In early January 2015, the Telegraph ran a five-page feature on the Charlie Hebdo shootings. The feature commemorated the 12 people killed in the Al-Qaeda attack on the satirical newspaper in Paris. On the sixth page of the paper, there was a ten word, easily missed text-box stating that 25 people had been killed in a car bombing in Yemen. With 80% of the country in need of humanitarian aid, why has the crisis in Yemen been ignored for so long?
Before Britain colonised South Yemen in 1839, Yemen was merely a geographical expression. The area was populated by many, mostly nomadic, tribes and factions.
These groups interacted and fought with each other in similar ways to the tribes of native America or the clans of Scotland, but definitely did not see themselves as one people.
When the British invaded in 1839, they imposed Western style borders and leadership. Then, when they withdrew from Yemen in 1967, it left the country in a power struggle that has continued ever since.
The current war that has led to the breaking point that Yemen has reached in recent weeks is only one installment in a long history of conflicts
The conflict in Yemen that we see today cannot be simply explained as state versus rebel; its stemmed from a continuous struggle between warring factions for power over a country that is only united as a result of the British Empire.
The current war that has led to the breaking point that Yemen has reached in recent weeks is only one installment in a long history of conflicts between these different interest groups.
Peace talks are made very difficult when there are so many stakeholders. Many who want power, many who have different visions of what Yemen should be, and many who do not want to sit at the negotiating table, at all.
There is a growing sentiment in Great Britain – one that has become very apparent in the recent Black Lives Matter protests – to bury our imperialist past.
By covering the crisis in Yemen, the British press must face up to the truth of British history
The Yemen crisis is yet another example of the devastation left in the wake of the British Empire and its lack of coverage in the press is part of the refusal to acknowledge our role in the suffering of the world, today.
By covering the crisis in Yemen, the British press must face up to the truth of British history rather than the illusion we have been fed for generations. This is not something they are willing to do.
When it comes to the British and American relations with the Middle East, there are very few occasions when it does not come down to oil. The Western world fears nothing more than running out of oil.
The 1973 oil crisis came because of the West’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Arab countries cut off their oil trade to Western countries and prices rose by 400%. The impact of this was huge.
In the UK, the crisis struck at the same time as a miner’s strike and a three day week was put in place for workers with strict limits on uses of electricity, including the ban of television past 10pm.
The 1973 crisis puts into perspective how much our entire economy and lifestyle are dependent on the USA’s relationship with Saudi Arabia
The USA’s second largest supplier of oil is Saudi Arabia. The UK’s second largest supplier of oil is the USA. The 1973 crisis puts into perspective how much our entire economy and lifestyle are dependent on the USA’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, which currently walks on a tight rope.
Despite Saudi Arabia and America being completely contrasting nations with completely contrasting values, in the past their relationship has been strengthened by common enemies.
Throughout the Cold War, both nations were invested in the containment of communism. However, once the USSR fell, the US-Saudi relationship became fundamentally transactional.
Saudi Arabia provided the USA, and indirectly the UK, with oil while the US kept a stream of weapons heading into the Middle East.
Since then, Saudi Arabia has become Washington’s largest weapons buyer and currently has active cases worth over $100 billion. Furthermore, despite the court of appeal ruling that British sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia were unlawful in 2019, it is unclear whether the deals have continued.
Consequently, when Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen (as well as countless questionable military interventions that preceded this) they were using American weapons. This included airstrikes that killed civilians (averaging at 12 attacks per day), using intentional starvation as a war tactic, and blocking humanitarian aid to Houthi controlled areas.
Yemen is located at the Southern-most point of the Arabian Peninsula, which makes it of integral strategic significance.
Yemen was colonised in 1839 due to its useful placement for a British East India Company port, but since then has become even more important as the Middle East has become a centre of world conflict. Like a more important, modern- day Cuba, the location of Yemen is perfect for the situation of military bases.
It is likely that the lack of attention Yemen gets from the British press is due to its irrelevance in threatening the British way of life
Despite this, Yemen does not hold much sway on the world stage. Due to its political instability, lack of natural resources, and its position as the poorest country in the Middle East, Yemen holds very few stakes when it comes to international relations.
It is likely that the lack of attention Yemen gets from the British press is due to its irrelevance in threatening the British way of life. It is unlikely that the outcome of the war will have any impact on our world, so the press sees little point in reporting it.
As with the increasing Israeli bias in British media, issues like these often come down to ensuring the Anglo-American relationship remains intact. The US has a high population of Jewish people in positions of financial and political power, and therefore remain supportive of Israel in order to appease them.
This means that Israeli persecution and war crimes against Palestinians are overlooked by both the US and the UK. The situation in Yemen is similar: the US must remain in alliance with Saudi Arabia to protect their oil imports and the UK must support this in order to maintain a ‘special relationship’ with the world’s most powerful nation.
I can observe that the lack of coverage on the Yemen crisis comes down to three stakes: power in preserving the Anglo-American relationship, a bid to ignore the consequences of the British Empire, and oil. However, none of these reasons excuse the suffering of millions of Yemenis being ignored.
The British press plays a huge role in which international crises receive attention and sympathy from the public.
It is important that outlets put their political agendas aside and use their platform to help save Yemen
If Yemen continues to not be covered, the British public will continue to be unaware of the suffering and humanitarian charities will not receive the donations that they need. It is important that outlets put their political agendas aside and use their platform to help save Yemen.
To find out more about the origins of the Yemen crisis, click here and for links to charities and petitions, click here.
Featured image courtesy of Alisdare Hickson via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
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