Sadet Karabulut: Save the Yemenis, stop the arms trade

27 September 2018

Sadet Karabulut: Save the Yemenis, stop the arms trade

Three-and-a-half years of war in Yemen have led to the world's biggest humanitarian crisis. The Netherlands must step up pressure in the UN, says Sadet Karabulut.

The biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. That's the result of three-and-a-half years of war and a deadly blockade of Yemen. The bulk of the responsibility lies with Saudi Arabia, which has attacked one civilian target after another. Schools, markets, mosques – absolutely nothing is spared.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have been sacrificed, more than five million children are threatened by famine, and some eight million people are completely dependent on foreign aid. The collapse of medical provision has led, moreover, to a widespread outbreak of cholera. 

There is no sign whatsoever of any improvement in this country, the poorest in the Arabian peninsula, because the international community is not prepared to put a stop to this senseless bloodletting. Worse still, the reason that Saudi Arabia, together with a number of allies, is able to continue this war against the Houthi rebels, is that the West supports the Saudis with large amounts of weaponry. Many billions of euros' worth of arms have been exported since the outbreak of war. 

Without the bombs and other forms of support from the US and Great Britain in particular, a great deal of suffering would have been avoided. In Yemen, however, commercial interests are more important than people's lives. Anyone with eyes willing to see can see this. It was acknowledged a few months ago by Foreign Minister Stef Blok during a parliamentary debate. 

Recent developments in Spain illustrate the situation. The Spanish had decided not to export to Saudi Arabia four-hundred laser-guided bombs to be used immediately in the war, but reversed this decision for fear that the sale of five military boats to the same country would not go through, costing jobs.

Our country also profits from the war. The Netherlands follows a restrictive arms export policy in relation to Saudi Arabia, but evidently this is no barrier to the export of communications apparatuses that are then built into Saudi tanks. 

A glimmer of hope is provided by a recent report from the UN Human Rights Council in which war crimes are enumerated and recommendations made for how an end might be put to the violence. Amongst other things, the report says that violence against civilians must immediately cease, humanitarian aid should be allowed through and the sale of arms to the warring parties curbed. 

It's of enormous importance that the Netherlands, which played a significant role in the realisation of this UN investigation, follows up now on its recommendations. The current Dutch membership of the Security Council makes this an opportune moment to do just that. 

The UN Security Council was given, after all, the task after the ravages of the Second World War  of promoting peace and security in the world. It has not succeeded in this task in Yemen, and the international community has lost credibility as a result. 

The Dutch Parliament recently called on the Foreign  Minister to treat the war in Yemen as a priority during the Netherlands' year on the Security Council and take initiatives to end the military actions and improve humanitarian access to the area. 

So Minister Blok has the task in the UN of maximising the pressure on – amongst others – Saudi Arabia , so that profits from arms products are no longer given priority over Yemeni lives. Sanctions targeted at those responsible for war crimes, as well as an arms embargo, are the least that should be done.

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