Why Is The World Ignoring Yemen?

Why Is The World Ignoring Yemen?

OPINION

Why Is The World Ignoring Yemen?

picture of women and child beside a hut

Sinead Scales

4th July 2020

 

Described as the worst conflict in the world, Yemen has now entered its sixth year of civil war. As this war rages on, this famine-stricken country suffers from one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world. Two million children and one million women are currently suffering from malnutrition, with two-thirds of Yemenis are without access to clean water.  According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 80% of Yemen’s 28.5 million people are in need of assistance or protection.  

In the first three months of 2020 alone, 500 civilians were killed or injured due to the conflict. Most worrying is that nationally one in three civilian casualties are children, but, in some regions, children are as high as half of all casualties. Yemen’s civil war is one of the Middle East’s bloodiest conflicts, yet it continues to be overlooked. Press coverage has been minimal throughout the conflict, often overshadowed by the civil war in Syria and the fight against ISIS. However, Yemen has not escaped the grasp of terrorist insurgents. It is home to one of the most dangerous and active branches of Al Qaeda. Why is such a conflict, which displays the same characteristics as those featured heavily in the media, so often ignored?

In 2018, a poll commissioned by HumanAppeal revealed that 42% of the UK were unaware of the ongoing conflict in Yemen, yet 77% were aware of the war in Syria. The complicated nature of this war could account for either lack of interest or lack of understanding. The conflict is, at its core, a clash between Houthi rebels and the former Yemeni government; however, there are regional and international players in the conflict which have intensified the violence and complicated the battlefield. The Houthi rebels are backed by Iran, who provide them with arms, while the government is backed by the Saudi coalition who have launched intense and unrelenting airstrikes and a blockade which is forcing the country into famine. Yemen is just one of many proxy wars conducted by Saudi Arabia and Iran, as they scramble to become the dominant power of the Middle East. Proxy wars occur where one or multiple nations support and utilise a state or non-state actor to further their interests against an enemy nation-state. This indirect involvement prevents accountability and transparency, which explains why Saudi Arabia and Iran are capitalising on such opportunities. Media outlets, such as Vox, have dubbed these proxy wars ‘The Middle East’s Cold War’

As Yemen borders Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government was threatened by the Iranian backing of rebels on their doorstep. The involvement of Saudi Arabia in March 2015 marked a deadly turning point in the war. The force at which Saudi Arabia entered the conflict has drawn some criticism- namely the accusation of war crimes resulting from the allegations of indiscriminate bombings. One of these bombings occurred in 2018, where a United States supplied bomb hit a school bus, killing 40 Yemeni children. In October 2016, 155 people were killed, and 525 were injured in a bombing of a funeral. This attack was also carried out by a US supplied bomb. In response to the attack, Philipe Bolopion, the deputy director for Global Advocacy at Human Rights Watch stated: 

“The whole war has been marked by attacks on weddings, hospitals, civilian infrastructure, civilian locations, so it fits a pattern. Better late than never, but the world should have woken up a long time ago to this.”

 

“Clearly, the well being of citizens on the ground are of low priority to the powers at play.”

 

Saudi Arabia has also been accused of using famine as a weapon of war. Their blockade has directly contributed to widespread famine in the country. The blockade, combined with the regular bombing of hospitals, has crippled Yemen’s already struggling health system, resulting in the worst cholera outbreak in modern-day history. These tactics have highlighted a sinister dimension to this conflict. Clearly, the well being of citizens on the ground are of low priority to the powers at play. 

The United States and the United Kingdom have been providing Saudi Arabia with hundreds of billions of dollars in weapons sales, despite undeniable evidence of the weapons being used in the unlawful killing of civilians. Not only have the UK and the US supplied Saudi Arabia with aircraft and aircraft maintenance, but they are both involved in the training of Saudi forces in the use of these civilian killing machines. The US has provided additional support in the form of intelligence to Saudi Arabia, assisted in the refuelling of their war planes mid-flight, making airstrikes more frequent and deadly, and conducted a multitude of drone strikes themselves against terrorist targets in Yemen. Western powers who are perceived to be a beacon of morality and a voice of reason are cashing in on the conflict with no consideration for the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen.

