Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 19th, 2016

Well-to-do young Saudis to work for money? About time

Young Saudis discover that they have to work for money

In pressed white robes and clutching crisp résumés, young Saudi men packed a massive hall at a university in the capital city this month to wait in long lines to pitch themselves to employers.

It was one of three job fairs in Riyadh in two weeks, and the high attendance was fueled in part by fear among the younger generation of what a future of cheap oil will mean in a country where oil is everything.

For decades, the royal family has used the kingdom’s immense oil wealth to lavish benefits on its people, including free education and medical care, generous energy subsidies and well-paid (and often undemanding) government jobs.

And No one paid taxes, and if political rights were not part of the equation, that was fine with most people.

But the drop in oil prices to below $30 a barrel from more than $100 a barrel in June 2014 means that the old math no longer works.

Low oil prices have knocked a chunk out of the government budget and now pose a threat to the unwritten social contract that has long underpinned life in the kingdom, the Arab world’s largest economy and a key American ally.

Bechara Choucair and Georges Azzi shared this link
Saudi Arabia has survived oil shocks before, but now 70 percent of its citizens are under 30, and they face a harder future than their parents.|By Ben Hubbard

The shift is already echoing through the economy, with government projects delayed, spending limits imposed on ministries and high-level discussions about measures long considered impossible, like imposing taxes and selling shares of Saudi Aramco, the state-run oil giant that is estimated to be the world’s most valuable company.

(Today, Saudi Arabia cancelled out $4 billion aid to Lebanon, promised 3 years ago. It did prevent Saudi Arabia of purchasing this year over $30 billion in new weapons from the US, England and France)

The proposal announced on Tuesday by the oil ministers of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Qatar and Venezuela to freeze output levels is one attempt to stabilize world oil prices, but it remained uncertain how effective it would be if other countries, like Iran and Iraq, declined to follow suit.

For younger Saudis — 70% of the population is under 30 — the oil shock has meant a lowering of expectations as they face the likelihood that they will have to work harder than their parents, enjoy less job security and receive fewer perks.

“For the older generation, it was easier,” said Abdulrahman Alkhelaifi, 20, during a break from his job at McDonald’s. “They’d get out of university and get a government job. Now you need an advanced degree.”

 Of his generation, he said, “The weight is on our necks.”

It is hard to overstate the importance of oil in the development of modern Saudi Arabia.

In decades, it rocketed a poor, mostly rural country to affluence, with most of its 21 million citizens now living in cities festooned with skyscrapers and streets filled with S.U.V.s.

Oil wealth also allowed the ruling Al Saud family to maintain its grip on power, wield clout abroad through checkbook diplomacy and invest billions of dollars in promoting an austere interpretation of Islam around the world.

The oil boom over the past decade helped all of this, and was good for Saudis at home. Household incomes rose, and the number of men and women pursuing higher education multiplied.

But the fat years left the economy poorly structured, economists say: 90 percent of government revenues are from oil; 70 percent of working Saudis are employed by the government; and even the private sector remains heavily dependent on government spending. (like most high-tech companies in the USA depend on the military and the government)

Nor did advances in education create a large professional class or inculcate a culture of hard work.

Most of the country’s engineers and health care workers are foreign, and many government employees vacate their offices midafternoon, or earlier.

But with oil revenues crashing and the numbers of young people reaching the work force growing by the day, those jobs have become harder to get as the government cuts costs and pushes Saudis toward the private sector, where job security and salaries are lower on average.

“There is an issue with the sustainability of the economic model in Saudi Arabia, and the oil price can be seen as a wake-up call,” said Fahad Alturki, chief economist at Jadwa Investment in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia still has room to maneuver, he said, thanks to large cash reserves, low public debt and lots of new infrastructure that can aid economic growth.

But the generational differences are clear.

