Contents of this page: 1. Why we are campaigning; 2. Our demands
Why we are campaigning
From the moment Saudi Arabia started bombing and blockading Yemen in March 2015, Britain has been deeply complicit. At the time, foreign secretary Philip Hammond defined British policy as one of support for the assault “in every practical way short of engaging in combat”.
Since then, Britain has sold almost £6billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. British bombs, dropped from British planes by British-trained pilots, have targeted funerals, markets, and hospitals, killing and mutilating tens of thousands. Worse, the country – which is reliant on imports for over 85% of its food, fuel and medicines – has been the victim of a devastating blockade. The country’s main port, Hodeidah, and its airport in Sanaa, have been repeatedly targeted, with ships containing desperately needed supplies arbitrarily held up for months on end or turned back altogether. This vicious blockade has led directly to a humanitarian crisis in which one child contracts cholera every 35 seconds, and 130 children die of starvation and preventable diseases every day. To date, almost 1 million Yemenis – more than 1 in 30 – have contracted cholera, making it the biggest outbreak of the disease since records began in 1949. According to Save the Children, 50,000 Yemeni children have now died from starvation and preventable diseases in 2017.
And yet, on November 6th 2017, things got even worse. The blockade was made total, with even aid supplies barred from entering the country. For almost three weeks, not a single ship was allowed to dock at the country’s biggest port of Hodeidah, through which 70% of the country’s imports normally enter. Although on 22nd November the Saudis promised to reopen the country to aid deliveries, a coalition of aid groups said that this partial opening was “a minor and insufficient concession” that “still leave[s] the population of Yemen in a worse situation than they were two weeks ago” and the country still “on the brink.” Save the Children’s Caroline Anning told Al Jazeera that it “wouldn’t be enough to avert a potential famine. Aid agencies such as ours and the UN are only able to provide a fraction of the food, fuel and water that is needed. It’s imperative that commercial supplies are able to get in as well.”
As of 1st December 2017, only a small trickle of aid has been allowed into the country.
The world’s aid agencies now warn of a massive famine, dwarfing anything the world has seen for decades, threatening to wipe out 7 million people (one quarter of the population).
And yet, true to Hammond’s words, British support for this sickening enterprise has been unwavering. Britain continues to give full political, diplomatic and military support to the war, providing technical and logistical assistance to the Saudi airforce, regularly blocking the UN’s attempts to investigate war crimes, and providing all the materiel necessary for the continuation of the war.
Professor Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute has correctly stated that “the Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and British support. If the United States and the United Kingdom, tonight, told King Salman [of Saudi Arabia] ‘this war has to end,’ it would end tomorrow.”
Therefore, we have three main demands of the British government:
First and foremost, we demand that Britain pulls out of the war on Yemen. This must include:
- An immediate halt to all arms sales to Saudi Arabia
- The withdrawal of all British military advisors from Saudi Arabia
- An end to Britain’s training of the Saudi airforce
- The cutting of diplomatic relations with all countries blockading Yemen
Secondly, we demand transparency. Britain must come clean about the full extent of its role in Yemen. This must include:
- The publication of the secret ‘memorandum of understanding’ between Theresa May and Saudi Arabia in March 2014
- An end to the British policy of blocking or sabotaging UN enquiries into war crimes in Yemen
- The establishment of and full cooperation with, an independent UN investigation into the role played by Britain in the war and blockade against Yemen, including: a) the role of the 150 Brits deployed with the Saudi military and b) the secret deployment of HMS Daring off the shores of Yemen in November 2016.
Finally, we demand accountability and reparations. British policy has directly facilitated the deaths of 50,000 Yemeni children this year alone, and we believe that not only should this stop and be exposed, but that those responsible must face the full consequences of their actions. Therefore we finally demand that:
- All members of the British government for the period of British involvement in the Yemeni war must face justice, preferably through an independent court or tribunal (over which Britain and its allies have no influence).
- Britain and its allies must pay full reparations to Yemen for all the damage they have caused, including compensation for injury and destruction of property; healthcare and pensions for the wounded and their families; trauma counselling, etc.