The Obama administration established US involvement in Yemen. Over its tenure, the administration approved more than $100 Billion USD in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite Obama’s apparent disapproval for regional proxy wars. The value of these arms deals are set to dramatically increase under Trump. In 2017, an arms deal was signed with Saudi Arabia, securing an immediate 110 Billion USD worth of arms and totalling 350 Billion USD over ten years. In April 2019, Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution that would have ended American military involvement in Yemen. Worries about legal blowback plagued the Obama administration, resulting in a half-hearted effort to reduce civilian casualties by supplying Saudi Arabia with a ‘no-strike lists’ and calling for peace talks. In contrast, Trump doesn’t seem to have any such worries and has escalated American involvement in Yemen by promoting looser battlefield rules and increasingly conducting raids on Yemeni territory. One such raid left multiple innocent children dead, with no legitimate target in sight. Trump’s only concern seems to be lining American pockets and boasting about his arms deals without any consideration for human rights or laws governing warfare.

As you learn of the atrocities occurring in Yemen, I hope you are filled with outrage. We turn a blind eye on Yemen as it does not directly affect us in Europe. Yemeni refugees tend to flee to nearby countries such as Oman and Somalia, as it is so difficult geographically for them to reach Europe. However, as the truth becomes clearer, the suffering caused by this conflict is undeniable. Yemen has become a violent playground for both regional and international powers. The level of coverage this conflict gets is incomparable to the widespread outrage and demonstration in response to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Naturally, Saudi Arabia, Iran, The United Kingdom and The United States stand to benefit from the lack of understanding and media coverage. They continue to conduct themselves in a manner which completely disregards the Law of Armed Conflict, and the human rights of the 28.5 million Yemeni civilians gravely affected by the conflict.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by UNOCHA/ Giles Clarke

 

 

Why We Need More Women in Power

Why We Need More Women in Power

Women

Why We Need More Women In Power

a picture of the womens march
a picture of the womens march

4th July 2020

 

We’ve read the memes and had discussions with our friends regarding women in power. We know that women have ‘historically’ suffered societal and political discrimination, and have been underrepresented in government positions. For instance, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution only granted American women the right to vote on August 18, 1920, ending nearly a century of protest. A limited cohort of Irish women won the right to vote in 1918, but it wasn’t until 1922 that all Irish women got the right to vote. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the fourth President of Iceland, was the world’s first democratically directly elected female president, serving from August 1 1980 to 1996. Her famous quote “If anything can save the world, women can”, resonates with people, and especially women, today just as it did in the past.

 

We also know that ‘historical’ discrimination continues to this day. Less than 10% of countries have a female leader. The United States, one of the most powerful countries in the world, has yet to elect a female president. However, according to the Los Angeles Times, Americans are not only ready to have a female president but would prefer one! ABC News also recently published a poll which asked Americans whether they would be open to elect their first female president, and the results were positive. Many suggested it is time for a woman to both even out the playing field and act as a saving grace, particularly in light of recent political events with Trump’s presidency and multiple controversies relating to sexual harassment of women and his egocentric views on politics. With the rumours of Michelle Obama running for president in 2020, there is hope that the U.S. will finally make history and elect its first female president.

 

Throughout World War I and II the only political leaders were men, and most of the soldiers were also men. E.M Forster stated that “I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there could be no more wars”, which is a fascinating theory. Throughout the years mothers, wives and children were the ones suffering from the loss of loved ones at war and more than anyone wanted it to stop. Could war be avoided if women were involved?

Women have been excluded from politics and government for as long as history can remember. They were told to stay at home and care for the children and the home, and this was seen as the ‘traditional role’ of any woman. This was heavily influenced not only by religion and other patriarchal institutions but also by male bias including theories based on the fact that women have a smaller brain, a form of ‘neurosexism’ that persists to this day. According to President Daniel arap Moi, former president of Kenya, “You [women] can achieve more, can get more but because of your little minds, you cannot get what you are expected to get!” while leading a regional women’s seminar in Nairobi! When women in Saudi Arabia were fighting for their right to drive, Saad al-Hijri, head of fatwas in Saudi Arabia’s Assir governorate, stated that women shouldn’t drive because their brains shrink to a quarter the size of a man’s when they go shopping. Questioning what the traffic department would do it if it discovered a man with half a brain, he asked: “Would it give him a licence or not? It would not. So how can it give it to a woman when she has only half?”… “If she goes to the market she loses another half. What is left? A quarter … We demand the traffic department check because she is not suitable to drive and she has only a quarter.” After such comments, he was banned from preaching.

