A member of the Halhal family stands in the crater that was caused by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrike on his home in Beni Ma’ath, Sabr. © Amnesty International
By Jonathan Ayling Advocacy Intern at Amnesty International
He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people. It is people. It is people.
– Maori proverb
When sight of the intrinsic value of the individual is lost, we as humanity lose our most basic reference point. Despite all that divides and separates us, our default setting of care and concern must be towards the individual; for this is what truly matters: people, people, people. The expansive mosaic of humanity, in all its colours, shades and hues, is made up of the single thread of an individual, woven tenderly together with another’s.
Today, on the first anniversary of the armed conflict, we must remember this for Yemen. We must remember that these people, of a poetic Arab tongue, and a sun tanned brown skin are exactly that: people, caught in a mostly forgotten, horrific war. They are what truly matters.
Growing up as outsider within my own people, I was often reminded that no matter what colour skin a person has, every person bleeds red. But now far too much red blood of the people of Yemen lies spilt in a pointless and wasteful conflict. With more than 3,000 civilians having been killed and twice this number injured, we must stop thinking as Saudi or Huthis, Shia or Sunni. We must stop thinking as affected or unaffected, safe or unsafe, free or restrained, but once again we must think simply as people; remembering what truly matters.
When we think as people, we will stand for those that are being bombed and besieged, denied the basic necessities of life and starved into submission. We speak up for those who are brutally killed with internationally-banned cluster bombs, and we defiantly say no to the cruel, deliberate targeting of hospitals and schools and other havens of safety.
For the children, the future of the country, are what matter. The young men and women who do not participate in the fighting, the promise of tomorrow, are what matter. The women, the essence of dignity, or the men, the substance of strength, they, these people, are what truly matter.
Within this conflict, there is a need for us, as people, to stand up for others and call for real action. We will, as Amnesty International, demand that governments set aside their self-concerned interests, and take action to protect what truly matters. Armed forces must stop attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure. The transfers of arms by countries including the UK and US must be halted, and an international investigation must be launched to bring those who have committed war crimes and other serious abuses to justice.
On such a sombre anniversary, we must remember that rights are not endowed solely for the white, or the western, or the male, but for humans. The right to life, though many are denied it, the right to live in safety, though homes and schools are bombed, and the right to food, though starvation is used as a weapon of war, these rights still exist and are still sacred; for all. These rights are for people. We must remember that when they are taken from one, the grip we all have on them is weakened.
In remembering what truly matters, we remember that as a vital, precious part of the mosaic of humanity, Yemenis truly matter.
Human rights are for Yemen too.