It took the death of one man – Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – to bring international pressure to bear on the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen conflict. Given UN statistics suggesting the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with up to 14 million at risk of starvation, and a steady death toll, it’s ironic that one death can achieve so much.
I know you aren’t surprised
None of us are these days. But it was striking for how long Yemen – like Libya – had vanished. Syria faired much better in the media stakes, mainly because more is at stake geopolitically there, but even that war is starting to bore us.
Syria has remained in our newsfeeds because it’s a war Western governments want to see end. As Russia and Iran back Assad towards victory, the plea from the West is united: STOP THE WAR.
But in Yemen…
In Yemen, the war could only begin with Western arms and tacit support. Arms sold by Europeans and Americans to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These weapons were intended to reverse a civil war in its closing stages, one the Houthi rebels were winning.
The result has been a drawn-out disaster of epic proportions that has been barely visible in our newsfeeds. This is partly media fatigue. What else is there to say about a war no one much cares to talk about?
It’s also awkward. It draws us all closer to the question of why governments in representative democracies – maybe your democracy? – are supporting Arab autocrats in a bombing campaign in the poorest country in the Middle East.
I know every charity will trot out the same old images this Christmas, like they always do, telling us to spare a thought for a child in Yemen. It’s hackneyed and we’ve heard it all before. But this week I spared a thought, a brief thought, for my own sake more than anyone else’s.