The Forgotten War: Yemen Crisis


The Yemen civil war is the most forgotten war in its nature. Since its outbreak in late 2014, it had a huge number of civilian’s casualties which nothing much has been done to stop this war. My attempt in this paper is to give a brief background to the cause of the Yemen civil war and highlights the major players in this war including regional and international players. The next part of the paper highlights the power politics and human right violation in Yemen civil war. The paper will end with arguments how the people suffer the most and how they are paying the high price of war and conflict.



Yemen has been ravaged by conflict since 2014, when the Houthis, in an alliance with Saleh, overran Sana and forced President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to move to the southern coastal city of Aden and then to Saudi Arabia. Hadi remains the internationally recognized leader of Yemen. When the Houthis moved on Aden early in 2015, Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and other Persian Gulf countries, launched a counteroffensive to reinstate Hadi and to curb the power of the Shiite Muslim, Houthis, whom they consider to be proxies of their nemesis, Iran. Meanwhile, the conflict continues to take a heavy toll on Yemeni civilians. Reports say all sides of the conflict are reported to have violated human rights and international humanitarian law. It is reported that internal political instability, a backlash against U.S. counterterrorism operations, and interference by neighbouring states has contributed to rising violence and fracturing in Yemen.


Complexities of Yemen Civil War

The Yemen civil war is very complex to analyses there are many factors which deteriorate the war in Yemen. So it is difficult to analyses the Yemen civil war from a single angle.Involvement of regional and international powers, sectarian divide, and the internal political instability make it more complex. Saudi led military coalition in Yemen caused hundreds and thousands of non-combatants death. Since late 2014 Saudi airstrike on Yemen which caused millions of people to be killed, displaced and many more struggling between life and death. Famine, food and medicine shortage and outbreak of different kinds of disease are the common problem in Yemen which the harsh impact would be on women and children. Many have died as result of hunger and the numbers of malnourished children are increasing in Yemen day by day.

In recent months Saudi Arabia was blaming the countries like Iran and Qatar for supporting terrorism in the region. However, Saudi itself has also a very big hand in creating tension in the region. There is a big gap between what countries are saying and what they are doing. The Yemen crises can be the most dominant example of it.  As Saudi is the US main allies so it is not in US interest to raise voice against Saudi and being silent would the best option they could have done. Although every human considers equal according to International Law when it comes to practice the things are different. According to article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.  Why suffering from people in Yemen and another war-torn zone such Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq or Burma are not the same as people from Global North. Qatar faced hard sanction from Saudi Arabia and rest of the Middle Eastern countries for backing the terrorist groups after Donald Trump ‘s visit from Saudi while Saudi led airstrike in Yemen has not been condemning by any western powers or there no sanction against Saudi Arabia. That is what the power politics became very much important even at the cost of civilians lives.

read Russia and Turkey as a Complex ally

Power Politics

Western governments, including the US and the UK, have also faced a lot of criticism for providing logistical support and political backing to the nine-nation coalition. It has been also said British companies have continued to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia despite growing concern about civilian casualties in Yemen. Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said in the UN report,

“The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is among the worst in the world, and the bombardment is making it even worse. This couldn’t have happened without the complicit support of governments like the UK, which have armed and supported Saudi forces every step of the way”.

Amnesty International emphasizes the US and other Western states to implement a “comprehensive embargo” on the sales of weapons to the member of the Saudi-led coalition in the war-torn country. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen an “entirely man-made catastrophe”.

UN-mediated talks between Houthi militants and the ousted Yemeni government have failed to reach a resolution. The intervention of regional powers, including Iran and Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia, in Yemen’s conflict threatens to draw the country into the broader Sunni-Shia divide. Iran has armed Houthi rebels through shipments in the Gulf of Aden. It is reported however, numerous weapons shipments from Iran to Houthi rebels have been intercepted by a Saudi naval blockade in place since April 2015. In response, Iran has dispatched its own naval convoy, which further risks military escalation between the two countries. The regional and international power game in Yemen made a harsh impact in deteriorating the Yemen civil war. None of the perpetrators has been brought to the International Court of Justice for a fair trial. The main reason would be a huge influence of big powers in the international system in their domination in international level. As Acharya rightly points, International Relation does not reflect the voice, experience, knowledge claim and contribution of the majority society and state in the world. The west is always core and the rest are at the periphery. It is important to think beyond the west where the rest is suffering their suffering should be core in the study of International Relation and people really matter. The state always cannot reflect the voice of the people from the ground.


