We Need to Talk about Yemen
Can we talk about the fact that no one is talking about Yemen? This silence is far more deafening for me than most. I shouldn’t be surprised but forgive me if I can’t hide my disappointment. In a world where children of Aleppo can burn and the only people to bat an eyelash are the ones forcing themselves to pay attention, this shouldn’t be a surprise. In a world where Arab blood is cheaper than most, where our futures don’t matter as much as yours because of where we were born, the colour of our skin or the name of our God. Can we talk about how no one sane knows what to do? Can we talk about the fact that we can’t even talk about what to do in Yemen because no one is talking about it in the first place?
Yemen: a country now embroiled in a divisive war fought primarily between Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia claiming to have intervened on behalf of the government. Can we talk about how foreign interventions just don’t work? Yemen: a country now consistently on the brink of famine. Can we talk about what it is like to watch your children starve while your stomach eats itself? Yemen: a country now being bombed by America after years of enduring Obama’s drones. Can we talk about the fact that most Western people can’t even find Yemen on a map and that it used to be the name of a hilariously far-away place we used in childhood like Timbuktu or Siberia?
Can we talk about the fact that this far-away place is home to millions of innocent people – men, women and children – who have literally no idea why their country erupted into war and why no one is paying attention to them? Can we imagine for a second that we are them – trying to live in our lives in a hellish prison with no way out, a world gaslighting you into believing that you’re not their problem? Can we talk about how there are only so many times you can ask for help before you just stop asking? Can we talk about how every time desperate people take matters into their own hands, the idle West accuses them of extremism? What would you do?
Can we talk about the fact that we aren’t even hearing about Yemeni refugees because their country is bordered by the sea on one side and their oppressor on the other? That their displacement is internal? Can we talk about the fact that Europe can’t even refuse them because they don’t even have a way out?
Can we talk about Trudeau’s weapons sales to the Saudi regime? How Canadian manufactured guns are ripping holes in the bodies of Yemeni children? How Canadian manufactured bombs are tearing apart halls where families celebrate weddings? How they wait for half an hour between bombings so they can not only kill civilians but the ones who come to search for survivors too? Can we talk about how violence is being normalized there? How trauma is a way of life? How, for every brick that crumbles into dust, a memory is transferred through DNA of unspeakable fear and unfathomable pain? How no one is talking about these generations that have been shattered and destroyed, about how it is only getting worse?
Why has the world forgotten Yemen? The origin-place of the Arab tribes? A place with more claims to the Hijaz than the impostors that reign over our Holy Places? Can we talk about this global silence about Saudi Arabia? About their reification of Shi’a phantoms in the name of political control? About the silence that spells H Y P O C R I S Y in the stars over our Prophet’s mosque, over the Haram in Mecca? Can we talk about the blood that covers Saudi hands, never to be washed away in ablutions? Can we talk about how countries like Morocco and Algeria will boycott the Hajj because of an uncalled-for Saudi tax but not because the regime is killing their southern brothers?
Can we recognize that call-outs aren’t working on Western governments? Can we recognize that we don’t have any other options until enough of us are talking about it, until enough of us are sounding the alarm? Only with collective voices can the siren calls of war and death be drowned out by those who call for peace.
Can we talk about Yemen, please?
Image Credit: Ovadia Alkara
Nakita Valerio is an academic, activist and writer in the community. She is currently pursuing graduate studies in History and Islamic-Jewish Studies at the University of Alberta. Nakita was named one of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Top 30 under 30 for 2015, and is the recipient of the 2016 Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, as well as the Walter H. Johns Graduate Studies Fellowship. She has also been honoured with the State of Kuwait, the Queen Elizabeth II and the Frank W Peers Awards for Graduate Studies in 2015. She has been recognized by Rotary International with an Award for Excellence in Service to Humanity and has been named one of Edmonton’s “Difference Makers” for 2015 by the Edmonton Journal. Nakita is the co-founder of Bassma Primary School in El Attaouia, Morocco and the Vice President of External Affairs with the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council.