 

“Fine sees issues with how ‘facts’ about sex differences in the brain are sometimes produced, reported, cited and interpreted, saying that these can “become part of cultural lore, and reinforce social attitudes about men and women in ways that hinder progress towards greater sex equality.“”

Neurosexism is a universal problem, as explored by Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender, affecting all societies and cultures to some degree. Fine perceives neurosexism as damaging for men too, although women obviously suffer the most from these myths and the social attitudes that result from them. Of course, it is essential to point out that Fine is not dismissing the fact that there are specific sex differences in the brain which can be scientifically evidenced. (For instance, in a study of sex differences in reactions to pleasant and unpleasant slides (Gomez, Gunten, & Danuser, 2013), researchers found women reacted more negatively to unpleasant slides (e.g., mutilated bodies, physical violence, and suffering or dead animals), a sex difference that persisted in size from ages 20 to 81.)  Rather, Fine sees issues with how ‘facts’ about sex differences in the brain are sometimes produced, reported, cited and interpreted, saying that these can “become part of cultural lore, and reinforce social attitudes about men and women in ways that hinder progress towards greater sex equality.” 

 

While Fine perceives the concept of the gendered brain as inherently dangerous, there is another school of thought which suggests that the female brain is precisely what we need right now. Scientifically, women may be more emotional and sensitive, but maybe that’s exactly what is required in today’s world? Perhaps the type of leadership qualities typically associated with women are the same qualities which are most needed to transform our world, and bring it into greater balance? We need to feel compassion for the poor and homeless. We need to help those who are fleeing desperate situations with the hope for a refuge. We need to take care of the elderly and the sick. We need to spread values of love and equality throughout the world. 

 

Despite the setbacks, roadblocks and defeats they face, many women make significant changes in their own countries once in power. The following are some examples (although there are many more): Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel who, despite strong opposition from other ministers, opened Germany’s borders to immigrants from Syria during the Syrian refugee crisis. The president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was the first female president in Africa, received a nobel peace prize for her “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” The former Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt was the first female prince minister and leader of the social democrats in Denmark. She was responsible for loosening strict anti-immigration laws. She served as the Chief Executive for a non-governmental organization, Save the Children, which promoted the rights of children in developing countries. And last but not least the Chairperson of the State Bank of India, Arundhati Bhattacharya, who was the first woman to head the Bank. She changed the male-dominant culture of the bank to a female-friendly environment by allowing women to take two-year sabbaticals for going on maternity leave and caring for family members. These changes alleviated the fear for working women of India that they would lose their jobs if they needed or chose to care for their family.

 

This article is not saying that women are better than men; it’s trying to raise awareness of the fact that women have been largely neglected in government and political decision making and to open eyes to the negative implications of shutting women out of politics. Most countries worldwide have yet to elect a female representative, but are willing to chance their arm on countless mediocre male politicians. At the same time, women are held to a much higher standard even to be deemed electable. Politics should represent our society and reflect its diverse make-up. Given that the world’s population has a 50:50 male/female split, why can’t political parties be equal sex-wise? Why not have a male and female political head for each country? Even better, why not have a representative from each societal group to create a voice for each minority? Whether we are black, white, green, or purple, male or female or in-between, we are all people. Some might cry tokenism in response to this suggestion; however, the rationality of one leader as being sufficient to represent all is outdated and not working, so why not explore other models?  Giving one person such a massive responsibility for others is unfair and dangerous. Having two leaders would reduce that risk. Even better, having multiple people responsible for a country would create diversity and would minimise irrational government decisions.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Giacomo Ferroni

 

 