Human Right Violation

According to the New York Time Report the conflict in Yemen has already left 10,000 people dead, displaced two million more from their homes and caused severe food shortages. A recent report by the World Health Organization said that a severe outbreak of cholera had infected half a million Yemenis, with more than 2,000 dead so far. That crisis has worsened as the fighting disrupted medical facilities and fresh water supplies, the agency said. According to Human Rights Watch report the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is involved in war crimes. The coalition has repeatedly denied allegations of war crimes and says its attacks are directed against its foes in Yemen’s armed Houthi movement and not civilians while thousands of civilian lost their lives as result of Saudi led airstrikes.Amnesty International has gathered evidence revealing that all the parties to this conflict have committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including war crimes.Anti-Houthi forces allied to Yemen’s President Hadi and the coalition have also carried out a campaign of intimidation and harassment against hospital staff in Ta’iz and are endangering civilians by stationing fighters and military positions near medical facilities.In such a context of lawlessness and abuse, there is an urgent need for truth, accountability and justice for victims of the conflict.Amnesty International believes the only way to achieve this is through the establishment of a UN-led independent international investigation to look into alleged violations by all parties to the conflict with a view to ensuring that those responsible for crimes are brought to justice in fair trials and effective measures are taken to address the suffering of victims and their families and to help them rebuild their lives. UN and other human right organization accept the both the parties as well as regional and international powers are committing  war crime and crime against humanity in Yemen, but till date none of perpetrators are stopped of human right violation in Yemen. There is lack of political will from international and regional powers to stop the conflict because they are directly or indirectly involved in the war. The states do not want to scarify their personal interests for savings the innocent’s civilians in Yemen. They prefer not to harm their bilateral relation for saving civilians lives and well beings.

read Inside Qatar Crisis at a Glance

Who pays the price of the civil war in Yemen?

As reports say Yemen’s conflict has left around 70percentt of the 27-million strong populations now reliant on some form of humanitarian aid.  It has been said a total of 14.5 million people don’t have regular access to clean water, 7.3 million live on the brink of famine and more than 500,000 people have been infected by the worst cholera outbreak in modern history. It is reported Saudi blockades on Yemen’s ports and airspace have been blamed for creating the humanitarian crisis and adding to the misery by holding up desperately needed food, medicine and other supplies from entering the country.  Air strikes have also been known to hit hospitals and other vital civilian infrastructure. According to BBC report Yemen is experiencing the worst humanitarian catastrophe, but still there is no attention to the suffering of people in Yemen.As it has been argued that the experience of the people and their demand for truth, justice is important which has not been taken into consideration unfortunately. International Relation is less interested into insight from peopleand it has been an elite and exclusive discipline where poverty, hunger and war happen to the disadvantage people. Such arguments suit well in Yemen’s context.It is the people who are the victims of power politics and they are the one who have to pay the high price for the power politics game.Majority of victims are children and women. The top down approach where states always come first and the voice of people from the ground are less often heard. It is not only about Yemen all around the world it is the people who are paying the price for power politics game and among these people it is the most vulnerable and excluded people including women and children who suffer the most.



In international arenas its states who speak first or in other word the top down approach in international system does not end with the interest of the people. There isalways the question of human right violation in thirds world countries, but in Yemen human right is violated by big power itself while there no serious attention to stop such war crime in Yemen. At the end of the day it is people who pay the heavy price for all these power politics. No one is really concerned about suffering and pains of the people in the ground.



Zarifa Sabet

Kabul, Afganistan.

She has completed Masters degree in International Relations from South Asian University, New Delhi, India.

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