Standing in solidarity with Yemen
A recent rally in San Francisco called on the U.S. government to end its support for Saudi Arabia’s scorched-earth war on Yemen, explains.
ABOUT 150 people attended a November 3 rally at San Francisco’s UN Plaza in solidarity with the people of Yemen.
The Yemeni community in the Bay Area organized the rally in collaboration with a number of civil rights organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. A representative from Rep. Ro Khanna’s office also attended, along with the International Socialist Organization and a few other socialist groups.
The rally’s message was unequivocal: end the atrocious U.S.-backed war on Yemen.
In March 2015, the Obama administration gave the green light to a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to start bombing Yemen. As president, Obama authorized a record number of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Since taking over, Trump and his administration have only increased support for the Saudi-led coalition. In June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave the coalition permission to attack the port city of Hodeida, knowing full well this would exacerbate famine conditions in the country.
Then in September, Pompeo “certified” — for the purpose of adhering to U.S. laws barring complicity with war crimes — that the coalition was taking appropriate measures to avoid civilian casualties. This bogus certification came not long after Saudi Arabia dropped a bomb on a school bus full of little kids in an atrocity that shocked the world.
The war has created one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes since the Second World War. According to the latest UN estimate, up to 14 million Yemenis are at imminent risk of losing their lives to hunger and disease. The total population of Yemen is about 28 million.
FOR ALL this horror, the mood at the rally was warm and welcoming. Children ran around waving the flag of Yemen. Speakers read poetry, and the crowd chanted enthusiastically together. To conclude, organizers played the Yemeni national anthem.
The main group behind the event was the Yemeni Alliance Committee (YAC), founded in April 2017 by young Yemeni American activists. Their dual mission is to end the war on Yemen and oppose Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban. Yemen was included on the list of banned countries in both versions of the executive order. The ban thus has the effect of separating families and trapping people in a country that the U.S. is actively destroying.
Earlier this year, YAC protested outside the hotel of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman when he visited the Bay Area. At the November 3 rally, the group repeatedly urged everyone in the crowd to call their congressional representatives in support of legislation that would mandate the Trump administration to cut off aid to the coalition.
The timing of the rally coincides with a broader re-examination of the U.S.-Saudi “special relationship” as a result of Saudi Arabia’s grisly assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its embassy in Turkey.
Pompeo himself in late October called for a cease-fire in Yemen, though as if to confirm how little significance Pompeo’s words hold, the coalition ramped up its attacks on Hodeida and the capital Sana’a shortly after he made his statement. But the fact that Pompeo felt the need to say it at all may suggest the tide is starting to turn.
In solidarity with the people who have suffered so much from the U.S. government’s cruel policies, we must educate and organize to change the status quo: lift the Muslim travel ban, let the refugees in, and end the war on Yemen.