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16 Oct, 2018 14:00

Saudi Arabia under spotlight over Khashoggi, but drastic Yemen famine ignored

Saudi Arabia under spotlight over Khashoggi, but drastic Yemen famine ignored

Yemen is on the verge of a devastating famine as it continues to endure Saudi coalition airstrikes. Despite this, most of the criticism levied at the Kingdom is about missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has warned that 12 million people are expected to face the worst famine in 100 years in mere months, as fighting around the vital port of Hodeidah continues.

READ MORE: ‘Evidence’ Saudi-led coalition aims to destroy food production in Houthi-controlled Yemen – report

It has called on the Saudi-led coalition - which has been bombing the country since March 2015, with arms supplied by the US and UK - to halt airstrikes on the country which ordinarily imports 90 percent of its food.

More than eight million Yemenis are currently severely food insecure. The 2017 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan warned 3 million children and pregnant or nursing women are acutely malnourished, including 400,000 children under the age of five.


The WFP’s report is just the latest warning of humanitarian disaster in Yemen over the years, and yet, the plight of the Yemeni people goes largely underreported. The bombing of a school bus in August gained some traction, but the situation in Yemen doesn’t usually inspire the same collective-handwringing as other conflicts.

READ MORE: Dozens of children slaughtered and injured in coalition airstrike on bus in Yemen

Following the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, believed to have been dismembered inside the Saudi embassy in Turkey on October 2, the media is starting to pay more attention to the Kingdom and cast a more critical eye on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The latest developments in the Khashoggi case are the main agenda in news programs and critical commentaries are appearing in countless mainstream outlets. The story is inspiring far more outrage than the death of some 10,000 Yemenis.

Khashoggi’s last column in the Post highlighted the dire situation in Yemen, and suggested the Kingdom go from being “warmaker to peacemaker.”


However, not everyone has been quiet. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has used the Khashoggi outrage to draw attention to Yemen, saying it is the “world’s largest humanitarian disaster,” and that Khashoggi’s disappearance “only underscores how urgent” it is for the US to redefine its relationship with the Gulf state.

The former Democratic presidential candidate plans to reintroduce his resolution to stop supporting the war in Yemen, to “show the Saudis they do not have a blank check to continue human rights violations.”

Sanders, along with progressives like Tulsi Gabbard and Ro Khanna and libertarian Ron Paul are some of the only politicians to have called out Saudi atrocities before the Khashoggi affair.

Bandwagon journalists?

Khashoggi’s fate has inspired a number of journalists to highlight other human rights abuses the Kingdom is accused of, with some shining a light on Yemen, prompting others to accuse them of hypocrisy.

In some cases, these media outlets and journalists are guilty of having sung the praises of the young Crown Prince, despite the war’s atrocities and human rights abuses not being secret. The Washington Post, whose owner Jeff Bezos attended a dinner party with MbS when he visited the US in March, has come out swinging in the wake of Khashoggi’s disappearance, contradicting the many pro-Saudi pieces it has published in the past, some from people being paid by the Kingdom.

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who penned a gushing article on MbS after visiting him in Riyadh last year, illustrated the lack of empathy elements of the media hold for Yemenis in a recent column which explained it would be “an unfathomable violation of norms of human decency, worse not in numbers but in principle than even the Yemen war,” if Khashoggi is confirmed murdered by the Saudis.

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