The conflict in Yemen is complex because on the one hand, it involves political, social, humanitarian, military and cultural issues that directly and violently affect civil society. On the other hand, the diversity of actors that are part of the conflict have antagonistic interests, as well as shifting ones, which do not allow for laying the basis for negotiation.
Religious intolerance between the majority Sunnis and the minority Shiites is one of the main causes of the Yemeni conflict. It also legitimates cultural violence in all forms of structural violence, such as denial of autonomy and political participation, discrimination and inequality; the maximum expression of this imbalance is the unleashing of direct violence. One of the main actors in the Yemeni conflict is the Houthis rebels. In 2014 this rebel group burst into the presidential palace, forcing President Abu Rabu Mansour Hadi to resign. The rebels are Shia Muslims, a branch of the Zaidies who are minorities in Yemen and who demand equal opportunity.
The Houthis receive military training and funding from Iran since they coincide in some interests, such as the promulgation and extension of the beliefs of Zaydism. There are also economic interests, such as securing geostrategic cities to allow them access to trade via the Red Sea. Another actor is the Al Hirak movement, which has control in the south of Yemen and demands independence. Further, there are the forces loyal to Hadi’s predecessor, Ali Abdala Saleh, who are fighting to bring former President Saleh back into power, and the Hadi government forces of Sunni majority, and the coalition led by Saudi Arabia (Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Malaysia, and Sudan). Lastly, the terrorist groups of Al-Qaeda and Daesh play a role in the conflict. Their position is the non-interference of the West, the expansion of Islam, and economic interests.
Impact of conflict on civil society
The humanitarian situation in Yemen has increased, according to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) this year, showing that more than 17 million Yemenis face the threat of a food crisis. The increase in the number of people affected by famine was 21%, which means that urgent international aid is needed for 20 out of the 22 provinces in Yemen. According to the UN, 1,750 people died of cholera and approximately 16 million do not have access to quality water. Poor sanitary control has also triggered the spread of cholera to more than 90% of the country. According to UNICEF, around 1,400 children have died in Yemen since 2015 as a result of famine or cholera attacks. Airstrikes have targeted civilians and also blocked humanitarian aid efforts, both of which constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.
Imperative of humanitarian aid
The need for urgent humanitarian aid in Yemen is a top priority for various UN agencies. The humanitarian aid projects implemented by these agencies replace the few advances made in the resumption of talks. According to the UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, there is an expectation that the dialogue may resume if both sides wish to discuss the Port of Al Hudayda in the Red Sea. In this case, however, the mediators are crucial to the lack of communication, trust and credibility on the part of participants on both sides. Nonetheless, it is necessary to make the Yemeni conflict visible as the lives of Yemenis are fading quickly. An agreement must be reached so that at least a cease-fire is established and there may be free and safe access of humanitarian aid (food security and health) to reduce the risk of death.
At the micro-level, the necessary components are: political inclusion of the key actors in Parliament, new elections, and policies of equitable redistribution. Joint infrastructure projects and mixed schools could be implemented to allow for cultural exchange and socialization. In order to achieve all of this, however, the first step is to recognize the right to inclusion in all spheres of minority groups in Yemen.