One woman who recently earned a Ph.D. in a medicine-related field in the United States said that her father had been tracked into the military, where he got training abroad, free housing, medical care and schooling for his children. When her mother finished her degree in Arabic, she immediately got a job near her house — and a cash bonus from the state, just for graduating.

Their daughter has struggled to find work, despite being better educated and fluent in English. Her husband, also educated in the United States, is also unemployed, and they live with her family.

“My parents had great opportunities,” she said, requesting anonymity so as not to hinder her job search. “They provided well and we had a comfortable life, so I always thought it would be the same for us.”

These economic stresses come at a time of chaos in the Middle East and of generational change in the royal family.

Spearheading economic policy is Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose father, King Salman, passed over older and more experienced princes to put the 30-year-old in charge of many of the country’s most important affairs, stirring private anger among some other royals.

Prince Mohammed, who is also the defense minister and second in line to the throne, has launched a costly war in Yemen and talks about radical changes to the economy, like raising fuel prices, imposing taxes on undeveloped land and some consumer goods, and privatizing state-run companies.

But details on implementation are scarce, causing uncertainty over many issues like what it will cost to fill a gas tank or power a factory in five years. That has made it hard for businesses to plan for the future, which further undermines the sputtering economy.

At the same time, Saudis are not accustomed to the government taking bold, fast action.

Change tends to be introduced incrementally. That cultural trait is now complicating the need to move fast to meet the economic and demographic challenges.

A Saudi executive in the construction industry said that change was needed, but that moving too fast could hurt businesses.

“It has to be done and I am with it, but you can’t change decades’ worth of problems in a few years,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his business interests. “No way.”

Economists say that at least 250,000 young Saudis enter the job market every year, and that making them effective members of the work force is a major challenge.

The glut of graduates was clear at the job fair, where most applicants had come from large public universities that often fail to give students the language and technical skills employers want.

Most of those interviewed had never had a job before and said their fathers worked for the government. While some thought private companies offered better experience, many wanted the perks of a government job.

“It’s a good experience, but there is no rest and no job security,” said Ali al-Ariyani, 24, who worked at a private hospital and wanted a change. “The days are long and you can’t even go out to smoke.”

At a separate location for women, many applicants complained that their degrees had not given them the skills, like fluency with computers, that employers want. One group of women had earned degrees in microbiology only to learn that they lacked the required licenses for hospital jobs.

“Our main issue is that our university did not prepare us for the job market,” said Khuloud al-Khateeb, 23, adding that many hospitals preferred to hire foreigners for lower salaries.

In recent years, the government has pushed for greater Saudi employment, penalizing companies with few Saudi employees. Many employers hate the program, saying it forces them to swell their payrolls with people who contribute little.

Even companies that have hired lots of Saudis have often had to rely on significant social engineering to get them working.

Saudis made up one-third of the crew at a Riyadh McDonald’s on a recent morning, manning the drive-up window and cash register and making fries.

“Is this spicy?” one yelled to a colleague. “One large fries, please!”

While they do the same work as foreigners, they earn much more. Salaries for foreign crew start at $320 a month, while Saudis get $1,460, part of which is subsidized by the government.

The company also gives Saudis more flexibility and has created fast-track programs to move them into management.

Four Saudi workers gathered in a break room said they liked their jobs but worried that they would not be as successful as their fathers, all of whom worked for the government.

They knew the government had less money to employ citizens, which meant their generation would have to work harder.

“The government is good, but our generation is spoiled,” said Ahmed Mohammed, 21. “Everyone wants a government job.”

His colleagues agreed. “Everyone wants to sit at home and get paid,” Mr. Alkhelaifi said.

Sheikha al-Dosary contributed reporting.

Note: It is to be reminded that this a new dynasty taking over and other section of the princes and princesses will be reaping whatever the sovereign fund has accumulated.


Meet the Robin Hood of Science

The tale of how one researcher has made nearly every scientific paper ever published available for free to anyone, anywhere in the world.