The Black Lives Matter Movement and Police Brutality

The Black Lives Matter Movement and Police Brutality

Business & Politics

The Black Lives Matter Movement and Police Brutality

Black and white photograph of yemeni children

3rd July 2020

 

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was founded in 2013, as a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin, which occurred in February 2012. The movement was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, who met through the Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD); a not for profit organisation which ‘facilitates social transformation and improves the living conditions of Black people by (re)building the social justice infrastructure’. Although the founders met through this organisation, the movement began with a Facebook post by Garza titled ‘A Love Note to Black People’ in which she stated ‘Our Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter’, to which Cullors replied #BlackLivesMatter. With Tometi lending her support, a movement was born. The movement continues to embrace social media as a tool to mobilise and garner attention for their causes and has been dubbed ‘a new civil rights movement’ by prominent media outlets such as The Guardian and The New York Times. According to Pew Research, between July 2013 and May 2018, #BlackLivesMatter was tweeted nearly 30 million times, averaging 17,002 tweets a day.

 

The BLM movement is now a global organisation, with branches in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. According to the movement’s website, their goal is to ‘eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes’. The organisation remains decentralised, with ‘leaders’ encouraging organisation at a local level, rather than national leadership. Local BLM chapters commit to the movement’s 13 guiding principles but operate in the absence of a hierarchy or central structure.

 

The BLM movement is particularly known for coordinating demonstrations protesting the deaths of numerous members of the Black community as a result of their interactions with law enforcement. They have advocated for community control of law enforcement officials; through empowering communities to hire and fire officials and issue subpoenas and promoting the community’s role of deciding disciplinary consequences and controlling the funding of the police department. In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd on May 25 2020, due to the actions of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the movement gained international attention once again. They coordinated protests via social media, which spread to all 50 US states and six continents. The impact of this movement has been felt globally, reaching unlikely corners of the world including Syria, where a mural for George Floyd surrounded by rubble was unveiled in Idlib. Importantly, these protests have sparked conversations around all forms of systemic racial inequality worldwide, from Direct Provision in Ireland to protesting the glorification of slave traders in the form of statues in the UK and Belgium. The protests have spearheaded the ‘Defund the Police’ slogan in the US and in response, the Minneapolis City Council voted to disband their police department on June 7 2020 with the City Council president Lisa Bender stating ‘Our efforts at incremental reform have failed. Period’.

Police target the African American community at disproportionate rates. 13% of the US population are Black, yet, according to Vox’s analysis of the FBI’s 2012 Supplementary Homicide Report, they account for 31% of all people killed by police and 39% of unarmed suspects killed by police. When you examine the data relating to white people, the reverse happens. They make up 63% of the US population, yet account for 52% of all people killed by police and 46% of unarmed suspects killed by police.

 

“Importantly, these protests have sparked conversations around all forms of systemic racial inequality worldwide, from Direct Provision in Ireland to protesting the glorification of slave traders in the form of statues in the UK and Belgium.”

In the US, police are required to complete, on average, 672 hours of basic training. In contrast, a barber requires 1,200 hours of training to cut your hair. When you compare the training period in the US with other countries, the disparities are startling. In Germany, 2.5-4 years of basic training are required before joining the police force. Even more concerning is the content of this training in the US. In a 2006 report by the US Justice Department, it was found that police officers clock up 111 hours on firearm skills and self-defence but spend just 8 hours being trained in mediation and conflict management, 11 hours on cultural diversity and human relations, 8 hours on community policing strategies and a mere 4 hours on hate crimes. This demonstrates the priorities rooted in police recruits from the beginning of their career. Rosa Brooks, Georgetown Law Professor, stated ‘many police recruits enter the academy as idealists, but this kind of training turns them into cynics’.

 

A significant part of the problem is police unions. They have stood against reforms of police departments and advocated for increased pay and quality of working conditions. They have successfully created a ‘hero narrative’ which puts the police on a pedestal of unquestionable power. This narrative states that the ordinary citizen could not possibly understand the daily difficult work a police officer does, therefore, they are not in a position to question them. The unionisation of police departments has been shown to encourage police brutality. A study by the University of Chicago Law School found that the unionisation in Florida resulted in a 40% increase in violent incident complaints.

