UN Has Thoroughly Redacted Truth on Civilian Deaths in Yemen: UK Expert

UN Has Thoroughly Redacted Truth on Civilian Deaths in Yemen: UK Expert

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A London-based political analyst and author rejected the United Nations reports on the number of civilian deaths in war-hit Yemen, saying international institutions, like the UN, have “thoroughly redacted the truth when it comes to the death toll”.

“I still do not believe that the public appreciates the gravity and the extent of the misery, pain, and suffering Al Saud have imposed on Yemen,” Director of Programs at Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies Catherine Shakdam from London said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.

“Worse still the likes of the United Nations and other so-called international institutions have thoroughly redacted the truth when it comes to the death toll,” she added.

Shakdam is an expert commentator and political consultant. Her writings have appeared in Foreign Policy Association and the Guardian among many other media outlets. Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting.


Following is the full text of the interview:

Tasnim: According to media reports, Britain’s Ministry of Defense for the first time has revealed that the UK exported 500 cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s which have been used in the Riyadh regime’s ongoing war on Yemen. The munitions are now banned under international law. In a letter to the Conservative MP Philip Hollobone, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said, “The UK delivered 500 BL755 cluster munitions under a government-to-government agreement signed in 1986. The final delivery was made in 1989." Fallon also said the UK had not been able to carry out any surveillance of the weapons until 2008. What is your take on that? In your opinion, what has made Britain to admit to selling such bombs to the Saudi kingdom and what objectives is it pursuing by making such remarks?

Shakdam: The issue of cluster bombs and other illegal weapons of war has been something activists have denounced from the onset of the war. Britain was only too happy to deny accountability by hiding behind its propaganda. It is ludicrous to believe that a country such as Saudi Arabia that is at war with Yemen will buy cluster bombs and not use them. I’d like to think that people are reasonable enough to understand dynamics.

Why buy weapons if not to use them? And why make them and sell them if in fact they are illegal. Guilt here falls onto both parties. I would say that Britain is more at fault than the Saudis here. It is the scorpion’s nature to sting … Britain however knew that the billions of dollars it was making were on the blood of the innocent.

Britain had to admit to the sale of cluster bombs because it was outed by activists and human rights organizations. From Amnesty International, to Human Rights Watch and Stop of the War countless organizations have decried and documented Britain’s role in the murder of Yemenis.

There is a point where lying is more damaging than telling the truth, and so Britain choose to admit fault. Mind you it will not lead to accountability or reparation. If Britain has admitted selling such weapons no one talked about consequences. This is one of the problems we have today. Western powers claim exceptionalism to excuse their crimes.

Tasnim:  As you know, the Yemeni people have been under massive attacks and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition almost on a daily basis. In the latest air strikes by the coalition forces, at least 8 children lost their lives and 15 others were critically injured when Saudi fighter jets hit an elementary school to the northeast of the Yemeni capital Sana'a on Wednesday. Recently, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said nearly 1,400 children have been killed, hundreds more injured and many schools closed by the Saudi war on Yemen. Why are the international community and even some Muslim countries so indifferent to the heinous crimes committed by the Al Saud regime?

Shakdam: In all fairness Saudi Arabia has followed the same destructive and murderous campaign against Yemen since March 25th, 2015; it is only now that the world is catching up with the horrors of this genocide.

I still don’t believe that the public appreciates the gravity and the extent of the misery, pain, and suffering Al Saud have imposed on Yemen. Worse still the likes of the United Nations and other so-called international institutions have thoroughly redacted the truth when it comes to the death toll.

A study conducted by the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies and the Mona Relief Organization has revealed this last November that an estimated 15,000 civilians have died since March 2015, notwithstanding casualties or those deaths caused by famine, lack of medicine, or those men and women fighting in the war.

Yemen’s real war tally is much too scary for the international community to handle – should the truth be acknowledged I do believe people would stand in disgust of their respective governments.

We are talking a minimum of 70,000 casualties, and 50,000 deaths if we were to include combatants and civilians. And then you have an estimated 3 million IDPs (internally displaced persons) living in horrendous conditions thanks to Riyadh’s punishing bombing campaign and humanitarian blockade.

All the while the United Nations and western capitals have vomited platitudes on human rights violations and calls to restore political legitimacy. I’m personally infuriated at the hypocrisy certain state officials have demonstrated over the past 2 years.

How can anyone possibly look upon Yemen’s war and not see the institutionalization of Terror – it is after all the same ideology: Wahhabism both Saudi Arabia and Daesh are promoting.

We also need to ask ourselves why is it that both armies: that of Daesh and that of Al-Saud are following identical behavioral patterns. Both use paid mercenaries, both argue legitimacy over sovereign territoriality, both have used wanton murder and destruction to carve a path through, both have committed heinous war crimes against civilian populations and both want to disappear religious pluralism and freedom.