On the evening of November 9th, 1989, the Cold War came to a dramatic end with the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Four years ago another wall began to crumble, a wall that arguably has as much impact on the world as the wall that divided East and West Germany.

The wall in question is the network of paywalls that cuts off tens of thousands of students and researchers around the world, at institutions that can’t afford expensive journal subscriptions, from accessing scientific research.

On September 5th, 2011, Alexandra Elbakyan, a researcher from Kazakhstan, created Sci-Hub, a website that bypasses journal paywalls, illegally providing access to nearly every scientific paper ever published immediately to anyone who wants it.

The website works in two stages:

First, by attempting to download a copy from the LibGen database of pirated content, which opened its doors to academic papers in 2012 and now contains over 48 million scientific papers.

The ingenious part of the system is that if LibGen does not already have a copy of the paper, Sci-hub bypasses the journal paywall in real time by using access keys donated by academics lucky enough to study at institutions with an adequate range of subscriptions.

This allows Sci-Hub to route the user straight to the paper through publishers such as JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier.

After delivering the paper to the user within seconds, Sci-Hub donates a copy of the paper to LibGen for good measure, where it will be stored forever, accessible by everyone and anyone.

This was a game changer.

Before September 2011, there was no way for people to freely access paywalled research en masse; researchers like Elbakyan were out in the cold. Sci-Hub is the first website to offer this service and now makes the process as simple as the click of a single button.

As the number of papers in the LibGen database expands, the frequency with which Sci-Hub has to dip into publishers’ repositories falls and consequently the risk of Sci-Hub triggering its alarm bells becomes ever smaller.

Elbakyan explains, “We have already downloaded most paywalled articles to the library … we have almost everything!” This may well be no exaggeration.

Elsevier, one of the most prolific and controversial scientific publishers in the world, recently alleged in court that Sci-Hub is currently harvesting Elsevier content at a rate of thousands of papers per day. Elbakyan puts the number of papers downloaded from various publishers through Sci-Hub in the range of hundreds of thousands per day, delivered to a running total of over 19 million visitors.

The efficiency of the system is really quite astounding, working far better than the comparatively primitive modes of access given to researchers at top universities, tools that universities must fork out millions of pounds for every year.

Users now don’t even have to visit the Sci-Hub website at all; instead, when faced with a journal paywall they can simply take the Sci-Hub URL and paste it into the address bar of a paywalled journal article immediately after the “.com” or “.org” part of the journal URL and before the remainder of the URL. When this happens, Sci-Hub automatically bypasses the paywall, taking the reader straight to a PDF without the user ever having to visit the Sci-Hub website itself.

If, at first pass the network fails to gain access to the paper, the system automatically tries different institutions’ credentials until it gains access.

In one fell swoop, a network has been created that likely has a greater level of access to science than any individual university, or even government for that matter, anywhere in the world. Sci-Hub represents the sum of countless different universities’ institutional access — literally a world of knowledge.

This is important now more than ever in a world where even Harvard University can no longer afford to pay skyrocketing academic journal subscription fees, while Cornell axed many of its Elsevier subscriptions over a decade ago.

For researchers outside the US’ and Western Europe’s richest institutions, routine piracy has long been the only way to conduct science, but increasingly the problem of unaffordable journals is coming closer to home.

This was the experience of Elbakyan herself, who studied in Kazakhstan University and just like other students in countries where journal subscriptions are unaffordable for institutions, was forced to pirate research in order to complete her studies.

Elbakyan told me, “Prices are very high, and that made it impossible to obtain papers by purchasing. You need to read many papers for research, and when each paper costs about 30 dollars, that is impossible.”

So how did researchers like Elbakyan ever survive before Sci-Hub? Elbakyan explains, “Before Sci-Hub, this problem was solved manually for years! For example, students would go to an online forum where other researchers communicate, and request papers there; other people would respond to the request.”