 

Another consideration is the robust employment contracts the police unions fight for. In light of George Floyd’s death, it was revealed that Derek Chauvin, the policeman who knelt on the victim’s neck, had 17 complaints against him. However, this is unlikely to be representative of the actual number of complaints. It is extremely difficult to investigate the number of complaints against individual police officers as union contracts allow for the erasure of these records, which prevent us from knowing the nature of the grievance and act as built in protections making it difficult to discipline officers as a result of a complaint. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the police chief fired all officers involved in the incident. However, this is not necessarily permanent, as union contracts prevent the firing of officers, even by the police chief. Therefore, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that all of the officers involved will be reinstated through an adjudication process. Union contracts are a major hurdle in ending police brutality, holding police accountable and getting justice for victims.

 

Traditionally unions tend to identify with the ideological left. However, police unions are outliers and tend to draw support from the ideological right. The Republican party, who have historically sought to weaken unions, have supported and strengthened police unions. This has led to the politicisation of police unions. Standing against police unions or suggesting police reform is considered political suicide in the US, as unions have incredible fundraising power. San Francisco District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, ran for the office in 2019 and had a campaign agenda that included decarceration, eliminating cash bail, establishing a unit to re-examine wrongful convictions, and promoting police reform. In response, a coalition of police unions across California raised $700,000 for his campaign opponents and spent $400,000 on TV ads against Boudin’s campaign. Their efforts were unsuccessful, and Boudin was elected as District Attorney, but given their power, it is unsurprising that politicians often cower in the face of police unions.

 

The BLM movement works for a world in which ‘Black lives are no longer systemically targeted for demise’. However, it is clear that the agenda of police unions is fostering a culture of impunity, permeating the police force and enabling police brutality, directly translating into an unacceptably dangerous environment for Black communities in America. Police union contracts put accountability beyond the realm of possibility and fortify the notion that law enforcement are truly above the law. The obstacles and exceptions created by police unions protecting police officers such as Derek Chauvin, are not obvious to all people celebrating his arrest for the murder of George Floyd. It remains to be seen if these latest Black Lives Matter protests will be able to take on the hypocrisies of the American justice system.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Clay Banks

 

 

A Multi-Dimensional Approach to the Climate Crisis

A Multi-Dimensional Approach to the Climate Crisis

ENVIRONMENT

A Multi-Dimensional Approach to the Climate Crisis

Black and white photograph of yemeni children

Elizabeth Quinn

2nd July 2020

 

Human rights are a powerful tool and provide strong language to tackle the climate crisis. This can be seen in climate case Ireland. Our constitutional rights and the European convention on human rights are being used in this case to challenge Ireland’s national mitigation plan 2017. Climate cases worldwide have had symbolic value and created developments and clarifications in their own countries in several jurisdictions. Although national litigation has a role to play, it is limited in scope. In order to have a strategy effective overall to climate change, a multi-dimensional approach is also needed. We need to examine the limitations that human rights law has in its current formulation. Without being aware of these limitations we are in murky waters where the results of our efforts could be futile in the long term.

 

There are several criticisms of the human rights approach to the climate crisis. I will outline two: the limitations are useful in creative thinking of how else climate change can be dealt with, while complementing the human rights paradigm.

 

The first criticism is that there is an anthropocentric bias in climate strategies. This means that international human rights law is too focused on the individual. Climate cases argue that people’s rights will be affected if the climate is to degrade. This does not take the whole eco-system degradation into account. Thus the approach does not take into account the vulnerability of the eco-systems as a whole and the dependence that we have on the earth. Thus it is argued that human rights cannot respond efficiently to the demands and reality of the earth itself. 

 

Academics such as Kotzé have argued for a re-imagining of vulnerability theory in order to protect not only the individual but the environment itself. The author takes Fineman’s vulnerability theory which seeks to re-imagine the vulnerable subject as one who is universally created by social and political decisions. Kotzé argues that vulnerability should not be detached from environmental factors as our dependence on the earth makes us vulnerable. He states that using this theory will open space, much more than the current human rights paradigm, for a focus on the earth’s eco-system in a more comprehensive manner.

