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An Unspeakable Nightmare: The Yemeni Crisis

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Rania and her eldest daughter, Amani, stand in the entrance to their home in a camp for internally displaced people in Lahj, Yemen. Photo: WFP/Mohammed Awadh

Authors: Khushi Malhotra and Vedant Avdhoot Sumant*

Why is Yemen at War?

After North and South Yemen merged, Saleh and Beidh decided to share power and form the Republic of Yemen on 22.05.1990. On 15.05.1991, the people of Yemen approved the constitutional Referendum which invested and respected human rights with and for the citizens. However, after such unification, there were disagreements between, President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemen’s Gulf Neighbours and the US of A.Disagreements, like these, sowed seeds for the current multifaceted problems faced by the country. Since then there have been various ceasefire agreements like ‘The Six-Point Government of Yemen-Houthi Ceasefire Agreement’ in 2010, ‘Hodeidah Agreement’ in 2018 backed by UN Resolution No. 2452, ‘Ceasefire order by Ansar Allah’, ‘Seven Point Peace Plan on Muscat Principles’ and their subsequent breaches ranging right from the Yemeni Arab Spring to the killing of Ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Over the years, Yemen has struggled in matters of good governance, stability, infrastructural developments, uplifting people, improving the standards of living and reduction of poverty, however, the current civil war in the country has exacerbated the situation. Incidents of political turmoil like the Houthis suspending the constitution and seizing the government in the early months of 2015 have further degraded the already appalling conditions pre-existing in the region. All the acts compounded together have led to Yemen undergoing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

International Laws Applicable : Human Casualties and Unprotected Rights

The conflict in Yemen involves countries like Saudi Arabia,  Egypt, Jordan, Morocco etc. supporting the Internationally recognized Government of Yemen and Iran supporting the Houthi’s, and several other countries,  however, it can’t be termed as an International Armed Conflict as the clashes are not between two states but between parties of the same country. Therefore, the rules of Non- International Armed conflicts apply. The criteria’s that have to be fulfilled are:-

1. Firstly, the armed violence must reach a certain degree of intensity so that it causes internal disturbances and tensions.

2. Secondly, at least one of the party to the armed conflict must be a non-state armed group forming an organisation.

These two conditions having been fulfilled in Yemen confirms the presence of Non-International Armed Conflict and applicability of its rules. The conflicts of such nature are governed by the treaties and rules of Customary International Lawas mentioned in International Humanitarian Law. The humanitarian laws that govern Non-International Armed Conflict and to which Yemen has ratified are the Common Article 3 to the four Geneva Convention 1949 and the Additional Protocol II. Common Article 3 prohibits cruel, humiliating and derogatory treatment. It further ensures that all parties to the conflict are humanely treated at all times. The exercise of territorial control and military operations in Yemen showcase that the criterion for implementation of Additional Protocol II has also been fulfilled. It entails the prohibition of direct attacks against civilians, prohibition on attacking indiscriminately, respecting the principle of proportionality in attack, and the obligation to take all feasible precautions in planning and executing military operations so as to avoid civilian casualties. Considering these rules, there is no denial of the fact thatthe rules of International law have grossly been violated due to the conflicts in Yemen.

Apart from the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol II, Yemen has ratified various treaties including but not limited to the, Anti- Mine Ban Convention, 1997, that prohibits the use of weapons that leads to, ‘superfluous injury and unnecessary sufferings.’ It means that the use of such weapons is prohibited which might cause mass destruction. However, these regulations have been grossly violated in Yemen as the repeated use of anti-personnel mines, unlawful airstrikes, launching of ballistic missiles and use of fire weapons in the cities have largely killed and injured the civilian population. For instance, The unlawful airstrikes in Yemen by the Saudi-led Coalition on Houthi detention centres killed not less than 200 civilians. This attack was marked as one of the deadliest attacks in Yemen. The armed groups have been ruthlessly using unlawful methods of warfare causing mass destruction and loss of civilian life. The use of such technologically advanced weapons makes it difficult to implement the principle of proportionality and furthermore when such weapons are used without regulations it leads to war crimes. Therefore, there is a dire need to stop the use of such ‘high-tech’ weapons that cause mass destruction in order to protect the civilians and adhere to the International Humanitarian Law rules.

