Yemeni Civil Society Leaders Condemn Saudi Blockade

Today, leading members of Yemen’s civil society issued a statement condemning the Saudi-led coalition’s closure of all air, land, and sea ports in Yemen. The civil society leaders called the blockade a form of “collective punishment.” The Saudi-led Coalition announced the closures earlier this week, after Houthi forces fired a missile at Riyadh.

The statement, prepared by civil society leaders from across Yemen, explains that the closures are having a “catastrophic impact on all Yemenis,” with massive increases in fuel and water prices over the past few days. Given the reliance of the country on food imports, the closures are “pushing more than 7 million people into starvation.” The UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator also warned this week that unless the ports are opened, Yemen will be “gripped by famine” and it “will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades.”

The civil society leaders call on Saudi Arabia “to urgently reopen the Yemeni air, land and sea ports and allow imports of food, fuel and medicine into Yemen.”

The statement is reproduced in full below: 

 

Statement by Yemeni social figures on the Saudi-led Arab Coalition’s closure of Yemeni land, sea and air ports

We express our deep concern and condemnation of the decision of the Saudi-led Arab coalition to close Yemen’s air, land and sea ports.

This decision has a great and catastrophic impact on all Yemenis, exacerbating the suffering and hardship Yemeni people have faced over the past three years. It has come despite the many appeals and warnings by various local and international organizations working in the humanitarian field in order to combat the biggest humanitarian crisis precipitated by the war. The dire situation has been compounded by the  fact that the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM) has requested all commercial vessels at the ports of Hodeidah to leave.

The decision has had a dramatic spillover effects. Daily life has been strangled in many parts of Yemen. Exchange rates have collapsed. Fuel prices have rised by 60 percent: gas stations are crowded with long lines of cars in crisis. Even water prices have doubled.

The closure of Yemen’s ports, in light of the difficult humanitarian situation and Yemen’s reliance on imports to cover nearly 90 percent of the country’s food needs, is pushing more than 7 million people into starvation. The cut-off of the supply lines and the closure of ports is considered a form of collective punishment that will undoubtedly exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, resulting in the collapse of local currency and the hindering trade–while simultaneously benefitting warlords by allowing the black market to flourish.

We therefore call upon the Saudi-led Arab Coalition , and in particular the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to urgently reopen the Yemeni air, land and sea ports and  allow imports of food, fuel and medicine into Yemen, as well as to improve the effectiveness of international mechanisms to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Yemen.

We also strongly condemn and reject the continued siege of Taiz by Houthi/Saleh forces, as well as the hindering the work of humanitarian organizations and humanitarian aid shipments by the Houthis/Saleh forces.

The suffering of the Yemeni people is no longer unknown to anyone. Ignoring this deepening catastrophe will never serve security and peace in the region and will undoubtedly have dire consequences not only for the future of Yemen but also for the region as a whole.

Finally, we remind everyone of the need to move away from using the economy and humanitarian aid as a war weapon or imposing mechanisms of collective punishment as a means of punishing the other side. This will not achieve any victories for any party but will rather create more aggressive reasons and motives for the continuation of the war.

 

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Afrah Al-Zoubah

Ahmed Abdullah Al-Khameri

Ahmed Ibn Al-Shwal

Akram Al-Shawafi

Ala Qasim

Amal Nasser

Ammar Al-Aulaqi

Bara’s Shiban

BilqisAl-Lahbi

Bushra Nasr

Dr. Mohammed Al-Mahfali

Dr. Najat Juman

Enas Al-Arashi

Farea Almuslim

Fouad Al-Nahari

Hussein Al-Wadai

Jamal Badr

Khaldoun Bakaheel

Khatab Al-Rawhani

Maged Almadhagi

Marwa Baabad

Mayssa ShujaAldeen

Mohammed Azzan

Mohammed Saleh Al-Katheri

Nadwa Al-Dawsri

Osamah Abdullah Al-Rawhani

Rafat Ali Al-Akhali

Rasha Jarhum

Tareq Hassan

Tawfiq Al-Janad

Zaki Othman

Image: Getty

 

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About the Author(s)

Sarah Knuckey

Associate Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, Director of the Human Rights Clinic, Co-Director of the Human Rights Institute, Former Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions (2007-2016) Follow her on Twitter (@SarahKnuckey).