 

“The first criticism is that there is an anthropocentric bias in climate strategies. This means that international human rights law is too focused on the individual”

There is also a movement of giving legal personality to nature. Legal personality means to be capable of having rights and obligations. This provides rights for the resource itself. The idea of nature having legal personality was first written about in 1972 in the book “Should trees have standing”. In the book Stone argues that environmental interests should be recognized separately from human interests and thus nature should have legal standing. It is important to remember here that many other non-human entities have standing. For example, Companies have legal personality, so why shouldn’t nature? 

 

One recent example of this is the Whanganui River in New Zealand which has been declared to be a legal person. The river is one of New Zealand’s most important natural resources and the Maori tribe had been fighting for more than 140 years to get legal protection for the river. Based on this precedent other areas of New Zealand have also been declared to be legal persons. The river has rights and obligations. Two guardians have been appointed to act on behalf of the river- one from the crown and one from the tribe which traditionally use the river. This creates space for the river to be protected as an entity in itself, rather than being protected only when individuals are affected. 

 

This approach creates an alternative to the assumption that people have sovereignty over nature. The Paris agreement recognizes ecosystem integrity and has been argued to have a faint acknowledgement of this discourse. This argument creates an alternative to the individual-centric nature of the human rights approach.

 

The second criticism is the state-centric focus of international human rights law. Corporations have been left out of the equation. International human rights law is not directly applicable to corporations. This is problematic when fossil fuel corporations have accounted for 91% of the global industrial greenhouse emissions and 70% of all human-made emissions. An upheaval of the economic system is needed. There is a lack of political will to do so at this moment in time.

 

One asks- is there an international legal framework for business and human rights? The UN guiding principles on business and human rights are the core instrument at the international level. Although the instrument is powerful is is soft law and thus not binding. This means that corporations are not bound by it. Corporations themselves have begun initiatives, however many of them include self-reporting and are voluntary. Some of the biggest players in industries can opt-out of these initiatives. Thus there is a lack of direct obligations placed on corporations. There is a discussion now about a treaty on business and human rights, however, if it is an overarching treaty I believe it will not be supported by states and businesses alike due to their economic interests. 

 

The human rights approach does not seem to be capable of tackling the way in which the global economy operates. Without confronting this, it may not be possible to bring about the system change required. However, in tackling this, specific treaties for particular industries should be focused on. This would allow one to focus and regulate the industries which cause the most emissions and damage. It is doubtful, especially in this economy that this will happen.

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by ANGELA BENITO

 

 

The Yemen Crisis: What is the Human Cost?

The Yemen Crisis: What is the Human Cost?

HUMANITARIAN

The Yemen Crisis: What is the Human Cost?

Black and white photograph of yemeni children

Emily Murphy

1st July 2020

 

The Yemenis humanitarian crisis began in 2011 when revolutionary forces saw Ali Abdullah Saleh resign as president after 33 years in power. The transition of leadership from the former authoritarian president to his deputy was supposed to signal a turning point and the new era, in the country’s history, and it did, just not in the way anyone expected.

 

When Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi became president, it was expected that he would bring stability to a country that was still recovering from the Arab Spring uprising. Yet as food insecurity, mass unemployment, and jihadists attacks were an ever-present reality, it quickly became apparent that the issues which plagued Yemen were beyond Hadi’s control. Mr Hadi was subsequently exiled from Yemen in 2014 after Houthi Shia Muslim rebels took control of Saada and later the capital city. As the conflict raged on, the citizens of Yemen paid the price and continue to suffer as the crisis worsened.

 

While mainstream media outlets have scarcely reported on the crisis over the past few years, Yemen has become a global talking point in recent weeks. As the COVID-19 virus continues to claim hundreds of lives, respecting no borders and leaving no one untouched, it seems even Yemen must share in the global tragedy. The Yemenis people have among the lowest coronavirus immunity levels, but why is that?

