Peace in Yemen, But not Without Women’s Role in Peacebuilding
By Sania Farooqui*
India, Feb 2021 (IPS) – The armed conflict in Yemen which has lasted six years,
has killed and
injured over thousands of civilians, displaced more than one million people and given rise to cholera
outbreaks, medicine shortages and threats of famine. By the end of 2019,
it is estimated that over 233,000 Yemenies have been killed as a result of fighting
and the humanitarian crisis. With nearly two-thirds of its population requiring
food assistance, Yemen is also experiencing the world’s worst food security crisis. The United
Nations has called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen “the worst in the
conflict in Yemen has its roots in the failure of a political transition, when the
2011 uprising in Yemen forced then President Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power,
ending his 33 years of rule in the country. With accusations of
corruption and failed governance, and long standing unresolved conflict with
the Houthi group who are based in the north of the country, Ali Abdullah Saleh
was forced to hand over power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. As
President, Abdrabbuh Hadi struggled with corruption, unemployment and food
insecurity in the country.
The armed Houthi group capitalized on popular discontent
and consolidated their control over the governorate of Sa’da and neighbouring
areas in the northern parts of Yemen. By September 2014, the Houthis had
managed to extend territorial control by taking over a number of army and
security positions in the capital Sana’a. In early 2015, President Hadi and the
members of his government were forced to flee. By March 2015, at the request of President
Hadi, a coalition of states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) intervened with the aim of restoring the internationally recognized
government back to power, marking the beginning of a full blown armed conflict in Yemen.
The Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi armed group that have
been fighting since March 2015 have been responsible for an array of human
rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law and also
likely to amount to war crimes.
Amnesty International has documented the Coalition’s use of
six different types of cluster munitions, including US, UK, Brazilian-manufactured models in Sana’a, Hajjah, Amran and
Women are always the most affected groups in wars, says
Kawkab Al-Thaibani, former Director of Women4Yemen Network to IPS News. “Women
not only have to survive the challenges of the war, but also carry extra
packages of discrimination against them. It is tragic that women face violence
at all levels, with no exception, war gives them zero protection,” Kawkab says.
Rights group Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2021 said in 2020, the Yemeni government, the
Hourthi armed group, and the STC-affiliated Security Belt Forces “abused women
and commiteed acts of gender-based violence, including sexual violence.”
“To rub salts in the wounds, the pandemic makes the lives of
the Yemeni women a nightmare. The picture looks so dark and if this situation
continues, women will disappear from public and private spears,” says Kawkab.
The rate of violence against women in Yemen was already very
high in the context of the ongoing conflict – in 2017, UNFPA had recorded 2.6
million women and girls at risk of gender-based violence. With the added
economic, health and social stressors of Covid-19, domestic violence cases are
on the rise, UN Women said in its report.
“Yemeni women, peace activists and human rights activists
have been doing a great job in handling this alarming situation, but the
international community has to step up in supporting women’s cause,” says
Kawkab, who has also been working on including women in the country’s peace
“War is the face of toxic masculinity, and it will never
give women space, because women are peace agents,” says Kawkab.
“The war in Yemen is the biggest challenge we are facing, but
the lack of desire by the negotiators to include women in any talks, another
“The new government has zero presence of women and all
parties have their own narrative of justifying this absence. On one hand it’s
the Yemeni culture towards women, and on the other it’s simply the absence of
women in the grassroots, women are absent from local council, they are absent
from political parties, they are absent from empowering themselves through
political training or political activism.
“Women are one of the most resilient groups in the society,
they are unfettered by the disproportionate challenges they face, despite their
work they are left completely out of peace negotiations,” says Kawkab.
Recently U.S. President Biden said that the Saudi-led war in Yemen
“has to end”, and halted U.S. support for offensive military operations in
Yemen and pledged, “America does not check its values at the door to sell arms
or buy oil.”
Greeting this move by the U.S. with cautious relief, Kawkab
says, “I am not very optimistic about these measures because they are all
politically motivated, and not towards ending the war, or providing Yemeni
people with stability.
“As a woman pushing for peace, I know to gain true
conciliation, we also need accountability and transitional justice.
International experts who are affected by colonial mindset will not be able to
achieve peace and stability in Yemen, because they too keep ignoring the true
voices of peace, and that’s women.”
filmmaker based out of New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The
Sania Farooqui Show where Muslim women from around the world are invited to
share their views.