The only reason western powers and the UN are now somewhat denouncing the killing of civilians in Yemen is to argue deniability. Too much blood has flowed in Yemen for the truth to stay hidden any longer – and so now the West is coming out in hypocritical denunciation.

It is thanks to the work of such people as Kim Sharif, a Yemeni-British lawyer and activist, or Dr. Riaz Karim from the Mona Relief Organization that Yemen is now talked about.

If not for our relentless in keeping Yemen in mainstream media and in social media, I fear Yemen would still be ignored.

As far as indifference goes I would say that people have become accustomed to violence and bloodshed … how many countries have fallen to oppression and murder without anyone say anything beyond a whisper of condemnation? Palestine, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Eastern Saudi Arabia … how many times have we witnessed injustice and kept silence for the sake of an easier life.

Western powers have built society in such a way that people stand completely disconnected from the truth and justice. As long as oppression is not directed at their kin, they do not care.

It might sound harsh but it is the truth. We often talk about moral decay when we talk about western civilization. I would say that the moment a people stop feeling empathy towards the oppressed, much has been lost.

The West no longer any moral high ground! Whatever morality it once might have claimed for itself has long been spent on the support of war and terrorism.

Let us not forget whose weapons and experts have helped murder innocent and unarmed Yemeni civilians. Let us not forget that those very powers which claim to abide by international law have promoted the likes of Saudi Arabia – a regime anchored in violence and sectarianism. Rather ironical considering Western capitals claim to represent Democracy’s principles!

Tasnim: You recently published a book on Yemen titled “A Tale of Grand Resistance: Yemen and the Wahhabi House of Saud” that has really helped frame this conflict under a different light. How do you understand Yemen’s war from a regional standpoint and what does Saudi Arabia want with Yemen?

Shakdam: The first thing the public needs to absolutely understand is that Yemen’s war is not a war of political restoration as Saudi Arabia has argued. The primes of this conflict has been that the Houthis ousted Yemen’s democratically elected president: Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to assert their own Iranian-inspired agenda. If you cut through all the noise this is what Riyadh has been saying over and over. This is of course a lie! Not only is this a lie, but it is a complete misinterpretation of Yemen.

Iran of course has had no involvement in Yemen – not economically and not militarily. I will concede that Tehran has indeed supported Yemen’s Resistance Movement in that it has supported the right for Yemen to claim its right to political self-determination. I would like to think that this is a good thing. Opposing popular will is the sign of despots, not democracies.  Iran is a democracy and as such it respects and protects people’s inherent rights.

Now, as far the Houthis go, portraying this one tribe of northern Yemen as the architect of a coup d’état against President Hadi is the most convoluted lie Riyadh ever came up with. One the Houthis are only one voice within Yemen’s Resistance Movement, and second, they did not depose anybody. Hadi resigned of his volition not once but twice. And then he decided to run away to Aden, upon which he chose to went into exile to the kingdom where he called onto King Salman to bomb his countrymen into smithereens. Another point to consider is that Hadi was elected in one-man election back in 2012 for a two-years mandate … not exactly what you called democratic!

It was under the banner of the Houthis that Yemenis rallied to demand that their rights and will to be respected. Seyyed Abdel Malek Al Houthi never called for power to be entrusted in his care. He called for liberation and emancipation away from Wahhabist Saudi Arabia.

It is independence the Houthis have called for and Yemenis answered them in their millions. In my book this makes the Resistance Movement a legitimate popular movement against foreign meddling.

As for the issues I cover in my book, I would invite anyone who wishes to understand Arabia’s geopolitical dynamics to read it! There are so many layers to this war on Yemen it is difficult to really narrow it down to a few points.

I would say this though: how Yemen’s war will end will pretty much determine the next few decades.

Looking at Yemen you have to consider Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist agenda and how it ambitions to eradicate religious pluralism from the entire region. Yemen’s religious heritage is being pillaged in the same manner Wahhabi mercenaries pillaged the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Yemen’s state institutions are being exploded so that Yemen as a nation-state would be disappeared and an entire civilization sold to imperialism.

Yemen’s natural resources are being claimed away from its people so that Al-Saud would sustain their monarchical system and tower despotic over nations.

I wrote a Tale of Grand Resistance: Yemen and the Wahhabi House of Saud so that Yemen’s truth would be told.

Yemen has proven bravest of all against the most violent of onslaught. This is not the first time either that Yemen has had to push back against tyranny. If you recall it was Muawiyah who first attempted to eradicate Yemen over its people’s allegiance to Imam Ali. History today is repeating itself. I expect Yemen will once more weather the storm and anchor itself in its tradition.

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