Friday, June 9

The free ignorance of war

Today the front pages of the major media will not open with images of the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis. Nor will they do so with the bombing of the civilian population of this country. They will not do it with the condemnation of the 377,000 deaths caused by this war. Not with the 16 million people who are food insecure in this country, or the 2.5 million who are already starving. Nor with the 4 million people who have had to leave their homes. They will not do it because we are talking about Yemen, the forgotten conflict that today 7 years since Saudi Arabia began the bombing.

We find ourselves in times in which, rightly, there is awareness of the need to protect civil society, the bombings of a power, Russia, against the neighboring country, Ukraine, are denounced, and legal and safe channels are opened so that the Ukrainian population can obtain refuge in Europe. All of this is essential and unquestionable, although one wonders how it is possible that simultaneously in Spain not only is the war in Yemen ignored, but, what is much worse, from here the fire is fed with million-dollar arms sales to the countries that , incessantly and since 2015, they are committing with absolute impunity the most serious atrocities already documented as war crimes.

The coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been committing indiscriminate attacks on the Yemeni civilian population for seven years, destroying homes and hospitals, and obstructing the arrival of humanitarian aid. In the meantime Spain has exported weapons to the countries of this coalition for an amount that exceeds 2,000 million euros and on March 31, the delivery to Saudi Arabia of the first of the five corvettes built in Cádiz by Navantia is scheduled, despite the risk that it will be used to attack civilians in Yemen and thus reinforce a naval blockade that has millions of Yemenis suffering from famine.

A few months ago, while participating in an Amnesty International research mission to document the reception conditions for migrants and refugees in the Canary Islands, I met a young Yemeni at the gates of the Las Raíces camp in Tenerife. He came from crossing five countries in two and a half years. He asked that we not talk to him about human rights until Spain stopped selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Today marks seven years since the beginning of the conflict that made him leave his land looking for a place “where I am respected and can be calm.” His body had large scars from wounds as a result of the war. He recounted being so sore that he couldn’t even sleep. Neither did the memory of what he had lived through. “In my country, people are starving because food doesn’t arrive.”

Last week the United Nations International Conference of humanitarian aid donors for Yemen took place, where unfortunately not even a third of the funds required to attend to the enormous humanitarian crisis were reached. In this way, the downward trend of the previous year was followed, in which the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, warned that “cutting aid is a death sentence”.

Thus, we witness how contradictory positions are transferred simultaneously, reminding the doublethink George Orwell referred to in his novel 1984. While defending, and defending, the need to protect the civilian population of a country bombed by another, at the same time Spain sells weapons to a country that bombs the civilian population of another country. And while we see that, in a right way, legal and safe paths are opened and refuge is given to those who come from Ukraine, we can remember all the obstacles to access the right to refuge for those fleeing the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan or Yemen, or the practice of illegal returns in Ceuta and Melilla that violates the right to request asylum.

Seven years have passed since the start of the conflict in Yemen and the horizon looks bleak. The last four months have been, since the end of 2018, the most sustained period of heavy bombardment, with at least 200 airstrikes a month. They confirm the escalation of violence in Yemenespecially in January this year 2022, a bloody month in which Amnesty International renewed its call on all parties to refrain from indiscriminate attacks, ensure that there are no civilian casualties and damage to homes , facilities and civilian infrastructure, in addition to reiterating its request for an end to arms sales to the Saudi-Emirati coalition.

Given the Saudi history of using weapons to commit crimes under international law, including dozens of alleged war crimes documented by the UN, Amnesty International and other NGOs, it is more than enough reason for the Spanish government to immediately suspend arms sales Spanish weapons that can be used in Yemen to commit atrocities. Not only as a matter of principle, but also because these sales are prohibited by international and Spanish law.

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strengthwas the motto of the political party that directed with an iron fist the destinies of the State of Oceania in 1984, written a few years after the end of World War II. Today these contradictions resound again, which like the protagonist of the dystopian novel, leads us to ask ourselves what we can do to prevent history from sounding similar to the prelude to the greatest disaster of the last century. Stopping selling weapons to countries that commit war crimes, as Spain does with Saudi Arabia, will not be enough, but it would be an essential step.