This practice is widespread even today, with researchers even at rich Western institutions now routinely forced to email the authors of papers directly, asking for a copy by email, wasting the time of everyone involved and holding back the progress of research in the process.

Today many researchers use the #icanhazpdf hashtag on Twitter to ask other benevolent researchers to download paywalled papers for them, a practice Elbakyan describes as “very archaic,” pointing out that “especially in Russia, the Sci-Hub project started a new era in how research work is done. Now, the requests for information are solved by machines, not the hands of other researchers. Automation made the process of solving requests very effective. Before, hundreds of requests were solved per day; Sci-Hub turned these numbers into hundreds of thousands.”

Last year, New York District Court Judge Robert W. Sweet delivered a preliminary injunction against Sci-Hub, making the site’s former domain unavailable. The injunction came in the run-up to the forthcoming case of Elsevier vs. Sci-Hub, a case Elsevier is expected to win — due, in no small part, because no one is likely to turn up on U.S. soil to initiate a defence.

Elsevier alleges “irreparable harm,” based on statutory damages of $750-$150,000 for each pirated work. Given that Sci-Hub now holds a library of over 48 million papers Elsevier’s claim runs into the billions, but can be expected to remain hypothetical both in theory and in practice.

Elsevier is the world’s largest academic publisher and by far the most controversial.

Over 15,000 researchers have vowed to boycott the publisher for charging “exorbitantly high prices” and bundling expensive, unwanted journals with essential journals, a practice that allegedly is bankrupting university libraries.

Elsevier also supports SOPA and PIPA, which the researchers claim threatens to restrict the free exchange of information. Elsevier is perhaps most notorious for delivering takedown notices to academics, demanding them to take their own research published with Elsevier off websites like

The movement against Elsevier has only gathered speed over the course of the last year with the resignation of 31 editorial board members from the Elsevier journal Lingua, who left in protest to set up their own open-access journal, Glossa.

Now the battleground has moved from the comparatively niche field of linguistics to the far larger field of cognitive sciences. Last month, a petition of over 1,500 cognitive science researchers called on the editors of the Elsevier journal Cognition to demand Elsevier offer “fair open access”. Elsevier currently charges researchers $2,150 per article if researchers wish their work published in Cognition to be accessible by the public, a sum far higher than the charges that led to the Lingua mutiny.

In a letter to the judge, Elbakyan defended her decision not on legal grounds, but on ethical grounds.

Elbakyan writes: “When I was a student in Kazakhstan University, I did not have access to any research papers. These papers I needed for my research project. Payment of 32 dollars is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them.

Later I found there are lots and lots of researchers (not even students, but university researchers) just like me, especially in developing countries. They created online communities (forums) to solve this problem.

I was an active participant in one of such communities in Russia. Here anyone who needs a research paper, but cannot pay for it, could place a request and other members who can obtain the paper will send it for free by email. I could obtain any paper by pirating it, so I solved many requests and people always were very grateful for my help. After that, I created, a website that simply makes this process automatic and the website immediately became popular.

It is true that Sci-Hub collects donations, however we do not pressure anyone to send them.

Elsevier, in contrast, operates by racket: If you do not send money, you will not read any papers.

On my website, any person can read as many papers as they want for free, and sending donations is their free will. Why can Elsevier not work like this, I wonder?”

In her letter to Sweet, Elbakyan made a point that will likely come as a shock to many outside the academic community: Researchers and universities don’t earn a single penny from the fees charged by publishers such as Elsevier for accepting their work, while Elsevier has an annual income over a billion U.S. dollars.

Elbakyan explains: “I would also like to mention that Elsevier is not a creator of these papers. All papers on their website are written by researchers, and researchers do not receive money from what Elsevier collects. That is very different from the music or movie industry, where creators receive money from each copy sold.

But the economics of research papers is very different. Authors of these papers do not receive money. Why would they send their work to Elsevier then?

