From the January-February 2018 issue of News & Letters
When former president Ali Abdullah Saleh broke with his Houthi allies in December, some dared to hope that it was an opening to peace in Yemen. When Saleh was killed by the Houthis, the Saudis may have hoped it was an opening to victory in their brutal war.
Neither was true. Now Yemenis face another winter of war, hunger, disease—cholera and diphtheria—and the brunt of Saudi and Iranian imperial rivalry. Over half the population, at least 18 million people, stand in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
Both the Saudi-led coalition and the Iranian-supported Houthis are guilty of war crimes. Militias have arisen around the war zone which profit by smuggling goods and weapons. Al-Qaeda remains a threat and occupies territory.
In 1931, the great French writer Paul Nizan, resident in Yemen, called colonial Aden “a knot that ties many strands together….a highly concentrated image of Europe…” Today Yemen can be seen as a mirror of the world’s social and moral disintegration.
REMEMBERING THE REVOLUTION
After receiving an award from the Committee to Protect Journalists in November, feminist writer Afrah Nasser pointed to the humanity that remains a different option:
“Even though I am an independent Yemeni voice, I consider myself part of the collective Yemeni civil society that emerged in the wake of Yemen’s 2011 uprising—not the traditional organizational civil society, but rather the space in which young people met, interacted, and voiced their grievances and demands…
“Yemen’s vibrant civil society still persists against all the odds. It’s never too late for the U.S. to support the rainbow in the midst of the storm, the Yemeni civil society.” (Please see Afrah Nasser’s blog: http://afrahnasser.blogspot.com/2018/01/my-turned-down-article-by-major.html.)
An idea of freedom existed in the squares during the Arab Spring revolts, and for those who care about humanity’s future, that idea becomes even more compelling as it judges this terrible present.