Enough War: Living Beneath Bombs, Yemenis Refuse to be Collateral Damage

The online campaign #KefayaWar ("enough war" in Arabic) has received an outpouring of support, from Yemen to Mexico to Scotland. (Photo courtesy of Our Yemen)

Enough War: Living Beneath Bombs, Yemenis Refuse to be Collateral Damage

As Saudi-led military assault breeds death and fear, impacted people send message of humanity to world

Nearly two weeks into a Saudi Arabia-led military assault on Yemen, that has rained down bombs on civilian neighborhoods and infrastructure while locking out food and medical aid, people within the country and across the global diaspora are turning to social media--and to the streets--to send a message to the world: Enough War.

The online campaign Kefaya War ("enough war" in Arabic) calls for people across the globe to "end ALL fighting in Yemen & stand with The People, who refuse to be collateral damage in a battle for Power." Since the bombings began March 26, the hashtag has received an outpouring of messages, from Scotland to Mexico to Yemen to the United States.

Rooj Alwazir, Yemeni activist currently based in Washington, D.C. and co-founder of Support Yemen Media, told Common Dreams over email that she and several friends launched #KefayaWar to "share with the world what is happening in Yemen" and amplify the humanity of the actual people who are impacted. To do so, she said, requires people to consider Yemenis as more than mere victims.

"It's important to recognize their fight for dignity, justice and freedom," Alwazir explained. "People in Yemen are not just poor helpless human beings, but they are people with stories who in their own different ways have been working towards social political change in their own communities. They are Yemen's future and right now they need all the solidarity and support they can get."

Meanwhile, people in Yemen and around the world are staging public protests to demand an immediate cessation of the bombings. According to the World Health Organization, Yemen's conflict has killed at least 643 people and wounded 2,226 since March 19, with 334,000 internally displaced and 8.4 million estimated to be in immediate need of health care services. The United Nations Children's Fund estimated Monday that the dead include at least 74 children.

Pakistan has seen large civil society protests pressing the government to refuse involvement in the ever-expanding military coalition, which is led by Saudi Arabia and now includes the United States, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco. Demonstrations have also been reported in Lebanon.

Thousands marched in a 'Hands Off Yemen' protest in London last week, where another protest is planned for Saturday. Other actions have taken place in U.S. cities and towns, including New York; Dearborn, Michigan; and Washington, D.C.

Sukaina, who asked to be identified by her first name, organized a protest last week in front of the White House as part of an informal group of Yemenis living in the United States. She told Common Dreams that the demonstration's message was "strictly humanitarian," calling for an end to the war and for people to "come to a dialogue, to come together, to speak, to stop killing people."

Sukaina said that she has been corresponding with family members currently based in Yemen's capital, including her 13-year-old niece, and "they are scared and frightened. Food supplies are running really low in supermarkets, gas lines are extremely long, and the electricity goes on and off like it always does, but it is a lot worse now."

Protest at the White House April 5. (Photo courtesy of Rami Elamine)

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly blocked humanitarian organizations from delivering critical aid to a nation already devastated by poverty and years of covert U.S. drone war. The Red Cross warned this week that a "catastrophic" situation is gripping the southern city of Aden, heavily targeted by shelling from war planes. The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders said in a press statement that "life has stopped" in Aden, where medical centers are overwhelmed with the wounded and dead and medical supplies and drugs are running dangerously low.

Shipments of deadly weapons, however, don't face the same roadblocks. A top U.S. diplomat announced Tuesday that the country is expediting arms to Saudi Arabia, in addition to providing a boost in intelligence support.

"The situation in Yemen is getting worse and worse everyday," said Alwazir of Support Yemen Media. "They are blocking the harbors and blocking all money transfers, which is impacting those stranded abroad who were forced to travel to Egypt, India and Amman for healthcare. Food will soon run out. The bombs have hit civilian refugee camps, food factories, a dairy factory, water and communication infrastructure. Yemenis are living under constant fear that they may be next."

The military intervention has been denounced as a cynical power move, led by a close U.S. ally, and in step with the so-called U.S. War on Terror.

"How do you wage war on impoverished nation?" Alwazir continued. "How is that a solution? Why is Yemen even their problem? The Saudis and their allies, which includes GCC countries and the U.S., are bombing Yemen's already very poor infrastructure because they feel threatened by a group of Yemenis who have historically been marginalized and are now slowly taking over the country. And as problematic as that may be, why is that their problem?"

"Make no mistake about it, this new war in the Middle East was approved and is being orchestrated by the U.S. Saudi Arabia does not make a move like this without the approval and backing of the U.S.," Lebanese-American writer and activist Rami Elamine told Common Dreams.

"So now every country, contiguously, from Afghanistan up to Turkey and down to Yemen and right through to Libya is engaged in some type of warfare," Elamine continued. "Think about that, America, because it's your tax dollars that initiated and are driving this endless 'War on Terror' in which literally hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died and thousands more will."

Meanwhile, Yemenis around the world must contend with an uncertain future.

"How will this end?" asked Alwazir. "I want someone to just tell me how this all ends because this is like a big nightmare that I can't wake up from, and I am terrified."

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