Yemen has also ratified several International Human Rights treaties like, United Nations Convention Against Torture, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of  Discrimination Against Women, United Nations Convention on Rights of Child etc. though the well intentioned words of these conventions are rarely if not at all effectuated at the ground level. Yemen has ratified various International Human Rights treaties that would ensure protection to its citizens. All of these treaties ensure that all the persons irrespective of war, will not be discriminated and that their safety and dignity will not be compromised, yet, the constant bombing campaign in Yemen has led to the killing of more than 17,500 civilians. Further, In 2018, Yemen witnessed the inhumane act of bombing children which led to the murder of 40 while injuring 56 thus proving that the rules of International Human Rights law have been grossly violated. Furthermore, Feminist Perspective focusing on women specific rights gained traction when on 29.01.2011 women such as Twakkol Karman made various demands including equal representation, ending maternal mortality, illiteracy among others. UNFPA and its partners are continuing efforts to support women and girls to prevent abuse, by raising awareness for women’s rights, but the situation of women and girls is not likely to improve until the hostilities end, safety is restored and equality of women becomes a priority.

Furthermore, The US military aid to the Saudi coalition is in violation to the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act as discussed in the Resolution No. 54 presented in the US Senate on February 28, 2018. All the arms deals by the various nations are not only ethically and morally wrong but they also go against their commitment to the UN-Arms Trade Treaty. The parties involved thereto complicit in the crisis ongoing in the region are, ironically also the biggest humanitarian aid contributors. The US of A with Britain, Switzerland, Sweden and a few others have been aiding the Saudi led coalition by providing arms and enforcing maritime naval blockades and embargoswhich have further worsened the food shortage situation in Yemen. The humanitarian pledges by the donor countries are not only being delayed but are also being contradicted by the military actions that they are undertaking. The restrictions and blockades imposed by the Saudis, UAE and the Houthis need to be eased if not removed while taking political interests in consideration as land routes are being bombed and the Red sea is being rigged with sea mines. The attacks by the Islamic State have further dented the humanitarian efforts and have created a deeper crisis which puts a question on the very existence of the country’s citizens. 

These and actions similar to them have been preventing effective humanitarian aid for the Yemeni citizens who are living a life subpar to even animal existence. The armed groups in Yemen have targeted various, urban centres causing great deal of civilian causalities. Furthermore, the attacks have also led to the destruction of civilian infrastructures like, the schools, hospitals, farms, funerals and various factories. All this violence has rendered human rights of the people of Yemen ineffectual.

Conclusion : Urgent need to Prioritize Humanity 

Yemen is undergoing a severe humanitarian crisis, with its clinics and medical infrastructure severely damaged and crippled because of continued air strikes and a tussle between the various groups seeking to take control of disputed regions having rendered the medics vulnerable to attacks. It is pertinent to note that, the human rights situation in Yemen is so dreadful that it has been regarded as ‘frightening’ by the Yemeni Human Rights Minister. The reports suggest that more than a 1000 people have disappeared with hundreds having been kidnapped. Further, in 2018, Saudi-led coalition was included in the ‘list of shame’ by UN for killing/ injuring 729 children, that accounted for half of the child casualty statistics  which is wholly unwarranted and inhumane. 

The resulting political chaos has shifted the focus from various epidemics that the Yemeni’s have suffered through the years like the Cholera outbreak in December 2017, Malaria, Diphtheria, Measles, Meningitis, Dengue and other Diarrheal diseases in identified locations of internally displaced people. Approximately 400,000 children under the age of 5 years were suffering severe acute malnutrition in 2018. The aforementioned description is a resultant of 5 factors namely socio-economic factors, environmental degradation, breakdown of the healthcare system, insecurity, and political instability.

Attention must also be given to the problems faced by Yemeni’s during this Coronavirus pandemic where the administration of Yemen has been unable to accurately determine the number of active corona cases in the region due to an unavailability of adequate workforce and test kits but has reported more than 900 positive cases. There is complete lack of transparency in the data provided yet this data pertains only to those areas controlled by the Saudi led coalition. The rebel controlled areas which are even more densely populated have reported just 4 cases which is impractical and hard to believe. The strain on resources has resulted into this situation being incongruous to proper testing and assessment of the number of active corona cases in the area. Yemen is therefore one of the worst cases of a multi-faceted humanitarian crisis. Merely stating statistics will not bring an end to this crisis. The war must be withheld in such precarious situations and if not on a permanent basis at least for a temporary period of time a Federal Division natured solution must be agreed upon. The pain suffered by Yemeni’s must in fact be empathised with by the International community. This article is a mere attempt to spread awareness thereby snowballing International pressure on the parties involved in the dispute thereto, by coercing them to prioritise humanity over their vested interests.

*Vedant Avdhoot Sumant , Gujarat National Law University , Gandhinagar. 

