For nearly the last year and a half, Yemen has been under a Saudi-led war and subject to near daily airstrikes. The Saudi-led bombing has indiscriminately targeting homes and schools, hospitals and mosques, transport centers such as airports, sea ports and bridges, water supply and power infrastructure, factories and agricultural areas, and many other sites. As if destroying Yemen's present and future is not enough, Saudi Arabia is also wiping out Yemen's past, as some of the oldest historical and archaeological sites, precious gems in not only Yemen's history but for all of humanity and civilization, have also been bombed.
This brutal war has resulted in over 10,000 people killed, 30,000 injured and at least 3 million people displaced internally or forced to become refugees in neighboring countries. Along with the bombing campaign, Yemen is also subject to an air, sea and land blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition. This has caused a humanitarian crisis of the highest levels, with over 14 million people facing food insecurity, of whom 8 million are severely food insecure, over 19 million people lacking clean water and sanitation and over 14 million without adequate healthcare.
While this is a Saudi-led war, it isn't without the support and backing of the U.S. government, who along with arms deals are providing logistical and intelligence support. Alongside U.S. imperialist support, Canada is moving forward on the world's second largest arms deal with Saudi Arabia, with a $15 billion deal to supply military so-called “light” armored vehicles.
The International Conference in Support of the Yemeni People took place in London, England from August 20th to 21st 2016 and was sponsored by: Stop the War Coalition, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Human Rights for Yemen, Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights and Arabian Rights Watch Association. The conference brought together hundreds of antiwar and human rights activists, journalists, lawyers, academics, politicians and community leaders from over 20 countries. Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) in Vancouver, Canada was invited to attend and represent Canada's antiwar organizing against the war on Yemen, and sent a delegation of five to the conference. As well, some members of Fire This Time newspaper Editorial Board participated in the conference.
On August 20th the first day of the conference started out with live streaming video direct from Yemen's capital of Sana'a, where a massive demonstration was taking place against the Saudi-led war. Footage showed huge crowds of over a million Yemeni people joining together, chanting and holding flags and banners in the face of Saudi fighter jets circling overhead and bombing nearby. The conference MC Ahmen Almoaiad from Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights introduced the opening keynote speaker, Lindsay German, who is the convenor of the UK-based Stop the War Coalition. Various Members of Parliament spoke including Scottish MP Tasmina Ahmed-Shiekh of the Scottish National Party, MP and Sinn Féin politician Francie Molloy and Pauline McNeill, a Scottish MP for Glasgow Region. Speakers also included Unite union chief-of-staff Andrew Murray, Dr Riaz Karim, the Mona Relief co-founder, Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade, and Sami Ramadan from Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation.
Day two of the conference began with University of Tehran Professor of Communications Saied Reza Ameli on the topic “US/Saudi Exceptionalism”. Other speakers included Kim Sharif from Human Rights For Yemen, human rights activist Abdulsalaam Aldhahebi. Participants were eager to hear the prominent former UK MP and Respect Party leader George Galloway, who spoke on the topic “The Role of Saudi Arabia in Promotion of Terrorism”. The conference continued with an excerpt from the documentary film “Ibrahim's Fateful Evening” presented by Ahlulbayt TV journalist Mohammad Ali Carter, which showed the human cost of the war through the tragic bombing of one Yemeni family home. The illegality of the war on Yemen was discussed by Jan Fermon, an international lawyer and professor, and Dr.Kamal Hilbawy spoke via video link from Kuwait because the UK had denied his visa, and called for an end to US foreign bases. One of the final speakers was Abdulhameed Dashti, a Kuwaiti MP living in Britain.
A final declaration from the conference was presented by the conference organizers, which included demanding that UN member countries respect the sovereign will of the Yemeni people and called for an immediate end to the use of force against the sovereign Yemeni people. As the conference closed, a direct satellite link was opened to news channels in Yemen and several Arabic news channels throughout the Middle East, broadcasting the conference and it's participants to Yemen where people could see the international support joining together in defense of Yemen.
The International Conference to Support Yemeni People was a great opportunity to establish more international connections for organizations and individuals organizing around the world against the war on Yemen. From the work that MAWO is doing to protest and petition against Canada's $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, we were able to find out about similar organizing going on in European countries whose governments also are selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
Going forward the conference has set the tone for more coordination and collaboration internationally, to make antiwar organizing against the war on Yemen more united and effective. From Yemen to London to Vancouver, together we demand:
US and Saudi Arabia Hands Off Yemen!
Stop Bombing Yemen!
Canada: Cancel the Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia!
Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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