Bostonians gathered at the steps of the Massachusetts State House to protest the military conflict in Yemen Monday afternoon, asking the Biden administration to halt support of the war.
Stephen Kinzer, senior fellow in international and public affairs at Brown University and a speaker at the event, said he was joining the international effort to object to the violence in Yemen and advocate for President Joe Biden to follow through with peace plans in the nation.
“We are here to encourage him and to do everything we can to end the savagery to which the people of Yemen have been subjected,” Kinzer said.
He added the United States’ production and distribution of weapons to Saudi Arabia is devastating the poorest nation in the Middle East and the billions of dollars the government spends could go toward positive projects.
“I have not even bothered to try and compute how many schools, how many hospitals, how many housing projects that could build in the United States,” Kinzer said in a speech. “Instead, we are using that money to assure the destruction of schools and hospitals and housing in Yemen.”
Yemen has been involved in a multi-sided civil war since late 2014, when Houthi rebels stormed the Yemeni capital city of Sana’a, forcing the resignation of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in January 2015. In March of that year, Saudi Arabia led a military intervention in support of the ousted president.
Addressing the crowd, Warda Arman, a Yemeni Ph.D. student at Tufts University, said the U.S. government has direct involvement in the continued conflict and it has the power to end Saudi Arabia’s interference in her native country.
Arman told the protestors that even though she was fortunate enough to escape the fighting in Yemen, many people in the country lack access to clean water, food, schooling and safety.
“In Yemen, a child under the age of five dies every ten minutes from preventable causes,” Arman said, “and for what? Political reasons that in no way justify these outcomes.”
Arman said she hopes Biden will work to end the nation’s involvement, but added she has “given up” expecting politicians to act.
“I think these people, who organized this today, they kind of reinstilled my hope,” Arman said. “If we go outside and we tell our politicians what we want to happen, they have to follow through.”
Anticipated Secretary of State Anthony Blinken promised to cut off American support for Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen during his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. But Kinzer said that may not necessarily bring peace.
“I’ve lived long enough not to think that ends the fight, but it’s a very positive sign,” Kinzer said. “And all of us are here today to make sure that people in Washington understand we support that view.”
Paul Shannon, a member of the Massachusetts Peace Action executive committee, said the situation in Yemen is a “tragedy,” and Bostonians are uniquely connected to the conflict because of the Massachusetts company Raytheon’s ties to the war.
“Raytheon makes so many weapons for that war, makes a lot of money on it,” Shannon said. “We’re going to do everything we can to stop Raytheon from selling weapons to the Saudis.”
Shannon said American foreign policy is controlled by military companies, and the U.S. government provides not only weapons, but diplomatic cover that enables Saudi Arabia.
“The immediate situation is to try to get President Biden to agree to get us out of this war,” he said. “He has the authority to stop this. He says he will, we’re excited by that.”
Shannon said he encourages individuals to go on social media, make calls to the White House and try in as many ways possible to notify Biden people want peace in Yemen.
“The war in Yemen is actually all around us,” Shannon told the crowd from the State House steps. “Let us see today, as the beginning of a day, or a continuation of a time, when we do everything we can to disentangle our lives from this web of death.”