I am a Vth year Law Student from, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda pursuing B.A. LLB (hons.). Throughout the five years of law school I have developed profound interest in areas related to International Law and subjects related to it. In future, if I have the opportunity to contribute my knowledge and understanding of importance of social issues and its threat to the society, I would thoroughly utilize that opportunity to eliminate/reduce the miseries faced by children of my country. I strongly believe that, prosperity of the country is dependent upon the well-being of children in the country.

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Middle East

Why is Melih Bulu Seen as a Pro-AKP “Trustee” Rector?

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Photo: Youth Committees / Twitter

The new year started under the shadow of social tensions triggered by Melih Bulu’s appointment to the rectorate of Bosphorus University by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Professor Melih Bulu had founded the Sarıyer district organization of the incumbent AK Party in 2002. Bulu who in 2015 became a candidate for being a deputy from AK Party could not gain nomination to run in the elections. Bulu also worked as a rector in two private universities before: İstinye University and Haliç University.

On December 31 2020, Bulu was the rectorate of Haliç University. The abrupt appointment of Bulu as the rector to Turkey’s most prestigious university prompted a major outrage since the move was regarded as a direct interruption of academic freedom.

Melih Bulu’s appointment to the rectorate of Bosphorus University caused a large unrest among Bosphorus students, graduates and scholars. In addition, people coming from different sectors of society who are critical of Erdoğan administration have also joined the “anti-Bulu” protest campaign on social media. After Bulu’s appointment, Bosphorus University students protested the appointment on social media by using the hashtag #KayyumRektörİstemiyoruz (“We don’t want a trustee rector”). For a couple of days, students of Bosphorus University have been making protests calling Bulu to resign. However Bulu posted an announcement on his Twitter account saying that he will embrace everyone and he is very excited and happy for his new duty.

After Bulu’s appointment, not just his political identity affiliated with AK Party was put under debate but also his academic background was put under scrutiny as well. Allegations of plagiarism against him broke out especially on Twitter. Bulu defined these allegations as “slander” and argued that this was the literature survey part of his PhD thesis and said, “I did not write some parts between quotation marks. We did not have something written available. There were different citation rules but I put it in the bibliography section.”

According to the Global Academic Freedom Index Turkey has only 9.7 points out of 100 and it is in the rank of 135 out of 144 countries. Turkey is in the similar level with Syria and Turkmenistan.

In previous weeks, journalist Cüneyt Özdemir hosted Bulu in his live Youtube programme and in live broadcast, Bulu saluted the students from the window of his office at rectorate building while the students yelled asking for his resign and this act of Bulu caused surprises and ironies on social media. Amid this environment, on January 5, a group of Bosphorus University academics staged a peaceful protest by standing with their backs to the rectorate building during the handover ceremony for Bulu. The academics of Bosphorus University  made a public statement underlining that this appointment is a practice introduced for the first time after the 1980s military tutelage.

Their full statement is as follows:

“’We don’t accept, we don’t give up!’

On January 1, 2021 at midnight, an academic outside Bogazici University community was appointed as rector, which is a practice introduced for the first time after the 1980s military tutelage.

This is yet another case of many ongoing anti-democratic practices since 2016, aiming at abolishing rectorial elections. We do not accept it as it clearly violates academic freedom and scientific autonomy as well as the democratic values of our university. We refuse to compromise the principles the University Senate officially stated in 2012:

1. To enhance scientific research and social development, it is indispensable that universities be free from any pressure or influence from a person or an institution and not be used as a political tool.

2. For academic freedom, it is imperative that decision-making processes be delegated to democratically elected academic administrators and boards. All academic administrators including the Rector, Deans, Directors of Institute, Directors of Schools and Department Heads can be appointed only after being elected by the university community.

3. As universities are autonomous constitutional establishments, it is vital that university instructors and/or university boards decide on academic programs and research policies, which is an essential prerequisite for scientific freedom and creativity.

We strictly adhere to the principles above and we pledge to follow them up with all the other members of our university community.”

On the other hand, police forces detained more than 20 university students in home raids after the protests against the appointment of Bulu. In the mainstream pro-government media actors’ coverage of these events, it is argued that the detained people are not students, but they are members of illegal organizations whereas Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Republican People’s Party’s current provincial president in Istanbul rejected this and argued that they are students.

According to Althusser (1971), the modern state keeps the authority and control through two main systems: Repressive State Apparatuses & Ideological State Apparatuses. One of  areas concerning the ideological state apparatuses is known as education. In this regard, Erdoğan’s appointment of Bulu can be seen as a step of using ideological state apparatuses.

