The forgotten conflict

    YEMEN / With the mainstream Western media's infatuation with Ukraine, wars raging across other parts of the world are forgotten, the devastation in Yemen primary among them.
    Director: Tanja Holm
    Producer: Tanja Holm
    Country: Sweden

    A major achievement of Stockholm Agreement is it brings the war and the terrible suffering of the Yemeni people back into our minds after a period where there, at least in mainstream Western media, has not had space for anything but the war in Ukraine.

    The film, finalized by Tanja Holm, Stockholm University of the Arts, in 2022, focuses on the peace talks in Stockholm in December 2018 between representatives of the Hadi-led government and the Houthis. This attempt to build peace in Yemen was organized by the UN in cooperation with the Swedish government. The UN was represented on the top level by Secretary-General António Guterres and the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths. The Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wahlström (2014 – 2019), known, e.g. for her feminist foreign policy and also for trying to end the military cooperation between Sweden and Saudi Arabia, was an active host. The expressed goal was to keep hope alive and facilitate a peace agreement developed by the warring parties based on the philosophy of «nothing about them without them.» But women were hardly present at the negotiating table.

    Complexities of war

    Even though the film lasts only 20 minutes, it manages to bring the complexities of the war in Yemen to the forefront, such as the continued unsettling internal situation with groups in former South Yemen continuously discontent with the union with North Yemen in 1990 and attracting both separatists and fundamentalist fighters, many non-Yemeni; and the manifestations in Yemen of the broader Middle East conflict of power not least between the Shias and the Sunnis and their partners, with Iran supporting the Houthis and Saudi Arabia, with strong backing, e.g. from the USA, supporting the government. Different aspects of the situation are brought up by different spokespersons, such as the warring parties themselves, the organizers, people demonstrating in Stockholm, and a moving dialogue between the young women journalist Manal Alwesabi, from the port of Hodeida, deeply concerned about the devastating situation of her city, and the filmmaker Tanja Holm. The siege, the bombing and the blockage of Hodeida, hampering the access to food and medicine, thereby adding to the humanitarian catastrophe, was central to the deliberations. Alwesabi is also in contact with the filmmaker in 2021, expressing her deep sadness about the continued, miserable, and unacceptable situation.

    Even though the film lasts only 20 minutes, it manages to bring the complexities of the war in Yemen to the forefront

    What is needed?

    Mercenaries and international arms dealers continue to see huge opportunities in the area; imposed embargoes create famine and misery. The dream of an Arab Spring, which also journalist, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate of 2011 Tawakkol Karman contributed to, is far away. We urgently need more peace-making in Yemen, more feminist foreign policies opposing old patriarchal security thinking based on control, polarisation and might, more effective involvement by the UN, more resources for peace activists seeking non-violent solutions to the conflict, more films helping us better understand the situation in war-torn societies, more humanitarian action to alleviate the suffering, more knowledge about non-violent conflict resolution, more solidarity. We also need to be reminded of the findings of Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan in their longitudinal study, Why Civil Resistance Works, which shows that different forms of non-violent resistance successfully reached their goals more than twice as often as struggles accepting violence as a tool.

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    Ingeborg Breines
    Ingeborg Breines
    Breines is former president in International PEACE Bureau, and former one of the CEOs in UNESCO.

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