For years, and perhaps decades, none of the horrific stories of kidnapping, torturing or assassinating journalists has caught the world’s attention like the current story of the disappearance and possible assassination of a well-known Saudi journalist in Turkey last week.
Jamal Khashoggi, who is a prominent Saudi journalist and a critic of the regime, made headlines after his visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, after which he was never seen again. Since then, allegations of Khashoggi being kidnapped, brutally tortured, and even killed inside the Saudi Consulate have been swirling around the world. The story is now the talk of world leaders, governments and international human rights groups.
Ironically, just a few hours ago, while I was watching TV, two “Breaking News” segments coincided. The first one, according to the report, said that U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to severely punish the Saudi regime if proved complicit in the mysterious disappearance of Khashoggi and that the UK is intending to reconsider its relations with Saudi Arabia for the same reason. The second, a Yemeni report, claimed that more than 35 civilians were killed after a local market in a Yemeni city was hit by two airstrikes of the Saudi-led coalition. While the preceding news of Trump threatening Saudi Arabia over the allegations of killing a dissident journalist is, undoubtedly, the most important news in the MENA region today, the latter news of the killing of more than 35 Yemenis by the Saudi-led coalition is of very little significance to think about.
I am not here to condemn or denounce the world giving attention and importance to Khashoggi’s case. Rather, I am here to question why the world doesn’t pay the same attention to the suffering of an entire country and its people: Yemen. I am here to remind the world that, according to the people close to Khashoggi, the Saudi regime is believed to have ordered the premeditated murder of Khashoggi because he was a critic of the war his country is waging on Yemen.
Don’t you think that world leaders and governments should adhere to the same principles of human rights by putting an end to the armed conflict in Yemen which might have cost Khashoggi his life? Don’t you think that governments like that of the UK, the US, Iran, Qatar, and others must support peace in Yemen instead of fuelling a war that has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in this century?
Speaking about the ongoing war in Yemen, which is often described as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, means speaking about a fallen state with more than 80-85% of its population in need of humanitarian assistance, as recently noted by alarming UN reports.
The catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Yemen, caused by protracted armed conflict, is probably what prompted Khashoggi to call on the officials in his country to put an end to the war in Yemen. In his last published article in the Washington Post, he said “The longer this cruel war lasts in Yemen, the more permanent the damage will be. The people of Yemen will be busy fighting poverty, cholera and water scarcity and rebuilding their country.”
I believe, he is/was absolutely right.
In March 2015, Saudi Arabia formed a military coalition and intervened in Yemen to restore the legitimate and internationally recognized president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, to power after he was expelled by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Since then, on the ground, all the warring parties can’t claim victory and restore peace and stability to any of the territories they control. On the contrary, the world knows one fact; this ravaging war has shattered the poorest Arab country and put millions of its people on the verge of massive famine and starvation, and the more it continues, the more atrocities and human suffering are committed by the warring parties. Yet, the world is silent while the great powers are busy counting billions of dollars as a return for their arms sales to the countries involved in Yemen’s war.
What the world is unaware of, or perhaps cares the least about, is the fact that due to the ravaging war one governorate in Yemen, populated by about 2 million people, has no clean drinking water. Have you ever heard the international media speak about the devastating shortage of water in the Ibb province in Yemen? I bet you haven’t.
As of now, what seems clear is that the world has no time to think about the millions of people in Yemen. In the last couple of months, while in Cairo, I had the chance to chat with several Egyptians about the conflict in Yemen. Shockingly, most of the people I spoke with had little awareness or knowledge about the suffering the people in Yemen are facing due to the conflict. They were appalled when they learned that tens of thousands of people were killed in this conflict.
Frankly, the sympathy and sorrow expressed by my fellow Egyptians gave me no relief. On the contrary, I was frustrated on the inside without showing my feelings. I felt the barbaric war in my country would not end any time soon since even Arab people know little about it, just like all the other nations around the globe.
The one thing that I am sure about is that a lot of Yemeni people, me being one of them, are praying that Jamal Khashoggi is safe, that he will return to his family very soon, and that the stories of his murder are false.
I have no doubt that such a brave human being like Jamal, if still alive, would send this message to the world: “Yemen is a country that deserves peace. Yemen is a country where millions of people are starving and we all should stand to stop their collective mass catastrophe. Yemen is a country with a so-called government in exile, while people in the north suffer from the barbaric inhumane acts of the Houthi militia and people in the south are heavily affected by the violent armed confrontations between the UAE-backed militia and pro-government forces. Khashoggi would definitely say “a world that forgets or doesn’t consider the cries of millions in Yemen is unfair and cannot be sincere in its concerns about my destiny.”