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Instead Of Helping Yemen’s Kids, We Bloody Our Hands
Tony Burman

As Canadians, what is it about the image of a dying child that moves us so?

Yemeni mother and child

You may remember the harrowing pictures of Ethiopia's starving children 30 years ago during their historic famine. Their plight spurred Canadians on to lead the world in famine relief.

Or how about the heartbreaking photo two years ago of the lifeless body of tiny Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach? It encouraged Canada to become a world leader in welcoming Syrian refugees.

Yes, what is it about the image of a dying child that moves us as Canadians - except, it seems, if these children come from Yemen, the scene of what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

What else are we to conclude?

According to the UN, Yemen is on the brink of famine. Nearly two million Yemeni children are starving and many have died or have been seriously injured in bombing attacks by the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Dramatic photos of these children finally became public this week - and have gone viral around the world on social media - in spite of sweeping Saudi efforts to block media coverage.

As Canadians, we should stare at these pictures and be ashamed. This time, unlike in Ethiopia and Syria, Canada is no innocent bystander. Our support of this criminal Saudi action may not be as direct as that of the United States and Britain. But our hands are as bloodied.

By becoming a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, one of the world's worst violators of human rights, Canada is very much complicit in the war crimes being waged against Yemeni civilians by the Saudi military.

Like most everywhere in the Arab world, the story of this conflict is not a simple one - and blame for what is happening should be widely shared.

...

For the past two years, the Saudi-led military coalition has taken the fight to the revolutionaries..., bombing civilians and blockading the besieged Ansarullah-held areas. The impact of the conflict on the Yemeni population has been horrific.

The death toll has surpassed 10,000 - with many of them children - and more than 40,000 people have been wounded. According to observers, most of the injuries and death can be traced to the Saudi coalition, and many of them come from direct Saudi airstrikes on civilians, which would constitute war crimes.

What fuels Saudi Arabia's regional ambitions is a massive military buildup in recent years. Like feeding drugs to an addict, the US and Britain have led the way in arms sales to the Saudi military, and they have also provided logistical support and intelligence to the Yemeni mission.

Canada is not officially a member of the Saudi coalition in Yemen but we have been an enthusiastic arms supplier to the Saudi military.

A government report in June indicated that the Saudi government purchased more than $142 million of Canadian arms in 2016, and this made Saudi Arabia the biggest recipient of Canadian arms other than the United States.

Although the government claims these sales impose restrictions on how the Saudis can use Canadian combat vehicles, there are indications that these limits are being ignored.

Recent video disclosed by The Globe and Mail and the CBC suggests that the Saudis may have deployed Canadian vehicles against Saudi citizens. And in 2016, it appeared that Canadian-made armored vehicles were operating in Yemen.

Is this a surprise? Of course not. Only the naive and delusional would believe that Saudi Arabia would treat Canada's "restrictions" seriously.

So, if we look closely at the pictures of the Yemeni children being circulated this week, we have a choice as Canadians.

We can admit our complicity in these crimes, and move on.
Or we can remember what Ethiopia in 1985 and Syria in 2015 revealed about Canadians - and conclude that we can do better.

A starting point would be to do what Amnesty international is urging of Canada: to call upon all states - including Canada - to stop supplying any weapons and military equipment to all the warring parties in Yemen.

I wonder what these Yemeni children would want us to do.

Source: The Star, Edited by Website Team

04-09-2017 | 14:54


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