 

While international governments continue to try forcibly destroy and disband the rebels and form a government in the country, Yemen slips further into disarray. Since fighting broke out in 2014, more than one million people have become internally displaced. While this has some notable and immediate effects such as increased homelessness, the erection of shantytowns and mass migration to cities less impacted by the war, it is the less obvious and slightly more delayed consequences that pose the greatest danger. As slum cities grow, they quickly begin draining the resources of the local area: poor sanitation and lack of adequate drainage increase the prevalence of waterborne diseases like cholera. As medical resources and treatments are rapidly used up, widespread illness becomes inevitable. The sudden arrival of large numbers of people strains food supply chains. As food becomes more scarce and immune systems weaken, sickness escalates. It is a vicious cycle, heart-wrenching to watch, and without the help of international emergency aid, it is almost impossible to solve. These are a tiny sample of the issues facing the Yemenis people, while the UN describes the crisis as” the worst in the world”, the question of what can be done hangs heavy.

 

“The UN suggests that 20 million people are food insecure, with 250,000 at risk of starving to death”

In 2019 the UN released the’ 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Yemen report’. Among other things, the paper estimated 3.2 million people were suffering from acute malnutrition. 360,000 of those are thought to be children under 5, and 1 million pregnant or lactating women. Data from the UN also suggests that 20 million people are food insecure, with 250,000 at risk of starving to death.

 

During such catastrophic times, it is effortless to see rights violations of those who have been displaced or who are starving. However, the violation of some children’s rights is often less visible. According to Human Rights Watch and a 2019 report from the’ UN Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen’, all parties involved in the conflict have used child soldiers at some point since September 2014, some of whom were under the age of 15. The secretary-general has put the number of recruited child soldiers at 3034. In 2018 the’ list of shame’ for violations against children in the armed conflict put the death toll 1185 children. While the conflict continues, this figure is unfortunately destined to rise.

 

As the rest of the world has put most of the time, money and resources into fighting COVID-19 in their home countries, donations to UN agencies are becoming scarce. As a result, it is becoming more difficult to carry out relief work. Yemen reported its first coronavirus case on 10 April. According to Abdul Rahman Al-Azraqi, a physician in Taiz,” many people are going about their lives unaware of danger”. Aid workers have had to turn people away, as they lack sufficient medical oxygen or even personal protective equipment. Reports continue to spread, suggesting that the Yemenis health system has all but collapsed, under the strain of the war and now the virus. While some figures of infections and deaths have been released, they remain on the low end of the spectrum and are not predicted to be very reliable, especially considering the reports that many mass graves have been dug.

 

The past decade has marked enormous change and turbulence for the Yemenis people. Homes and villages have been abandoned, and many in the country can barely remember a time before the conflict. The humanitarian crisis has altered the country in a way that will never be forgotten. However, as we progress into the future, new struggles face us all, those less fortunate will continue to need the help and compassion of those who are lucky enough to escape relatively unscathed. 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Rod Waddington

 

 

Pride in Ireland: Continuing the Fight for Equality

Pride in Ireland: Continuing the Fight for Equality

BUSINESS AND POLITICS
Pride in Ireland: Continuing the Fight for Equality
Lydia Howard Chevalier
27th June 2020
 

As we celebrate Pride Month, it is important to honour the pioneering achievements of early LGBT+ activists in Ireland. During the late 1970s and early 80s, a dark period marred by poverty, unemployment and the criminalisation of same-sex activity in Ireland, members of the LBGT+ community carried out several acts of resistance and defiance which would forever alter the social and political fabric of our nation.

 

Ireland’s first Pride Week was held in 1979, the same year the Hirschfield Centre in Dublin was officially opened, providing a much-needed safe space for LGBT+ individuals. During the 1979 Pride Week celebrations, two significant events took place; a political forum on homosexuality was held at Hirschfield, with several top politicians in attendance and an open night, welcoming members of the public to engage with LGBT+ issues which helped to dispel fears and stereotypes while furthering public discourse on LGBT+ rights. These powerful initiatives represented a huge step forward in the fight for equality, particularly through engaging with the wider community and the political sphere. This ensured that an issue which was not typically a political priority at the time remained fresh in people’s minds.

