In the face of mounting suffering, the cries of the Yemeni people stand as a tragic testament to the consequences of unchecked conflict. Ravaged by war and fueled by political turmoil, Yemen ’s plight has cast a long shadow, though often overlooked in favor of more “pressing” events. The resurgence of the Houthi rebels has given the conflict a new outlet, deepening the humanitarian crisis gripping the nation. 

The Houthi rebels first emerged in the late 1990s, as a religious movement seeking to reclaim power over the country. After a series of guerilla wars against the government, the conflict escalated in 2014, erupting into a civil war. The Houthis seized the capital city, Sanaa, pushing the internationally recognized government to take base in the city of Aden. The world took to aid, standing with Saudi Arabia and its bid to avoid religious war between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Saudi intervention in 2015 was a major turning point in the conflict, severely worsening the country’s humanitarian situation. The involvement of regional countries like those of the Gulf and Iran transformed the war into a broader divide, between Sunni and Shia Islam. The ceasefire between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi was signed in 2022,  resulting in a six-month pause of the conflict. While peace was short-lived, both sides have since refrained from a full-on escalation.

The rebels have religious and unofficial political ties to Iran and are believed to be a part of  “The Axis of Resistance”, an informal Iran-led coalition including the Syrian and Lebanese political parties, Hezbollah, Houthi, and several Palestinian groups. The common ground between these players is their resistance to Western and Israeli influence in the area, as well as their religious ideologies. After a period of relative calm, instigated by the UN-led efforts to peace, the Houthi have awakened yet again, with attacks on the Red Sea.  The group claims to target ships with connections to Israel, as a show of solidarity with the Palestinian cause, as Hamas presents it.

The recent attacks on ships and trade have resulted in Western retaliation, in the form of air strikes against the Houthi. Many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the members of NATO, and the EU have condemned the attacks on the trade route and have taken measures to prevent further problems. The deterrence efforts have significantly reduced the effectiveness of the peace talks, further escalating the ongoing conflict. The brutality and scale of the fighting have had a great cost on human lives, marking the crisis as one of the worst ones in terms of humanitarian impact.

According to the UN, 4.5 million people have been misplaced, and over 20 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. Thousands of children have been killed, injured, or have joined the fighting. The ongoing conflict has devastated Yemen’s social and political structures, as well as its economy, causing widespread famine and poverty. Millions of children and women are living in inhumane conditions, lacking access to necessities such as clean water and medicine. The effects of the conflict have left these groups especially vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and disease. The continuous hostilities have had a devastating effect on the mental and physical health of the people, depriving them of a chance to live a normal life. Schools, hospitals, and other basic structures have been closed or destroyed, adding to the general mayhem.

The consequences have reached a deafening crescendo, demanding the world’s attention.

Adding more fuel to the fire, the US has labeled the Houthi a terrorist group, further complicating the relationship with the rest of the world. Paired with the effects that the naval attacks have had on the global economy, it becomes evident that the world doesn’t look too kindly to the Yemeni problem. On the other hand, the Houthi show no signs of backing down. While efforts are being made to relieve humanitarian pressure, the ongoing hostilities continue to sidetrack the procedures. In the meantime, thousands of innocent people are being caught in a tornado of opposing interests and violence.

The attacks carried out against the Houthis are incredibly dangerous for the population. Efforts to prevent further action unfortunately lead to more destruction and violence. While the people suffer, the Houthis don’t seem to be backing down.  The world has voiced its concern regarding the impact of the recent airstrikes on the humanitarian crisis, noting its dual outcome. The problem is a very delicate one, demanding the use of all available measures. All sides must be open to dialogue, and the use of all diplomatic means to ensure a resolution, or at the very least an effective relief to the crisis. Violence should be reserved as a last resort, not an end-all argument.

Unfortunately, the complicated interests of various actors make this scenario highly unlikely. Power is the universal language spoken by states, and the biggest projection of power is that of military capabilities. Violence, and the right to it, is an inseparable part of modern states. No one can afford to show weakness, especially when dealing with ruthless opponents. Like all ongoing conflicts, the war in Yemen isn’t one to be easily resolved. The force of opposing ideologies, the multifaceted outlets and interests, and foreign involvement make it much more than a regional conflict. The human cost renders the conflict catastrophic. Latest developments showcase an escalation from domesticity to global recognition, something that the Houthis seem to favor. By aligning their actions with the Israel- Gaza conflict, the Houthis demand a more prominent role in the global chessboard, making their presence visible outside of the confines of borders. The true effect of these actions is yet to be seen, but one can only fear the results.

If we were to focus on only one thing, the effects on human lives should be it. While the geopolitical and economic results of the conflict are crucial, they pale in comparison to the devastation of thousands of human lives. The world often tends to get “comfortable” with ongoing conflicts, putting them low on the scale of priorities. Given the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, that is no longer an option. The need for a resolution is imminent, and the cries of the people demand it.

Author: Έλλη Ματθαιάδη


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