By Stephen Bell
On 20 and 21 August the ‘International Conference in support of the people in Yemen’ was held in London. 23 countries were represented at the conference, the aim of which was to highlight the Saudi-led war, and to promote action to bring the war to an end.
The Conference coincided with a huge demonstration in Sana’a on 20 August. This action was called by Ansar Allah (includes Houthis) and the General People’s Congress Party. The size of the demonstration was extraordinary enough, as can be seen on the internet videos. Even more extraordinary is that this took place in a city that has been subject to widespread bombardment by the Saudis. A bombing took place near and during the demonstration, resulting in three deaths. The action was called in support of the new government announced earlier. Both the demonstration and the establishment of a new government show the refusal of the people to accept a Saudi-dictated solution.
The Conference watched a video message from Ambassador Abdullah Hajjar. He had planned to attend, but the British consulate had refused him a visa, another instance of British government support for the Saudi dictatorship. He explained that the delegation to the Kuwait peace talks ‘has made concessions in negotiations to avoid a vacuum which could aid Al Qaeda’. But the Saudis had insisted that all territory won be surrendered, all cities controlled be evacuated, and heavy arms be surrendered before a new government is discussed. This ultimatum led to the collapse of the talks, and the new government being set up.
A number of Yemeni speakers addressed conference, including Ahmed Almoaiad (Sheba for Democracy and Human Rights) who has been at the peace talks; Kim Sharif (Human Rights for Yemen) who has been organising legal and political support; Riaz Karim (Mona Relief) who has been helping break the Saudi siege through regular aid convoys. There were speakers and contributions from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Bahrain, Sudan, Kuwait, Egypt, Malaysia and India. The peace movement was well represented from Canada, US, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Holland. Lindsey German and Andrew Murray spoke from Stop the War, and there were speakers from Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Prominent politicians who addressed the conference included Tasmina Sheikh (SNP MP), Pauline McNeill (Labour MSP), and George Galloway. Francie Malloy MP spoke on behalf of Sinn Féin.
The Conference carried a declaration which called upon the UN to recognise the new political institutions; for an end to the bombings and siege; and for the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes. Further action is being considered, including an international day of action. The success of the conference adds to the growing movement to end the Saudi-led war.