Besieging the Houthis and the humanitarian aid conundrum

The humanitarian situation in Yemen has become frightening as a result of ...

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Judging by Iranian media reports, from Mehr news agency and Press TV, discussing a complete naval blockade on all Yemen ports by the Saudi-led coalition - thus preventing aid ships carrying fuel, water and petroleum derivatives from reaching their destination - it’s certain that delivering aid to millions of Yemenis in need is not easy. Or rather, it is not possible in some cases where battles do not abide by international wartime laws and where civilians and aid agencies are being targeted.

One source confirmed that more than 200 licensed ships were allowed to deliver their aid and that not all the ships were inspected as many are believed not to be linked to the rebels. The source added that many ships are using the Djibouti port which the United Nations – not Saudi Arabia, Egypt or the U.S. – supervises and grants licenses accordingly.

Despite this, there is a humanitarian crisis in Yemen and naval inspections are not its cause. So what’s the solution to save the millions of people there? Land routes from Saudi Arabia can deliver most aid if the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces aren’t blocking roads and intentionally killing and robbing Yemeni people who dare to pass. Given these circumstances, international pressure must be exerted on rebels instead of repeating their narrative and holding the naval inspection forces responsible.

The inspection forces may have delayed the passage of the ships but they haven’t prevented them from passing and have not confiscated their cargo. In fact, aid teams from Saudi Arabia and the region’s countries are performing a great job amid extremely difficult circumstances.

Intentionally obstructing aid

The Saudi-led coalition forces know that the rebels are intentionally obstructing aid in order to stir international public opinion at the expense of the Yemeni people, whom they’ve taken hostage. Hospital operations have been disrupted due to rebels obstructing the delivery of fuel. Millions of people in several cities and towns lack drinking water because they ran out of the diesel necessary for generators to pump water. Meanwhile, the military power of the Houthis and Saleh’s forces has not been obstructed as they are stealing fuel to operate their vehicles and are in control of food storage centers. They’ve also seized aid routes in the center of the country and are transferring this aid to areas in their control.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen has become frightening as a result of the complete domination of militias who intentionally and fearlessly shell civilian areas just because they are opposed

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

When I asked a source concerned in the situation why international organizations do not blame the Houthis and Saleh’s forces for this humanitarian crisis, he said it’s because they do not want to cut ties with them and because they fear for their employees and activities in Yemen, considering that these rebels are gangs that do not hesitate to kill whoever criticizes or defies them. Therefore, it’s wrong to understand the crisis through what is conveyed in Iranian media reports and other media outlets who quote them, even if “neutral” media outlets settle with conveying the Iranian media’s narratives without comprehending the full circumstances of the war in Yemen.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen has become frightening as a result of the complete domination of militias who intentionally and fearlessly shell civilian areas just because they are opposed. The aim of these battles is not to control these neighborhoods but to deliberately destroy them and displace their people. This brutality represents the rebels’ desire for vendettas, but does not necessarily hint that they want to establish their kingdom in these governorates, maybe because they know they will later lose them or that these governorates are outside their sphere of influence no matter how much they try. Or, maybe they will go ahead and establish this kingdom of theirs – out of hatred and retaliation.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 6, 2015.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.