 

The criminalisation of same-sex activity, an unpleasant lingering after-effect of colonialism, served to marginalise the LGBT+ community in several, all-encompassing ways; many gay and lesbian individuals were forced to hide their sexuality for fear of prosecution, but also to avoid becoming social outcasts. Being openly gay at that time meant social isolation, the possibility of losing one’s job and a generally poor quality of life in a country heavily influenced and controlled by the Catholic Church’s teachings. Even our constitution casts a distinctly Christian shadow on the laws of our republic. In 1977, David Norris, a lecturer at Trinity College and founder of the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, began a legal challenge against the Irish State to decriminalise homosexuality. In 1980, his legal challenge was defeated, as was the appeal, with counter-arguments relying heavily on “natural law” and Christian tradition. However, this did not stop him, and he proceeded to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. He was rewarded for his perseverance when the Court ruled in his favour, paving the way for future changes to the discriminatory laws of the time. This was the case five years later when, during Pride Month in 1993, the Dáil passed legislation decriminalising homosexuality in Ireland.

 

“Despite the revolution in Irish laws and social attitudes in recent decades, as well as the provision for marriage equality in our constitution, it is vital that we do not become complacent”

With decriminalisation came a new wave of political and social engagement. The National Gay Federation saw the advantage of being media savvy and were decades ahead of their time with social media and campaigning. Their use of leafleting campaigns, public picnics and the publication of their own in-house magazine were pivotal to their success. Today, social media plays an equally important role; for the first time in an Irish poll, social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook were as influential in the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum campaign as traditional media, with high levels of engagement among young people. These platforms provide a useful means of motivating people of all ages to vote. The utilisation of social media proved effective when, during that same year, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote – a truly monumental day in the history of Pride in Ireland.

 

Black Pride is a very relevant global movement in the current context of the Black Lives Matter protests. It started in the 1990s as a way to provide black LGBT+ people with an alternative to the mainly white mainstream LGBT+ movement. This is a sad example of the compounded discrimination and isolation described by Russian asylum seeker and activist, Evgeny Shtorn, in a June 2019 article for the Irish Examiner. He describes the intolerable conditions that LGBT+ asylum seekers are forced to navigate on a daily basis. Regardless of the goodwill of the management in some Direct Provision centres, this type of closed environment is unsuitable for such a vulnerable minority. Many live with the fear of being humiliated, raped or attacked, and they are forced to police their behaviour, an exhausting daily routine. Many feel unable to speak about their struggles due to the fear of deportation. The fact that Ireland now has a Taoiseach who identifies as both gay and mixed-race is proof of the kind of progress Ireland is capable of making – if we can have an LGBT+ leader, then we should be capable of ensuring other LGBT+ individuals are more equally represented in all areas of our society so that they can not only survive, but thrive.

 

Despite the revolution in Irish laws and social attitudes in recent decades, as well as the provision for marriage equality in our constitution, it is vital that we do not become complacent. We have come a long way on our journey, but it is dangerous to think that we have reached our destination. The LGBT+ community still face discrimination in this country and many others. It is still illegal to be gay in 80 countries. LGBT+ people still face prison, homelessness, unemployment and even the death penalty in many places around the world, and this discrimination needs to end now.

 

A recent survey of young people in the Irish education system, conducted by Belong To youth services and Columbia University, found that as many as ¾ of gay or transgender teenagers feel unsafe in school, with many receiving homophobic remarks from both students and teachers. They see school as an unwelcoming environment for them, and they are made to feel excluded. This provides us with an opportunity for change. An important step forward is to instil a sense of fairness, justice and equality in our children and adolescents. This can be achieved through high quality, inclusive and holistic education which encompasses the discussion and normalisation of LGBT+ issues, thus creating a new generation of LGBT+ rights defenders.

 

This year’s Pride Celebrations have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; however, according to the organisers, “Pride isn’t cancelled, we’re just bringing it home!”. Modern technology is enabling a wide range of virtual workshops, tutorials and book readings to go ahead this month, bringing the celebrations straight to people’s homes. Not even a pandemic will get in the way of determined activists!

 

 

Featured photo by Brand New Retro