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Why The Yemen Famine Doesn’t Feel New

There would hardly be an intellectual on earth at this moment that would be unaware of what is happening in Yemen – and because of whom it is happening, for that matter. Famine, dying children, water-less land, lifeless streets, haunting quietness, and deafening airstrikes is all but a part of the routine since over a year now. Despite all of this, I’d dare to say that this is not something the world has never seen before. The famine in Yemen is a hundred percent man-made – there’s no denying that – and the pages of history are not empty of examples that would well-resemble it.

You know what we Pakistanis say about such situations? We say, power di game ay sari, power di game (it’s all a game of power, everything) and not wrongly do we say it. Indeed, it is a game of power and those who possess it. History knows it. It has seen it and it has felt it. Those with huge armies and full coffers are the players of this game. And the rest of us? Oh, we’re just the playground. Who cares what happens to the playground, right? Today, one part of the playground is getting destructed, and tomorrow it will be the turn of another. And just like no one cares today, no one will care tomorrow.

On Nov. 5, 2017, the Saudi Arabian coalition – which includes fancy countries like UK, USA and UAE – imposed a fuel blockade on Yemen. As a result, the Yemen which was already fighting poverty started running out of fuel that was needed for them to be able to grow food stuff on the scale that Yemen needed. Moreover, according to UNICEF, Saudi Arabian airstrikes have been deliberately targeting water resources in the war-ridden country. Up until now, about 85,000 Yemeni children alone have starved to death. I read in an article that only the small groups of rich foreigner journalists were able to afford actual food in Yemen, while the others lived on boiled leaves.

All this sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It does to me. I remember sitting in my history class reading up on the Victorian Colonialism and reading about a similar famine, the 1943 famine that hit Bengal. About 2.1 to 3 million people were killed by this man-made famine. At that time, the order of the day was to usurp the land of Bengalis as they continued to die of hunger and to save whatever amount of food there was for the soldiers and officials of British India. Food wasn’t totally extinct. It was saved for the privileged, because there was a World War going on that these exploiters had to win.

“Famine or no famine. Indians will breed like rabbits,” said Winston Churchill, the hero to some and war criminal to others.

This sentence really shows the amount of care he had for the people dying due to the governmental policies, just like the architect of the current Yemeni famine, Muhammad Bin Salman – who is not-so-surprisingly aided by the same Britain that has a fancier name now.

This famine of Bengal isn’t the only example I could give. Starving, dividing, oppressing are but the tools at the disposal of these “powerful” people who are too drowned in their own arrogance to be able to think of the humanity suffering because of them. For them, the important thing is to win which is what they are trying to do by displaying their hollow power. In the end, it always comes down to just that.

Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

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Huda Z
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Huda is an avid reader, writer and illustrator. She writes about politics, books, Muslim women and shares most of her work on her Instagram.

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