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Middle East

Morocco Increases Pressure on Hezbollah by Arresting One of its Alleged Financiers

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At a time when global attention is focused on the fight against the pandemic and the global effort to vaccinate populations, terrorist organizations and organized crime are trying to take advantage of the situation to carry out operations to finance their operations. In this context, Morocco’s announcement of the arrest of an alleged international con man linked to Hezbollah is considered a success for the Moroccan security services.

According to an official statement relayed by the Moroccan Official Agency, a suspect was arrested last Wednesday by the National Brigade of the Judicial Police (BNPJ). The 57-year-old Lebanese national is linked to the Hezbollah movement, an organization supported by Iran and considered as a terrorist group by the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. During the search conducted by the Moroccan police force, following intelligence and investigative work carried out by the Directorate General of Territorial Surveillance (DGST), investigators found European passports – French and Italian – as well as identity documents listed in the Interpol database as stolen. The suspect was taken into custody and brought before the King’s Prosecutor in order to continue the investigation, in partnership with Interpol and the countries involved in the alleged identity document thefts.

U.S. Recognition of Moroccan Sovereignty over Western Sahara

Moroccan authorities believed the suspect used these false identities to present himself as holding important roles in multinational corporations to defraud victims with promises of juicy deals and quick profit. While it is unclear at this stage of the investigation whether the international swindler intended to raise funds for Hezbollah, the arrest comes at a particularly crucial time for Morocco, following the recognition by the United States of America of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara on December the 10th, and the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israël. After this recognition, The US announced a 3 billion dollars investment plan to help Morocco boost its economy and development, as well as the opening of a regional office of its “Prosper Africa” initiative. Moreover, this Sunday, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker came to Western Sahara on the 9th of January to inaugurate a U.S. consulate in the coastal city of Dakhla, alongside the Moroccan minister for foreign affairs, Nasser Bourita.

Morocco Broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 2018

Since 2018, Morocco has vigorously denounced Hezbollah’s alleged links with the Polisario Front separatist movement, and broke diplomatic relations with Tehran in the process, as explained by the Think-Tank Atlantic Council . Although both Iran and Hezbollah immediately refuted Morocco’s accusations regarding the organization’s alleged links with the Polisario Front, Rabat continued to increase its pressure and has since taken substantive action to curb the actions of the organization’s agents. In March 2017,  Kingdom arrested at the Casablanca airport Kassem Tajjedine, described by the Americans as the main financier of the organization. The latter was wanted for fraud, money laundering, and financing of terrorist activity, according to Reuters. Tajjedine was extradited to the US where he was sentenced to five years in Prison, and was released on July 2020 as part of a secret US-Iran deal.

Morocco is considered a stable country in North Africa, both on the political and economic level, as well as an important Hub for doing business in Africa and Europe. Over the last twenty years, the Kingdom had a steady growth rate of its GDP at around 4% and built top-class infrastructures, including the largest African port in Tangiers, 2000 Miles of Highway, a High-Speed train between Tangiers and Rabat, and the largest solar station of Africa in the south of the country.

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Egypt’s search for a fig leaf: It’s not the Handball World Championship

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Photo: Flickr/Ninian Reid

Hosting major sports tournaments can confer prestige on a country, but in the case of Egypt, the 2021 Handball World Championship will do little to repair its relations with the US, Italy and states in the Gulf, argues James M. Dorsey in this analysis.

***

Egyptian general-turned president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi sees the 2021 men’s handball world championship in Cairo and Alexandria as an opportunity to put his best foot forward at a time when Egypt’s relations with its closest regional and global partners are encountering substantial headwinds.

Successful hosting of the championship, the first to involve 32 rather than 24 competing teams, would also serve to  counter criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Egyptian health minister Hala Zayed recently admitted that many more Egyptians contracted the virus than the government has so far reported. A successful hosting would further put a crown in the feather of Egyptian-born International Handball Federation (IHF) president Hassan Moustafa.

Egypt has put strict pandemic-related precautionary heath measures in place for the tournament from the moment teams, officials, and journalists arrive at Cairo International Airport. The measures apply to training, lodging and media arrangements as well as the transport to and from hotels and the championship’s four designated match venues. Egypt is determined to ensure that the championship does not turn into a spreader of Covid-19.

That concern prompted the IHF and Egyptian authorities at the last minute to shelve a plan to allow fans into the four venues that include the Cairo Stadium Sports Hall, the New Capital Sports Hall in Egypt’s newly built desert capital east of Cairo, the Dr Hassan Moustafa Sports Hall in Giza, and the Borg Al Arab Sports Hall in Alexandria.