They feel pressured to do this, because Elsevier is an owner of so-called “high-impact” journals. If a researcher wants to be recognized, make a career — he or she needs to have publications in such journals.”

This is the Catch-22. Why would any self-respecting researcher willingly hand over, for nothing, the copyright to their hard work to an organization that will profit from the work by making the keys prohibitively expensive to the few people who want to read it?

The answer is ultimately all to do with career prospects and prestige. Researchers are rewarded in jobs and promotions for publishing in high-ranking journals such as Nature.

Ironically, it is becoming increasingly common for researchers to be unable to access even their own published work, as wealthier and wealthier universities join the ranks of those unable to pay rising subscription fees.

Another tragic irony is the fact that high-impact journals can actually be less reliable than lesser-ranked journals, due to their requirements that researchers publish startling results, which can lead to a higher incidence of fraud and bad research practices.

But things are changing.

Researchers are increasingly fighting back against the problem of closed-access publishers and now funders of research such as the Wellcome Trust are increasingly joining the battle by instituting open access policies banning their researchers from publishing in journals with closed access. But none of this helps researchers who need access to science right now.

For her part, Elbakyan isn’t giving up the fight, in spite of the growing legal pressure, which she feels is totally unjust. When I asked what her next move would be, Elbakyan said, “I do not want Elsevier to learn about our plans,” but assured me she was not put off by the recent court order, defiantly stating “we are not going to stop our activities, and plan to expand our database.”

Already, only days after the court injunction blocking Sci-Hub’s old domain, Sci-Hub was back online at a new domain accessible worldwide.

Since the court judgment, the website has been upgraded from a barebones site that existed entirely in Russian to a polished English version proudly boasting a library of 48 million papers, complete with a manifesto in opposition to copyright law.

The bird is out of its cage, and if Elsevier still thinks it can put it back, they may well be sorely mistaken.

This isn’t the end of they story. Click here to read part two — The Robin Hood of Science: The Missing Chapter

Update 02/16/16: Since last week’s deluge of traffic to Sci-Hub following this story Google have blocked Sci-Hub’s access to Google Scholar, making the search function temporarily defunct.

The service otherwise works as before, users simply have to find the link to the paper they need unlocked themselves, and insert Sci-hub’s complete URL into the domain as discussed above.

When I asked Alexandra about this setback she was completely unfazed, explaining “we are developing our own search engine anyway, so it doesn’t matter”.

Ironically, the Google Scholar block may actually work in Sci-Hub’s favor Alexandra explains, not having to perform the complex task of managing searches, the server can now work much faster when handling the same amount of queries.

Alexandra is now working on creating a “Google-like” search method, that could potentially result in “a more sophisticated” solution than Google Scholar.

Follow Simon Oxenham @Neurobonkers on TwitterFacebookRSS or join the mailing list, for weekly analysis of science and psychology news. 

Do you care about Yemen? The multimedia conglomerates want to forget the plight of the Yemenis

Why does no one care about Yemen?

Shortly before IRIN’s regular contributor in Yemen, Almigdad Mojalli, was killed in an airstrike, he took a trip to Jordan and had a disturbing realisation.

He had been working tirelessly to cover the war that had driven his country from humanitarian disaster to humanitarian catastrophe.

He had spared no detail in describing the civilian casualties, nor the survivors so desperate they were eating out of garbage bins.

Andrew Bossone shared a link.
More than 6,000 Yemenis have been killed since March in a conflict that has set off a humanitarian catastrophe so severe that humanitarian agencies are struggling to cope.

But in Jordan, he discovered that the war hardly made the news.

Locals were shocked to hear what he had to say. Mojalli knew it was a struggle to get an English-speaking audience interested in his country, but he thought in a place with a shared mother tongue it might at least make a few headlines.

Before he fell victim to the war, which has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people since March, the dogged Yemeni journalist was still struggling to understand why the world found it so easy to turn a blind eye.

