By Aqilah Allaudeen
Some 70 people rallied in Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago recently to end the war in Yemen. Chicago Area Peace Action, or CAPA, a grassroots organization that works to reduce and eliminate the danger of nuclear weapons and militarism, organized the rally.
Hassan El-Tayyab, the policy and organizing director at CAPA, emphasized the need for citizens to call Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), to urge her to co-sign a bill that would end U.S. military involvement in Yemen.
The U.S. Senate recently passed a resolution 63 – 37 to debate ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. The wide margin reflects growing discontent with U.S. involvement in the war, and the Trump administration’s handling of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudis in the Saudi embassy in Turkey.
“Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in remarks in Geneva earlier this year.
More than 80 percent of Yemen’s population is in need of humanitarian aid. About 17.8 million Yemenis are food insecure, while 16.4 million lack access to adequate healthcare in a country with a population of close to 29 million.
The coalition – which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Sudan, amongst others – launched a military campaign in 2015 to defeat the Houthis, who took control of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, in 2014, and restore Yemen’s internationally recognized government. Yet, after more than three years of escalating conflict, the Yemeni people continue to weather ongoing hostilities and a severe economic decline.
“With U.S. military support, Saudi has blocked off the ports of Yemen, stopping their flow of basic necessities like food and clean water,” El-Tayyab said in an interview. “Essentially, we are complicit in war crimes by allowing this to happen. So we are here to get Senator Tammy Duckworth to co-sponsor a bill that will end U.S. military involvement in Yemen.”
The U.S. has aided the coalition in the war by training Saudi soldiers, advising Saudi military personnel, and maintaining, repairing and upgrading vehicles and air crafts used. On Aug 9, the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition dropped a U.S. made bomb on a school bus, killing 44 children.
At the rally, 44 backpacks were laid out on the ground as a symbol of the suffering endured by the children in Yemen.
Some “85,000 children have starved to death,” El-Tayyab said. “The backpacks are already extremely symbolic. They don’t just represent the kids that were killed that day, but those that have been killed since the war started.”
Eileen O’Farrell Smith, a chaplain and activist present at the rally, said that the war needs to end as the level of injustice evident is insurmountable.
“I came out here today because the power is with the people,” she said. “It is important for us to make connections and to build momentum so that things change and in this case, the war can end.”
Shireen Al-Adeimi, an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University and an activist against the U.S.-backed war in Yemen, said that without substantial U.S. support, Saudi cannot continue to wage war on Yemen, at a speech at Loyola University on Dec 1, 2018.
“The Yemeni people know that it’s the U.S. that’s behind the war, even though for the longest time, the U.S. tried to keep its involvement in the war hidden,” said Al-Adeimi, who is from Yemen, in an interview. “The bombs all say ‘made in USA’ on them. It’s also common to hear the Yemeni people say that the war started in Washington. They have always known.”
She also shared tweets by the Yemeni people on their opinion of the war in Yemen, where many wanted the U.S. to back out of the war.
“America and the Saudi regime are committing genocide, while money purchases everyone’s silence,” read a tweet by Yemen resident Gamil Anaam.
Despite the adversity that the Yemeni people have endured, Al-Adeimi, who still has family in Yemen, emphasized that they would rather die than live under foreign occupation.
“People are hanging on, and they don’t know how much longer they can hang on for,” she said. “My cousins have told me that if they have to starve to death, then they will hang on until that happens. But they aren’t giving up.”