Skip to main content

A Yemeni generation is being wiped out as the international community looks on

The idea that British arms could have been used in the murder of children is sickening and a disgrace to Britain’s foreign policy, writes FABIAN HAMILTON

AS THE conflict in Yemen rages on, costing more innocent civilian lives by the day, the Saudi-led coalition now poses the threat of starving out a whole generation with its continuous bombing of the port of Hodeida, where the overwhelming majority of humanitarian aid arrives into the country. 

Save The Children statistics suggest that over five million children are at risk of famine as food and fuel supplies dwindle in the face of a continuous barrage of violence against key hubs of aid by the Saudi-led coalition. 

Because of this continuous offensive against the port of Hodeida, in particular, the total number of children at risk of famine has increased by one million. 

Surely this, coupled with the recent bus attack that killed over 40 Yemeni children, shows that the Saudis are now actively propagating the wiping out of a generation.

After the deaths of more than 10,000 civilians since 2015, it’s difficult to see how this conflict can be brought to an end without starting some meaningful dialogue.

According to witnesses on the ground, starving new-born babies are frequently too weak to cry. In the face of this brutal reality, the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels really must make every effort to restart peace talks at the United Nations immediately. 

However, as the conflict rages on with more civilian casualties every single day, the international community continues to fail in its responsibility to protect them. While massive aid efforts have been spearheaded by the UN, the lack of access to the port of Hodeida makes all this effort largely worthless. 

As the UN security council “penholder,” the responsibility to protect Yemeni civilians starts with Britain, as well as the other permanent members — the United States, France, China, and Russia — all of which are providing arms or military equipment to the Saudi-led coalition countries or to the Houthi rebels. 

While Labour has been clear in its explicit call for the government to suspend all arms export licences to Saudi Arabia, the Tories continue to claim that there is no clear risk that the arms Britain sells to Riyadh are being used to violate international humanitarian law.

The idea that British arms could have been used in the murder of children is absolutely sickening and a disgrace to this country’s foreign policy, which once prided itself on being ethical and following international law. Instead, the British government is more interested in making a quick buck rather than protecting innocent civilians abroad.

The fact is that the Saudi-led coalition has routinely ignored its own “no-strike” list, which consists of around 30,000 prohibited sites. 

This was known to the UN before the bus attack that killed so many children and the permanent members of the security council again failed to act. Indiscriminate bombing should not be mistaken as anything other than a clear breach of international law, which has defined the purpose of the UN since its formation in 1945.

Meanwhile, the British government continues to roll out the red carpet for Saudi dignitaries when they visit our capital and they receive a disturbing lack of criticism from the Prime Minister on their military campaign in Yemen. 

When it comes to such horrific breaches of international law, silence is complicity. Furthermore, it is this silence that breeds contempt for the international community and its institutions in regions ravaged by conflict. This is true of not just Yemen but in Libya and Syria too. 

The humanitarian disaster of Yemen is part of a wider problem of the tacit consent of violence across the globe. 

With the far-right making progress in Europe, the United States and the Western world as a whole, vocal opposition to violence is needed now more than ever. 

It is not only Britain’s responsibility to act in Yemen because of its position on the UN security council. It is the duty of every stable and democratic state in the world to look at the threats to vulnerable civilians with the same concern and horror as they would view threats of conflict against themselves. 

Fabian Hamilton is shadow minister for peace and disarmament and MP for Leeds North.


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 11,486
We need:£ 6,514
13 Days remaining
Donate today