- Government of Yemen, Government of Saudi Arab, U.S. Government
Houthis or in general Zaidi Shias form about 40 to 45% of the Yemen population. They are a majority in the Northern Yemen province of Sa'ada, bordering with Saudi Arabia. Since 2004, the Yemeni government has launched 5 military campaigns against them. The most recent ongoing assault, (the sixth one), “Operation Scorched Earth” by the Yemeni government started in August 2009.
“Scorched earth” policy according to Wikipedia is “A military strategy which involves destroying anything that might be useful for the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. Its modern usage includes the destruction of infrastructure such as shelters, transportation, communications and industrial resources. This practice may be carried out in enemy territory or its own home territory”. Similar tactic was used by Israeli Armed Forces on Gaza, when its military destroyed vast portions of Gaza.
The Saudi Arabian Armed Forces also joined the offensive against the Northern Yemen in November 2009, accusing Houthis of attacking one of the Saudi check points near the border. The Houthis deny the allegations by stating that they cannot afford to provoke another army. Saudis have since been attacking them by missiles but also using unconventional chemical weapons such as phosphorus bombs which are banned under the Geneva Convention.
This conflict has resulted in numerous civilian casualties and has displaced thousands of people. The laws of war require the parties in an armed conflict to take all feasible precautions to spare the civilian population and their properties. Aid agencies have been trying to get permission to reach and help all civilians in need of assistance. But security problems and restrictive Yemeni government policies have prevented the agencies from doing so. To make matters worse, Riyadh continues to forcibly return Yemenis who have fled to Saudi Arabia, according to press TV sources.
The Zaidi Shias are a majority in Sa'ada province, have faced many years of repression at the hands of Yemeni government who is trying to impose Wahabi Beliefs on them. This province is one of the poorest in Yemen, which is already facing many economic challenges.
Houthis lost their Zaidi Imamate rule in 1962 in Sa'ada province. In 2004, one of the Zaidi leaders Hussein Badreddin Al-Houthi was killed by the Yemeni Government. The Houthis leader who was against theYemeni government ties with US, was accused of fighting for Shia rights and organizing anti-US protests.
Since 2004 there have been intermittent assaults on the Houthis by the Yemeni Military. In August 2009 the government accused the Houthis of violating a ceasefire by taking foreigners hostage earlier in the year. Yemeni Government used these allegations as a premise for launching this recent war. While the government claims that it is targeting Houthi positions, the Houthi fighters argue that the forces led by Sana'a are engaging in the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians.
There are no clear estimates available about the casualties in the province of Sa'ada since 2004 or in the recent wave of violence as Yemen Government prevents the presence of independent news agencies in the area. According to UN estimates, however, during the past five years, up to 175,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Sa'ada to take refuge in overcrowded camps set up by the international body. The two governments have also blocked the shipment of humanitarian aid into the under-siege territory.
It is now up to the international community to make concerted efforts to defuse the situation and prevent the further loss of innocent Yemenis in a conflict that seems to have no end in sight. There is a great need for all voices of conscience to rise to the occasion and raise awareness about this humanitarian crisis.
• We the undersigned, demand that the government of Sa'ana and Saudi Arabia to immediately stop the civilian massacre in Northern Yemen.
• We condemn strongly the use of the prohibited weapons of flesh destroying phosphorus bombs.
• We demand strongly that the Yemeni government must allow humanitarian aid to enter the war zone and the refugee camps which have more than 150,000 refugees, half of which are children, who are suffering from malnutrition and other illnesses.
• We demand that all those who are committing this grave human rights violation be brought to justice.
• We urge the United Nations to take measures to stop this humanitarian crisis.
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The Stop the Humanitarian Catastrophe in Yemen petition to Government of Yemen, Government of Saudi Arab, U.S. Government was written by me and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.