Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
During the past few weeks, some human rights groups have apparently waged a campaign against Saudi Arabia by releasing misleading and politically motivated reports about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. These reports, based on unreliable facts and figures, blame the Saudi-led military coalition for the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The reports clearly ignored the fact that every country has the right to protect its borders and people from any foreign threat. We all remember that not long ago the United States led a military coalition to intervene and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. It should not be ignored that both the countries are thousands of miles away from the American shores but still the US took action to eliminate possible threats to its national security.
The conflict in Yemen is not something that the Saudis wanted or had planned. But when a country’s borders are under constant threat, there is no other option but to take some concrete action to eliminate the threat once and for all.
During the military operations, the Saudis and other members of the coalition made every effort to avoid civilian causalities and to secure the country’s infrastructure. The Saudi-led coalition’s intentions have been crystal clear since the beginning. Most of the reports issued by rights organizations clearly indicate that they know very little about Yemen, its history and sociopolitical realities.
For many decades, Yemen (north and south) was considered one of the most primitive countries in the world with a poor health care system, primitive education system, dilapidated civic infrastructure, Qat addiction and arms and munitions in every household. The saddest thing of all was the continuous internal fighting between Yemenis in the south and north.
For many years, tribes instead of a strong central authority ruled Yemen. And the entire world knew for decades that the welfare of the masses never remained the priority of any government that ruled Yemen. Due to this very reason, Yemen was closely watched, aided and supported by many countries and international organizations. During the last few decades, Yemen received tens of billions of dollars in financial aid, humanitarian international medical teams, educational groups, international social workers and archeological experts etc. helped Yemen during this period. The world had made every effort to help Yemen in every way with good intention but at the end of the day it is the Yemenis who never joined hands to help themselves.
Yemen was and still is a failed state with 30 million people most of them living below the poverty line. Saudi Arabia shares its borders with Yemen and being a neighbor Riyadh has been the biggest and most generous donor who helped Yemen stay afloat.
For many decades, Saudi Arabia sent medical teams, schoolteachers, tens of billions of dollars in direct and financial aid. In addition to that there are millions of Yemenis working and living in Saudi Arabia and transferring billions of dollars every month to help their families live a better life. Every Saudi in the Kingdom deals with a Yemeni on a daily basis with respect.
But, the Saudi-Yemeni borders were always plagued with what is called the social divide. As a matter of fact, I saw it first hand when I was stationed near the southern border for a year about 20 years ago. It wasn’t difficult to see a fragile and divided Yemen and Yemenis. And just a few years ago things changed dramatically in Yemen when a small but brutal militia tried to hijack the country. It also became a threat to Saudi Arabia. Observers may recall that a few years ago, a group of Houthis attacked the Saudi borders and Saudi forces had to retaliate. During that military action, the Saudi forces did not enter Yemeni territories and the situation was brought under control or so we thought. More than a year ago, the Houthis with clear Iranian backing emerged again posing threats not only to Saudi border towns but also to some Saudi cities. The Houthis had all kind of weapons including Scud missiles.
Saudi Arabia tried all means to defuse the tension but to no avail. Consequently, the Kingdom formed a coalition force to restore the legitimate government in Yemen and to save the country from falling deep into the abyss of chaos.
The world knows well about the atrocities of Houthis in Yemen. They are forcing children to join them in the battlefield, which is a flagrant violation of all international and religious norms.
The prime objective of the Saudi-led alliance is to pull Yemen out of this vortex of violence. We declared cease-fire and truce at a time when the conflict was at its peak and the coalition had already made considerable gains. Even during the conflict, Saudi Arabia sent medical and food aid worth millions of dollars.
In addition to that, Saudi Arabia made all efforts to take care of the millions of Yemenis in Saudi Arabia and ensured provision of free education and free health care to them. Our good intentions toward Yemen and the Yemenis are clear and known to the honest observers, but the intentions of some human rights groups are undoubtedly not good.
Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Misleading Reports About KSA reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.