Yemen Unicef children school
Children sitting in front of a school that was badly damaged in the war in Yemen (Credit: UNICEF / Abu Monassar)

Yemeni activist to US Congress: Las Vegas shooting ‘happens to us every night in Yemen’

Yemeni activist Hussam al-Sanabani wrote a letter urging American lawmakers to end the catastrophic US-Saudi war on his country.

By Ben Norton / AlterNet

The United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have waged a brutal war on Yemen for 30 months. With substantial military, financial and political support from the U.S., Saudi Arabia has relentlessly bombed civilian areas and blockaded the poorest country in the Middle East.

This joint U.S.-Saudi war has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with millions on the brink of famine, and unleashed the largest cholera outbreak in recorded history, with some 800,000 cases in just over five months. Thousands of Yemenis have been killed in the violence. Many tens of thousands more have died of preventable causes such as malnutrition and disease.

Millions of Yemenis have been displaced, further compounding the largest global refugee crisis since World War II.

“For Yemenis and migrants, the protracted conflict has become an endless nightmare,” warned William Lacy Swing, the director general of the United Nations International Organization for Migration, upon a visit to the war-torn country.

In response to the catastrophe, several congress members from both major parties have co-sponsored legislation that would end U.S. support for the war. In September, California Rep. Ro Khanna introduced H. Con. Res. 81, which would withdraw U.S. military forces involved in Yemen unless Congress approves an official declaration of war.

Hussam al-Sanabani is a Yemeni activist living under incessant U.S.-Saudi coalition airstrikes in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. During more than 900 days of bombing and blockade, al-Sanabani has steadfastly spoken out against the foreign war on his country and called for peace.

In an interview with AlterNet, al-Sanabani explained, “I am a Yemeni citizen who was dreaming of a better tomorrow. I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night to watch the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. announce the start of Operation Decisive Storm, from Washington, D.C. Since then, like most Yemenis, my life has been changed by war.”

“From Yemen, the country that is still under blockade until today, I write this letter to the U.S. congress to tell them about some of Yemenis’ tragedies, asking them to vote for H. Con. Res 81.”

Sanabani penned the following open letter to the U.S. Congress, strongly supporting the newly introduced legislation and urging lawmakers to vote to end the joint U.S.-Saudi war on his country.

Letter from Yemen to the U.S. Congress

By Hussam al-Sanabani

Yemenis are following with satisfaction the efforts of some members of the US Congress relating to the vote scheduled for next week to remove the United States Armed Forces from unauthorized hostilities in the Republic of Yemen (H.Con.Res.81). We hope Congress will vote against the US intervention in the war on Yemen.

In the middle of this conflict, Yemenis have lived and continue to be living in unbearably difficult conditions whereas the participation of the US has only increased the suffering of civilians, starting from children and women, the most vulnerable.

US refueling services have increased the aid to Saudi and UAE jet fighters to carry out aerial bombardment in Yemen. In addition, last week, a US MQ 9 was shot down in Sana’a, where Al Qaeda does not exist. What was the US drone doing here?

The US military is basically conducting a proxy war for the Saudi coalition with a lax excuse.

Last October, the US Navy destroyed Yemeni naval radars and the Pentagon claimed US warships had been attacked by a rocket from Yemen. Although the Yemeni defense ministry in Sana’a denied carrying out the attacks, the US Navy bombed and destroyed the Yemeni Navy’s radar system. The US response came to serve the Saudi coalition which includes militant groups in Yemen known for their close relationship with Al Qaeda and ISIS.

The destruction of Yemeni naval radars facilitated the alliance’s progress and occupation of the city of Mukha in January 2017, exploiting its capabilities to supply logistics to its forces — including AQAP [Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] terrorists — across the sea without revealing their movements.

Their ambitions have not stopped at this point, now they are trying to attack the port of Hodeidah, the only remaining lifeline of millions of Yemenis. All this would not have happened if the US Navy had not carried out what the Saudi-led coalition had failed to do over the past 19 months.

Last June the Senate voted to back Saudi arms sales. Although some Yemenis were upset by the vote, the narrow margin of the vote to reject a decision to stop the deal has been a big shift from a similar vote last year on the sale of a tank to Saudi Arabia (71-27). The senators who were backing the deal said that the arms would actually help Saudi Arabia to avoid civilian casualties.

Whether this argument is a matter of good faith or justification, it has fallen completely: Saudi Arabia has not stopped targeting civilians, killing women and children in Yemen.

I’m sure that some of you have heard the story of Buthaina, the six-year-old girl who lost her parents and six siblings in a Saudi led air strike in Sana’a. Buthaina’s tragedy proved that Saudi won’t stop targeting civilians in Yemen.

In the last few days there have been two important developments as a result of Saudi Arabia continuing to commit war crimes in Yemen: 1) The UN Human Rights Council has agreed to send war crimes investigators to Yemen. This resolution defeated the Saudi Arabian efforts to prevent an independent international investigation, that will reveal their war crimes in Yemen. 2) The UN has added the Saudi-led coalition to its blacklist of child killers.

I wrote this letter on Oct. 7, marking the second anniversary of the Sanaban wedding massacre, in which 43 civilians were killed and 90 others injured, most of them women and children. Oct. 8, will be marking the first anniversary of the Al Kubra funeral hall massacre, in which 155 people were killed and and at least 525 more wounded.

Saudi Arabia has committed many war crimes in Yemen, and the Yemeni’s memory has been filled up with the dates of the Saudi war crimes. If those massacres do not stop, the whole calendar will be full.

This madness must stop and if the Saudis do not want to stop, they have to continue alone. Criminals must be stopped, not helped.

We were following the news when the innocent civilians in Las Vegas were subjected to gunfire from an insane criminal. The killer continued to shoot in batches while some victims were bleeding to death, whilst the others were forced not to move because the murderer was still free and still shooting. The police and the ambulance teams could not help those innocent victims, while they were in desperate need of help. Our thoughts were with them as we watched the news coming from Las Vegas.

No one can understand and feel what those innocent people have suffered except the Yemenis. What happened to them that night happens to us every night in Yemen. There is a crazy murderer who shoots at us and we see our relatives and our neighbors dying, and we can not help them because the crazy killer is still shooting and is not satisfied with the thousands of innocent victims already killed in Yemen.

Yemenis are waiting to hear just one piece of news: That the US Congress has voted for H.Con.Res 81.