This article is written by Zunaira Khan who did Masters in Diplomacy and strategic studies. She is a research associate, Analyst, Public relations diplomat, former social media head of “Read Pakistan” as well as board member. Moreover, she is a creative writer.
The crisis in Yemen has approached the sixth year which paints the humanity into a corner and cuts a sorry figure. The schism has not been haggard which has balkanized the region, and all the diplomatic attempts to soothe the riffled feathers in the form of peaceful negotiations and ceasefire remain ineffectual.
The debacle finds its roots back in 2015, which not only disintegrated the social cohesion but also posed the great threats to the region. The current situation in Yemen is bootless for military and high-level diplomatic solutions to take hold as it will be undermined by the existing local disorders. Social divides, sectarian scrap, regional and political conflicts are worsening and the peace seems to be all Greek in Yemen. The complicated situation perpetuates with each passing day as the authorities are least concerned to flatten the curve. Still, the glimmer of hopes are there to bring peace and stability not only in Yemen but also in region.
The role of local authorities, Hadi’s government and Separatist movement STC, along with international key actors, Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE need to find the ways with diplomatic tightrope to bring peace and stability and to wound the bleeding humanity.
History of mankind is nothing but a constant story of war, conquest and subjugation. The arc of history is now leading towards the freedom but the case is otherwise in Yemen. As chaos approaches the sixth year, and the series of catastrophe is intensifying with every new day. the division of authorities between the two parallel factions of Yemen, the Houthis in north and the Hadi’s government in south, is making the country verboten as both parties are trying to surmount the other.
The involvement of the foreign actors in the civil war, with the emergence of the other parties like Al-Qaeda and UAE-backed Southern Transition Council (ITC), having fundamental ideologies has further aggravated the situation, presenting a picture of a perfect storm. The transition of civil war to proxy war is sweeping the region, described as the black swan event, a devastating pathogen attack on the large swathes of mankind.
The classical deflationary spiral that is so hard to break and the ultimate loss has to be bore by the Yemeni population.
The crisis in Yemen traced its roots in the Arab Spring of 2011, with the debate of handing over the long-time authority of President Saleh to his deputy Abdrabbuh Hadi. The transition led to the emergence of rebels (the ordinary Yemenis including Suuni), thus Houthis took over the control of the capital Sana in the early 2015.
The counter the hegemony of Iran (supporting Houthis), Saudia Arabia launched the airstrikes with the coalition of eight other Muslim Sunni states, with the motif of restoring the Hadi’s government. Various ingredients have blended to form the history of yemen which includes the demographic reality of southern area and also the south didn’t experience the central authority till 1963 and the popular will found the ways in 1967 with the culmination of British colonial rule.
The difference between the south and north Yemen was largely based on the governmental apparatus which kept the south less involved in the political decorum of the Yemen. Since then, ballot has been replaced by the bullet and baton, marginalizing the cultural vales, which resulted in discontentment among masses.
The indifferences between the government and the separatists have worsen the country’s peace and stability. Yemen could not build a pluralistic society as dictatorial regimes view monolithic society as ills.
Violent Conflict in Yemen:
The crisis in Yemen is ultimately defined by the struggle for political control that is playing out between the national, regional, and international forces that are involved in the war. The violence itself, however, is driven by four sets of conflicts: the internal divides between the Houthis and the Hadi’s government, the regional imbalances between the Saudi Arabia and its allies with Iran, the emerging vehement organizations with the sole purpose of aggrandize within the state, and the national disintegration on the sectarian basis to affect the local power dynamics.
The Southern separatist movement, also known as Southern Transition Council STC, disconnected itself from the Hadi’s government which initially kindred their objectives and now controls the Aden. The process of negotiation between the STC backed by UAE and Hadi’s government is ongoing to reach at the mutual understanding but the hopes are less, as STC seems less agreeable to give up its control over South Yemen as a separate state. The attacks on Aramco company makes the support of Saudi forces dubious for Hadi’s government.
The escalation between Houthi and Hadi-Government control and breed highly volatile social environments, characterized by the frequent dissolution of public services, facing mobility challenges and serious safety concerns. Hadi’s political base is also fracturing. The southern succession is being called by the Hadi’s authority, which is growing monotonous in the unstable Yemen.
