Yemeni-Americans living in Connecticut are asking people to put pressure on their elected representatives over U.S. involvement in Yemen’s ongoing civil war.
The group was invited by Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy to the Legislative Office Building in Hartford Friday to address Saudi aggression in the area that they say is made possible by American support.
Fahd Syed of New Haven has family in Yemen. He said that one of his relatives was murdered as a result of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war.
“One of my cousins named Soheir was tortured by some of the Houthi rebels and actually had his tongue cut off,” Syed said. “After being tortured for a couple of days, he ended up leaving and the Saudis ended up bombing him and killing him.”
Two sides in the war – Houthis and Saudi-backed forces – are fighting each other in the area with devastating consequences for Yemeni civilians.
Syed supports a bill proposed by Murphy that would effectively end U.S. support that Murphy says makes Saudi Arabia’s presence in the war possible.
“Saudi Arabia could not continue without the bombs, without the refueling support, without the targeting support and without the ability to say to the international community, ‘We’re not doing this alone, we’re doing it with the Americans,’” Murphy said.
The Senate bill had support this week from 14 Republicans. It will be debated next week and if the measure passes, would move on to the House of Representatives.
Dr. Anne Peterson, Americares’ senior vice president of global programs, said that the epidemic is exacerbated by an inability to provide health services to the war-torn country of Yemen. Her organization has been able to provide relief to Yemen but is hampered in its efforts to do more by the ongoing civil war.
“If there was peace and stability in Yemen, we could do so much more,” Peterson said. “We know how to stop the cholera outbreak. We know how to rebuild health systems so that the women, children, and families in Yemen would have access to life-saving care.”
Peterson said cholera is easily treated. Patients need to receive fluids in an effort to avoid dehydration.
Fatimah Aulaqi, a Yemeni-American from Waterbury, works for Yemen Aid. That’s an organization that Americares partners with to deliver medical and health supplies to the region.
Aulaqi said that a Facebook campaign she started has raised over $600,000 for the Yemeni relief effort. But she said at the Murphy news conference in Hartford that more needs to be done.
“The average Yemeni has paid the price of internal grievances while also facing the same price due to the failure by the international community which chooses to look away from all sides of the crisis including the root crisis of the civil war,” Aulaqi said.
With the help of Americares, Aulaqi said that Yemen Aid has provided over 400 tons in medical supplies to Yemen.
Correction: A previous version of this story referenced “Saudi-backed rebel fighters called Houthis.” The Houthis are actually fighting on the opposite side to Saudi-backed forces in the area.