A Resounding Plea


“Don’t bury me.” 6-year-old Fareed Shawky cries as doctors treat his many shrapnel wounds. He is just a child. But more than six months of war in his country, Yemen, had taught him the bitter realities of conflict. People die, then they are buried. “Don’t bury me,” Fareed says again through tears. His young father stands across from him and smiles as if to dismiss his child’s fears. “I was trying to calm him down and at the same time my tears are falling, but I did not want him to feel it,” al-Thamry Shawky says, “I told him, ‘Don’t be afraid, my son. You will get better.'” The interaction was filmed that month by Ahmed Basha, a local photographer who recounted the story to CNN. “I thought he was just injured,” Basha says from his home in Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city. “I wasn’t even sure I had been recording when he said this. I was more concerned with my still photography.”


Four days later, Fareed died of wounds to his head. The boy was buried, hurriedly, by relatives. His own father could not bring himself to break his promise to his son. “I didn’t bury him. I couldn’t bury him.” The father told Basha through tears, “I stood far away as they put him in the ground.” When Basha got word of the child’s death, he began sifting through his footage. He published the video of the boy begging to live and began telling the world his story. It was quickly picked up by social media at a time when little else on Yemen’s war seems to gain much attention.  The video got over 50,000 views on facebook alone, I couldn’t find out how many on twitter.

It is the war the world forgot, activists say, and Fareed Shawky is reminding us.  His words, “don’t bury me”, echo all through Yemen now as a plea for peace.

“With every day that passes, children see their hopes and dreams for the future shattered,” Julien Harneis, the Unicef representative in Yemen, said earlier this month. “Their homes, schools and communities are being destroyed, and their own lives are increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition,” said UNICEF advisor.


Yemen: One Year In

After a little more than a year of civil war, the conflicting forces in Yemen sat down on December 15 in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the prospect of finding a political solution to the conflict that has been going on since March 26, 2015 (and another is coming up April 10). While this is a necessary step towards ending the violence that has killed thousands, crippled infrastructure and led to a critical humanitarian crisis, the peace talks should include a “blueprint” for rebuilding this war-torn nation.

Saudi Arabia, which is responsible for most, more than 80%, of the destruction with its ambushes and bombings, should be forced to pay for the terrible damage it has created. So should the United States and United Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen has only destroyed lives and created a state of total chaos, and the U.S. government is complicit in the carnage.”
When the Houthis, a Shia rebel group from northern Yemen, took over the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in January 2015 and forced Sunni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi into exile, Saudi Arabia formed a Arab Zionist coalition to fight against the Houthis. Naturally, the U.S. agreed to support its close ally in its endeavor to ‘reinstate order’ in Yemen by providing intelligence, weaponry and multiple drone strikes, as well as sending U.S. warships to help enforce a blockade in the Gulf of Aden and southern Arabian Sea. The blockade was supposedly just to prevent weapons shipments from Iran to the Houthis, but it also stopped humanitarian aid shipments to the majority of Yemeni citizens. The American CIA and military intelligence are also on the ground in Yemen, providing support to the Saudis.
 one year in med WHO
Since then, the coalition has carried out indiscriminate airstrikes and bombings throughout the country, often targeting highly populated civilian areas. As of late September, the U.N. had documented that the war had killed 2,355 civilians and wounded 4,862, the majority of cases as a result of coalition airstrikes. The Saudi-led military intervention has created a humanitarian crisis that has left about 90% of Yemen’s population (21 million people) in urgent need of immediate aid. Millions of people have been forced out of their homes and left without water, hardly any food, and no electricity, as the country’s infrastructure continues to disintegrate.  Almost 5 million Yemeni civilians are displaced refugees in their own country.
The U.S. and U.K. are the main supplier of the weapons being used to carpet bomb Yemen. Cluster munitions, which are sold to Saudi Arabia by an American company called Textron, have been used in several coalition strikes. These bombs are not only illegal, but constitute a particular danger to civilians because of their wide area of effect and the fact that unexploded ‘bomblets’ can remain hazardous for decades after their deployment, which is why they are banned in over 115 countries.
“Saudi-led cluster munition airstrikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “These weapons should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members – and the supplier, the US – are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians.”
The United States’ direct role in coordinating Saudi air operations also makes the United States complicit in war crimes. “The U.S. government is well aware of the Saudi-led coalition’s indiscriminate air attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Providing the Saudis with more bombs under these circumstances is a recipe for greater civilian deaths, for which the U.S. will be partially responsible.”
one year in WHO
To make matters worse, the terrible conditions on the ground have led to the strengthening of extremist terrorist groups that will without doubt plague that nation for years to come. The local Al Qaeda branch, Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (also known as AQAP), formed in 2009, has exploited the present conflict and increased recruiting efforts. The current political and security vacuum has also opened the way for the appearance of a branch of ISIL, which has been carrying out deadly attacks on Shiite mosques and positioning itself as even more aggressive than AQAP. Some fear that AQAP and ISIL recruitment efforts might lead to competition between both radical groups, which could mean even more attacks around the country as the groups try to upstage one another.

Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen has only destroyed lives and created a state of total chaos, and the U.S. government is complicit in the carnage. Both nations should, as part of the peace process, be forced to pay reparations for the tremendous damage their bombs have inflicted.

The Yemen crisis should also serve as a prime moment for the United States to reconsider its alliance the Saudi/Israel regime, a regime that not only denies human rights to its own people but exports death and destruction to innocent people of other nations. There are upcoming events and summits to be held coming up but regardless an end to the conflict in Yemen does not seem to be in sight for quite some time, and the humanitarian crisis there gets worse by the hour

I want to thank UNICEF, WHO, The World Post and Yemen Post.