The Saudi’s quest for hegemonic control of the Yemen by countering the Iranian sway and suppressing the Houthi rebel forces has not only disorganized the normalcy of Yemen but the sound of horror has also been heard in the halls of Saudi’s corridors. Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies have encountered several ideological and territorial disputes with Iran that have shaped relationships throughout the region.
While both are predominantly Muslim countries governed through the scriptures of Islam, they maintain no diplomatic relations, and their different elucidation of the religion have influenced their political agendas and allies within the region and the world. In 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign to counter the Houthi movement.
The intensity of attacks by the foreign actors not only leave the Houthis in the state of vulnerability but also expresses their despondency in the terms of inaccessibility to the humanitarian aid due the sanctions.
The Houthis somewhere has come out with the possible ways to resolve the conflict with the available tools of settlement: either coercion or negotiation. Saudi authorities has rebuffed the Houthi Peace plan but the recent escalation is urging Saudi Arabia to precede and contemplate the negotiations, as there is a shift in the position of both sides with Saudi Arabia facing internal divides and Houthis gaining more power.
The happening in Yemen is greatly exacerbating regional tensions. The threats from the Al-Qaeda and the IS are of the great concern for the West, as the intense ideologies of these organizations still the zephyr. The geo-strategic location of Yemen is of great importance for the oil shipment, as it is centralized on the strait which links the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. Otherwise destruction will be the only lasting legacy within the region.
It also intensifies sectarian divides within communities, as religious sects are becoming increasingly aligned with the broader war dynamics. The perceived involvement of Iran in the conflict has also stimulated support for the Saudi-led campaign. As the involvement of international actors becomes more prevalent, the effects are felt by Yemeni civilians who suffer from international war tactics including air raids and blockades. The ramifications of these ‘proxywar dynamics’ influence the political atmosphere at the local level, entrenching sectarian and political divisions.
Many districts lack rule of law and effective state enforcement bodies due to the ongoing conflict and lack of financial resources. In the security vacuums left by evaporated central control, conflict parties are using threat of arms to advance their respective positions. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP), as well as nascent Yemeni Islamic State (IS) factions, have strengthened their foothold in Yemen in these political and security vacuums.
As long as the security, humanitarian, and economic conditions remain bleak, the violent extremist groups will have plentiful sources of exasperated and marginalized groups ripe for recruitment.
From a national perspective, the war has entrenched regional divisions at various levels. The divide of Sunni and Shia’s Muslim sects, for instance, have grown increasingly prominent and have divided previously peaceful Muslim communities.
Conflicts between Internal Displaced People and the host communities have fostered the violence which further breed the tribal and regional tensions. When these political, ideological, tribal, and regional divisions turn violent, they entrench irresolvable identity disputes at the heart of the conflict, obstructing the ways of peace and stability.
The humanity is bleeding in Yemen. The demise of innocent lives depicts the awful picture of brutality. The crisis in Yemen are considered to be the worst in the human history. Between the slogans and bites, only the Yemeni population is crushed. The authorities are high on governing and low on resolving, the community is suffering in an acute sense in all spheres.
The crisis brazenly breach the limits of the human rights. Since 2015 till date, million of Yemenis have been detained, tortured, abducted and abused. Silencing the expression with the real demise of freedom of speech, is now a common trend as media is not a watch-dog in Yemen but a lap-dog. 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Yemen report, shows that 14.3 million people are classified as being in acute need, with around 3.2 million requiring treatment for acute malnutrition.
Highlighting that more than 20 million people across the country are food insecure, half of them suffering extreme levels of hunger, the report focuses on some key humanitarian issues: basic survival needs, protection of civilians and livelihoods and essential basic services.
The genocide of humanity is at peak in Yemen. According to an estimate, 24.1million humanitarian assistance, 3.65 million are internally displaced with high risks of food insecurity, In a nutshell, Yemen is experiencing world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Pathways for stability and peace; Way forward:
To promote popular acceptance for peace and coexistence:
• Empower local leaders to work across dividing lines to manage disputes. Yemen has strong formal and informal leaders across society engaged in a variety of social issues. Tribal sheikhs, religious leaders, local governance actors, and local civil society organizations (CSOs) hold considerable authority and more resonance with peers than actors perceived to be representing an outside entity.
