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There is a glimmer of hope in the effort to end the war in Yemen. On April 1, a two-month Ramadan truce took effect. While the ceasefire has not entirely held, several fuel ships have finally been allowed into Yemen, and there are discussions of flights taking off from Sanaa airport for the first time in years.

As Hassan El-Tayyab told those gathered at April’s Quaker Changemaker event, “We might be seeing an end to this [war]… we’re at a really interesting point in the war to be having this conversation.”

“My government is bombing children in Yemen. Why wouldn’t I want to do something to help support them in their struggle?”

Hassan El-Tayyab

During this event, Hassan, FCNL’s legislative director for Middle East policy, talked with General Coordinator of the Yemeni Liberation Movement Iman Saleh about the role U.S. complicity plays in the Saudi-led war and the values that call them to this work. Sarah Freeman-Woolpert, who leads FCNL advocacy teams in their work to advance public policies to end U.S. support for this war, moderated the conversation.  

After eight years of war, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is dire—half a million Yemeni citizens have died because of the conflict, and 80% of the current population depends on food assistance for survival. While President Joe Biden announced an end to U.S. involvement in early 2021, more than a year later, the United States continues to provide support for the Saudi-led offensive.

As Iman pointed out, the United States is “always so willing to jump into a conflict, especially when it comes to countries in the global south… the U.S. is such a major war machine.” The conversation focused on the ways U.S. complicity is perpetuating this humanitarian crisis. Hassan urged the audience to put themselves in the shoes of those in Yemen. “My government is bombing children in Yemen,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I want to do something to help support them in their struggle?”

In early 2021, Iman and the Yemeni Liberation Movement went on a 25-day hunger strike in solidarity with Yemen. While she was pleased that this raised awareness (the Washington Post published her op-ed about the action), she was disappointed that their movement didn’t receive more coverage. “We were reaching out to news publications that weren’t interested in what was happening in Yemen… but now the same news outlets are happily reporting on what’s happening in Ukraine,” Iman told us. In response to an audience question, Iman pointed out the discrepancies in public opinion towards these wars and emphasized the need for intersectionality in advocating for peace.

Amid an often-heavy conversation, the panelists brought in perspectives of hope. Hassan pointed out growing bipartisan support for a Yemen War Powers resolution to terminate unauthorized U.S. military involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s war and blockade. He reminded us that “it’s important to break down these barriers [between the parties] … and realize we have a lot more in common than we might think.”

Throughout the conversation, Iman and Hassan connected this work to their values. For Iman, this work “is about a deep sense of humanity, of having sympathy for not just our families by blood but our families by nature.” For Hassan, this work is rooted in the belief that there is a Light within each person; “there is good in everybody, we just have to find it and work together to bring people on board.” 

This event made it more apparent than ever that the U.S. must end its complicity in this war. Iman reminded us that “there is a massive amount of privilege being able to live here, and having a voice, that you can use within the belly of the beast.”

Want to learn more? Watch the recording of our Quaker Changemaker event here.

Emma Hulbert

Emma Hulbert

Program Assistant, Quaker Outreach (2021-2022)
Emma Hulbert is the program assistant for Quaker Outreach.