In the week announcing Meghan Markle’s pregnancy, Ariana Grande’s split from fiancé Pete Davidson, and some more indeterminate talk about Brexit, I couldn’t help but call the media’s priorities into question when I noticed there was nothing being said about the war in Yemen.
The news we should be absorbing is the horrific reports on the war in the Yemen. According to a brief put forward by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, half of Yemen’s population, approximately 14 million people, are facing “pre-famine conditions”. Innocent civilians are suffering a war in which neither side are innocent. A report released by the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner states “individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition may have conducted attacks… that may amount to war crimes”. With hundreds of thousands of children struggling with acute malnutrition, this scale of human suffering should be an outrage to those of us in a more fortunate position. Is it not presented properly for fear of it ruining somebody’s day? Or are we all cowering behind our screens to evade our social responsibilities?
In the age of social media, I struggled to find definitive information on both the war in Yemen, and our involvement. Having researched deeper, here is the information I believe should be readily accessible:
The war stemmed from a chaotic political transition back in 2011. The Houthi movement took control of Saada province and its neighbouring areas; the rebels proceeded to take over Sanaa between 2014 and 2015, and President Hadi was forced to escape abroad after an attempt to overtake the country. After which, Saudi Arabia and eight other states tried to recover Mr Hadi’s government - a coalition backed with logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France, and the recovery was made in the form of an air campaign.
A coalition airstrike in the Yemen's capital, Sana'a
The UN has stated that “coalition air strikes have caused most direct civilian casualties.” These air strikes were said to have hit weddings, funerals and medical facilities. The report continued with statistics that between March 2015 and 23rd August 2018 6,660 civilians have been killed and 10,563 injured, although “real figures are likely to be significantly higher.” The sheer scale of death is incomprehensible - and it has been aided and abetted by us.
I remain in utter disbelief as to how we are hearing nothing about a war to which we have been supplying weapons. If there was an outbreak of cholera affecting 1.1 million people, or weddings had been hit during an air strike in the western world, there would be a media storm. Why should the value of people’s lives be defined by where in the world they were born? Why should it be secondary to celebrity gossip? The major media outlets have the opportunity on a daily basis to level this playing field, even if it’s only in a small way, but it is not being taken. Alex Rossi’s vital report on Yemen for Sky was buried deep within its snapchat story, whilst the recent days have seen the breakup of Love Island’s Sam and Georgia plastered over social media headlines. It’s so important to question what kind of information we consume, and not retreat into our own society without considering the wider implications of narrowing the view of our media.
Chairperson of the Group of International and Regional Eminent Experts on Yemen, Kamel Jendoubi said, “There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties. I call on them to prioritise human dignity in this forgotten conflict.” This should not be a forgotten conflict, and innocent civilians suffering, regardless of where in the world they are, should be given the resources and respect they deserve. This outcome is more likely if the media presents a more holistic, and less hypocritical, view of world news.