not only morally reprehensible but, along with U.S. backing Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen, directly undermines the purported U.S. goals of stability and countering violent extremism. The extremist organizations that the U.S. government claims to be eliminating have actually grown in strength throughout U.S. military involvement in the country. On the West’s strategy in Yemen, a British official stated, “What happened in Yemen was just a lot of money spent, a lot of time wasted, and nothing whatsoever was achieved.”
This strategy has failed and yet, the current administration appears to only be escalating it. The Pentagon and President Trump have already dramatically increased U.S. military involvement in the country, conducting more airstrikes since entering office than were conducted in all of 2016. Secretary of Defense Mattis has requested that restrictions on support for the Saudi-led coalition be lifted.
FCNL, along with many other organizations, continues to advocate to stop U.S. support for the violence in Yemen. These efforts have culminated in an increasing outcry against U.S. support of the violence in Yemen, demonstrated by 27 senators who voted in support of historic legislation to block the $1.15 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia in September of last year. Last year, the Prevention and Protection Working group wrote to Ambassador Susan Rice expressing deep concern over the U.S. support of the Saudi-led coalition and its role in prolonging the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Ongoing advocacy against U.S. support of the Saudi-led war is necessary, in addition to advocacy that supports and funds programs that can not only respond to the urgent needs of the Yemeni people but also create the potential for a sustainable peace.
The Human Cost
Estimates are that over 10,000 people have been killed and 40,000 injured in the two-year conflict.
70% of the population are in need of humanitarian aid.
3.1 million people are displaced.
More than half of the population is experiencing food shortages and nearly half a million children are on the verge of starvation. 14.1 million people are food insecure.