The IHF said the decision was taken “considering the current COVID-19 situation as well as concerns that have been raised, amongst others by the players themselves.”

Critics charge that Egypt is hosting the tournament even though it seems unable to meet the basic requirements of medical personnel who are on the frontline of the fight against the pandemic.

Doctors and nurses have protested against the high number of infections in their ranks because  they lack access to sufficient personnel protection equipment and are threatened with imprisonment if they fail to report to work despite the risk to their lives.

Symptomatic for Mr. Al-Sisi’s brutal crackdown on any kind of criticism, several doctors have been arrested on terrorism charges for voicing their grievances.

Putting aside the fact that the impact of a handball tournament pales when compared to the prestige of hosting a mega-event like the World Cup or the Olympic Games, the handball tournament is unlikely to provide much of a fig leaf for Mr. Al-Sisi’s hardhanded repression of anyone voicing an opinion but his sycophantic supporters.

That is particularly true for the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden that has not only promised to emphasize human rights in its foreign policy but also needs to do so in its bid to repair America’s image and restore its credibility, severely damaged by four years of Donald J. Trump, widely viewed as an authoritarian who undermined foundations of democracy.

Similarly, the tournament will not change perceptions in Italy and much of Europe that hold Mr. Al-Sisi’s intelligence service and law enforcement responsible for the kidnapping, torture and killing of Giulio Regeni.

A 28-year-old postgraduate student at Cambridge University, Mr. Regeni had been researching Egypt’s independent unions before he went missing in late January 2016. His body was found in a ditch so badly mutilated that his mother could only identify her son by the tip of his nose. He reportedly had sustained a broken neck, wrist, toes, fingers, and teeth before his death, while initials were carved into his severely burned and bruised skin.

Relations between Egypt and Italy last month deteriorated further when Egypt’s public prosecution closed its investigation into Mr. Regeni’s murder, rejecting Italian prosecutors’ findings that accused four Egyptian security officials of responsibility for his death.

Mr. Al-Sisi’s abominable human rights record may not be of concern to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia but equally the tournament will do little to repair cracks in his relationship with the two Gulf states, his main financial backers.

In a move that will not have gone unnoticed in Gulf capitals, Egypt anointed the newly opened, Qatari-owned St. Regis hotel on the banks of the Nile River in Cairo as one of the tournament’s key logistics nodes, including its media center.

Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif al-Emadi landed in Cairo last week to inaugurate the hotel hours after a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit lifted a 3.5-year long Saudi-UAE led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar, in which Egypt as well as Bahrain participated. Mr. Al-Emadi was the first Qatari Cabinet official to visit Egypt since the boycott was imposed in 2017.

Showcasing the hotel was meant to counter-intuitively signal to Saudi Arabia and the UAE Egypt’s concern that reconciliation with Qatar involved far too many concessions, including dropping demands for the closure of Qatar’s state-funded, freewheeling Al Jazeera television network and a halt to support of political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt was forced to reluctantly agree to lifting the boycott even though it accepted continued Qatari investment and Qatari gas supplies over the last 3.5 years.

Egypt also felt sidelined by the UAE and Bahrain’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. The move deprived Egypt of its role as Israel’s primary official diplomatic conduit to the Arab world at a moment that the Al-Sisi regime is seeking to put its best foot forward in anticipation of Mr. Biden taking office.

Mr. Al-Sisi’s concerns are compounded by Emirati support for Ethiopia with which he is at odds over the construction of a dam on the Nile that threatens Egypt’s water supply; the UAE’s growing influence in neighboring Sudan; plans to link the UAE and Israel through a pipeline that would compete with Egypt in selling gas to Europe; and Emirati interest in the port of Haifa that could create an alternative to the Suez Canal.

All of this could undermine Egypt’s position as a key pillar of US Middle East policy and persuade the US to further shift the focal point of its broader Middle East and North Africa policy to the Gulf.

Mr. Al-Sisi has sought to pre-empt an incoming Biden administration by releasing prisoners, highlighting his good relations with Egyptian Christians, and hiring US lobbying firms to plead his case to the Biden camp as well as Capitol Hill.

Hosting a handball world championship is a minor maneuver in the mountain that Mr. Al-Sisi is trying to move, particularly one that Mr. Trump tarnished by describing the Egyptian leader as “my favorite dictator.” That is a label a handball tournament is unlikely to alter.

Author’s note: This article first appeared on Play the Game

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