The international community should provide financial and political support to these civilian leaders to listen to complaints and grievances and develop mechanisms for inclusive and transparent responses. International non-governmental organizations (INGOs) a vital role in forming, anticipating and convening technical capacity-building roles.
Local leaders can leverage the capacity of INGOs as an international institution to enhance skills, provide unique opportunities to influence change, and connect networks of like-minded practitioners across the country.
• Support local level peace-building as a tool to address local drivers for violence and prevent escalation of violence.
As the international community responds to the crisis in Yemen, there must be multi-faceted support to address the drivers and consequences of the war. The impacts of the current war have resulted in the absence or the unstable central authority and the ability of government structures to manage conflict and violence.
Current strategies prioritize response via humanitarian assistance but do not adequately assist in stopping the crisis instantly and ensuring that further divides are not entrenched, fostering the ways for more conflict in the future. The United States, United Nations, World Bank, and other donors should support a holistic assistance strategy that includes funding for conflict transformation, community dialogue and mediation, and cultural exchange for local leaders within the country to engage communities across dividing lines to resolve disputes and preserve amiable societal relationships.
• Support to media to promote neutral reporting and non-militarized norms for governance and security. There needs to be greater commitment to supporting those neutral reporting agencies that exist, enhancing their skills and reach, and promoting new sources of unbiased reporting. Social media can provide space for exchange, particularly among youth, to create connections across divides and geographical distance. It also makes access easier to reliable information about conflict and possibilities for engagement with government and humanitarian actors.
In addition, programming such as media programming, participatory theater, and cultural exchanges which promote cross-cultural understanding can help to dismantle growing sectarian, tribal, political, and regional divides at the community level.
•Preserve the education space for learning and development of the new generation. International donors can support the Education sector to continue the provision of knowledge and also to adopt a curriculum based on non-violent conflict resolution.
Moreover, schools that were previously in Yemen neutral community gathering places are being infiltrated by violence as the greater communal divides are being replicated within classrooms. The generation of youth will be the leaders of peace in Yemen, but are being absorbed into a culture of violence and denied a chance to continue learning.
To promote local mediators and interlocutors within communities:
• Distribute humanitarian assistance with transparency and accompany with peace-building and dialogue forums. The distribution of aid continues to be a source of conflict that further entrenches societal divisions. As the humanitarian crisis endures, humanitarian responders must ensure that the provision of aid is conflict-sensitive and does not exacerbate local conflict dynamics across geographic, sectarian, or political divides. Humanitarian actors should look to not only avoid the burnt of violence, but also use humanitarian assistance as an entry point for peace-building.
The provision of aid can be a major opportunity to bring communities together when done correctly.
• Support inclusive and responsive local governance structures. In the absence of centralized governmental control, many institutions, such as Executive Units, Local Councils, and civil society, have come forth to fill the void to deliver services and manage disputes at the local level.
As local governance structures struggle to fulfill basic duties and are challenged by varying perceptions of legitimacy from local communities, systems must be developed to continue the provision of services while also strengthening inclusive decision-making processes and accountability mechanisms in cooperation with local communities.
International actors, such as the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union can help create referral and reporting systems between civil society, local governance authorities, and national and international institutions to manage coordination of service delivery.
To promote public acceptance of negotiated peace arrangements:
• Ensure that peace processes are inclusive, participatory, and representative. As the United Nations, the United States, and the European Union, among others, host and support dialogues and negotiations at the national and international level, they should ensure that a peace process is participatory and representative across society.
International institutions and Human rights activists should support impartial social and traditional media to report on the status of negotiations to the community-level.
• Feed grassroots reconciliation and peace building into national peace dialogues.
An international, negotiated ceasefire and/or peace process will not guarantee peace and stability across the country. Previous peace attempts in Yemen, did not adequately incorporate local groups into the process and ultimately were unsuccessful in establishing peace.
As international donors host and support dialogues and negotiations at the national and international level, they must be paired with simultaneous community dialogues, town hall meetings, and other civic education and engagement platforms to sensitize and engage communities if they hope to be successful at ending the war and building a stable Yemen.