Experts ask the same question. “It is absurd,” says Adam Baron, visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “This is one of the most devastating conflicts in the region, but people apparently don’t get it.”

IRIN went hunting for the answer. Here’s what we came up with:

It’s marginalised 

In 1996, when the sitcom Friends was in its heyday, Matthew Perry’s character Chandler attempts to evade an on-and-off girlfriend by telling her he’s been transferred to Yemen.

The joke works because it’s the furthest, most ridiculous place he can think of, where she can’t possibly follow him. The show’s dunce, Joey (Matt LeBlanc), doesn’t quite get it.

Yemen, that actually sounds like a real country,” he says.

It’s not only in American sitcoms that Yemen is a byword for backwater.

It’s a regional problem too – stereotyped as tribal and traditional, it somehow lacks the cultural standing of countries like Egypt, Syria, Iraq or Jordan. And in a region where oil is king, it has no great reserves. Even before the war, it was by far the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula.

Apart from when the occasional “terror” plot is linked to a group operating in its mountainous hideouts and large wildernesses, Yemen is simply not a priority, regionally or internationally.

The war was born of a failed political transition after Arab Spring-inspired protests, a movement dubbed the “forgotten revolution” long before the current fighting became Yemen’s “forgotten war.”

Farea al-Muslimi of the Carnegie Middle East Institute believes the country’s isolation is to some extent its rulers’ doing.

Low spending on education by Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country for 33 years, meant that contacts with the Western world were more limited.

Until a few years ago, he told IRIN, “it would have been easier to get an AK-47 in Yemen than an English dictionary.”

Lacking the same strong diaspora of an Egypt or a Syria, Yemen “is a country of untold stories,” al-Muslimi says.

It took two decades and two failed attacks against the United States traced to Yemen – including the infamous underwear bomber – to bring a high-ranking US official, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the country in 2011.

It’s complicated

Those trying to get the word out aren’t helped by the fact that the conflict is incredibly complex. It lacks the clear good guy v bad guy narrative many in the West saw at the start of the Syrian war, for example.

In Yemen, it never felt simple. This is a complicated civil conflict with local and international alliances that don’t appear to make much sense to the casual – sometimes even the studied – onlooker.

The trouble began long before the Saudi Arabia-led coalition began bombing in March 2015. Saleh had been battling a Shiite Houthi rebellion since 2004, but was only forced out in 2011 amid a power struggle with opposition leaders and their tribal militia, as the country was roiled by months of popular demonstrations against his rule.

His replacement, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, is still the internationally recognised president of Yemen, but he was effectively ousted when the Houthi rebels took the capital in January last year, later fleeing to Saudi Arabia. That he is the leader of a united Yemen is his main claim to legitimacy, but he also happens to be on the same, tenuously allied side of southern separatists, anti-Houthi tribal leaders and Sunni Islamists.

While the Houthis are often portrayed as proxies of regional Shiite superpower Iran, they have their own grievances, leaders, and decision-makers. Confusingly, they are now also backed by Saleh, their former enemy.

Saudi Arabia entered the fray in March, accusing Iran of supporting the Houthis and forming a coalition of 10 Sunni-majority or Sunni-ruled countries, including all the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, save Oman.

In addition to almost non-stop airstrikes in support of Hadi’s forces, the coalition has imposed a naval blockade and put boots on the ground: there are even Colombian fighters sent by the United Arab Emirates.

Islamist groups have meanwhile taken advantage of the chaos to gain new territory. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and so-called Islamic State are both now present in the strategically important southern port of Aden.

No one seems any closer to actually winning the war, so it is harder to become invested in its outcome, especially as neither side has made any real move to negotiate and UN-led peace talks have been postponed.

“The fact that it has long been enmeshed in one conflict or another makes it is easy for people to shrug it off,” says Baron. “They recognise that Yemen is at war, but see it as always at war.”

Vested interests & crisis fatigue

Surely the United States, Britain and France – all of whom either provide logistical support or sell arms to the Saudis – have reason to care?

