Demands for an end to UK support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen are growing, reports Jamal Elaheebocus
Around one hundred people gathered outside the BBC in London on Sunday 26th July to raise awareness about the war in Yemen and demand an end to arms sales to Saudi Arabia. This was the third demonstration organised this month and was still well attended by almost entirely young people, many of whom were Yemeni.
Yemen has been suffering a brutal civil war for five years, has faced multiple cholera outbreaks, famine and now Covid-19. In the five years of war, the UK has supplied Saudi Arabia with £5.4 billion worth of arms, much of which has been used to bomb Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition has bombed schools, weddings and funerals and is likely to have committed war crimes. Over 100,000 people have died due to the war. A couple of weeks ago, the government resumed arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which had been ruled unlawful last year, claiming that the bombings of innocent civilians were only ‘isolated incidents’. This is outrageous. Outside the BBC, speakers brought to attention the organisation’s lack of coverage of the war in Yemen, as well as the fact that the reports have failed to mention the role the war has played in what has been described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and that the UK has been heavily involved in the conflict.
As the march continued, there were chants of ‘Free Yemen’ and ‘Stop Arming Saudi’, as well as ‘No justice, no peace’, which is frequently heard on Black Lives Matter protests. There was a heavy police presence throughout, despite the relatively small crowds and the obviously peaceful nature of the protest. Tensions flared at times between the police and the protestors but for the most part it was peaceful.
The protest stopped outside Downing Street and speakers once again highlighted the role Boris Johnson’s government has played in supplying arms to Saudi Arabia, particularly in relation to the decision to resume them.
The protest moved on to the Saudi Arabia, UAE and Iran embassies, outside of which there were several police officers, which had not been the case on previous demos. Speakers outlined the role each country had to play in the war, such as the involvement of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in bombing campaigns, and pointed out that it is believed that Iran is backing the Houthi rebels. They also reflected on the impact the war has had on ordinary Yemenis, with some sharing personal experience of fleeing the war or of family members suffering as a result of the conflict.
The next March for Yemen protest will take place towards the end of August. In the meantime, Stop the War Coalition is hosting a webinar on the war in Yemen this Wednesday. Speakers include Jeremy Corbyn and Iesa Ali, organiser of the London March for Yemen protests. You can find out more and register here.
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