A report by a UN panel of experts on Yemen, leaked last month, found the Saudi-led coalition had carried out “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets in violation of international humanitarian law.

Human rights groups have been pressuring the UK in particular to reconsider its arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which last year were at a record high – 2.8 billion pounds ($4.2 billion) in the first three quarters alone.

UK military export licences for Saudi Arabia

That’s dwarfed by American sales.

Since September 2014, US President Barack Obama’s administration has informed Congress of arms sales to Saudi Arabia totaling more than $21 billion. Some members of Congress have spoken out against a proposed $1.29 billion deal on air-to-ground munitions because of how they might be used in Yemen, but the sale appears poised to go ahead.

Last week, US Senator Chris Murphy called for his country to get out of the war, but he is for the most part a lone voice.

“I just don’t see any evidence right now that the Saudis are conducting that military exercise in a way that’s responsible. It’s just feeding the humanitarian crisis inside Yemen,” Murphy said.

The fact is that intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia has been a key part of US and UK foreign policy for years, and they consider the kingdom a stabilising force in the region. With the Houthis attacking its borders and Saudi Arabia raising the threat of Iranian influence, the West is unlikely to rein its allies in.

The media, meanwhile, gravitates towards the bigger regional conflicts in Syria and Iraq, whose impact on the West is so much clearer to define in terms of refugees, extremist attacks, and geo-political dangers.

“Policy makers have limited bandwidth, think in relatively short term, and pay attention to things that generate headlines,” explains Peter Salisbury, an expert on Yemen from the influential Chatham House think tank.

There is also a sense of crisis fatigue, a feeling that the audience can’t find room to process Yemen when their minds are already saturated by so many other, more pressing emergencies.

“It is sadly a forgotten conflict in many ways,” says al-Muslimi. “Everyone is overwhelmed with Syria, the rise of ISIS in Libya, and the world is quite a messed up place to start with.”

Why we should care

The World Health Organization counts more than 6,000 conflict related deaths in the last 11 months. Given that Yemen’s health system is decimated – there’s a lack of supplies, not to mention 69 facilities damaged or destroyed – and 14.1 million Yemenis lack sufficient access to healthcare, it’s safe to say the real number is higher.

OCHCR, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told IRIN by email that it recorded 318 civilian casualties in January: 118 killed, 200 injured. This brings estimated civilian casualties since March 2015 to 8,437: 2,913 civilians killed, 5,524 injured.

By comparison, after a year of conflict in Syria, the UN was reporting 7,500 deaths.

UN agencies and other aid organisations are struggling to cope with the severity of the humanitarian crisis, with their access to conflict zones restricted and an ongoing siege in the city of Taiz.

Some 19.3 million people lack access to clean water or sanitation, and almost 320,000 children are severely malnourished.

“The needs are huge, so there is no way that humanitarian organisations can cover all of them,” Julien Harneis, UNICEF’s Yemen country director, told IRIN in December.

Maybe, in today’s social media-dominated news environment, Yemen just needs its viral moment. It took a photo of Alan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian toddler lying facedown on a Turkish beach, to bring the world’s attention to the refugee crisis.

But those, like Salisbury, who realised the scale of the humanitarian disaster and the risks of the war in Yemen long ago, are fairly exasperated.

“With the people who know or who have worked on Yemen, there is fatigue from people jumping up and down and saying, ‘Yemen is important,’” he explains.

Ultimately, “people will be asking this question: Why didn’t we pay more attention to Yemen? Why didn’t we take it more seriously when we had a chance to do something?”

Note: Apparently, the US and Israel want to have a fixed and permanent naval and military base on the Red Sea. Already, the US has rented for 99 years, through The Gulf Emirate cover, the largest island belonging to Yemen, and Not done legally and legitimately. That’s the price of the destruction and genocide in Yemen.




February 2016

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