In the past four years, the Iran-backed Houthi militia has indiscriminately littered Yemen with more than a million landmines, not with any strategic military purpose, but rather as a tool of domestic terrorism aimed directly against the Yemeni civilian population.
The Houthi use of landmines is a clear, undeniable violation of international humanitarian law, but so far no one is holding them accountable for this war crime, so they continue to produce and scatter landmines, 1.1 million dispersed and counting, making Yemen the most mined nation since World War II, according to data from the Saudi Project to Demine Yemen (Masam).
Houthi landmines have been found in schools and hospitals, on farmland and inside drinking wells. More than 9,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed or injured by Houthi landmines; many of these victims are children.
The Houthis say civilians are not targeted but when these landmines are reconfigured, as Project Masam says, to detonate from 10 kilograms of pressure, around 22 pounds, rather than 100 kilograms, about 220 pounds, there can only be one explanation – the Houthis are targeting civilians, including young children.
The international humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) reported that in a single hospital in the city of Mocha during the final months of 2018, more than 150 landmine victims were treated; a third of those victims were children.
The Houthi use of landmines makes it evident they are not seeking to govern, rebuild or bring stability to Yemen but rather to control it and exploit it through chaos, violence and terrorism.
The global community must universally condemn this premeditated targeting of civilians. The Houthis and their Iranian benefactors (a 2018 Conflict Armament Research report established a clear link between Iranian landmine technology and the deadly devices used by the Houthis) must be held accountable for this unmistakable breach of Yemeni law, international humanitarian law and United Nations Security Council Resolutions banning the illegal transfer of arms including landmines.
These Houthi landmines are an existential threat to Yemeni civilians that will persist for generations. This threat is not just to the current Yemeni population but also to future generations, to children yet unborn.
Even if the Houthis would finally abide by the terms of a peace agreement, something they have never yet been willing to do, the threat from their landmines would continue – hundreds of innocent Yemenis would still fall victim to the violent reach of Houthi aggression even after any peace agreement were settled.
How can Yemen ever expect to rebuild and find stability and security when the very ground upon which Yemenis must rebuild is unsafe?
If there is to a be safe and protected future for Yemen, the planning for that future must start now, and paramount in that planning is putting an end to the Houthi’s arbitrary use of landmines as a weapon of mass terrorism.
This widespread, negligent and irresponsible use of landmines leaves little doubt that this is a calculated and deliberate tactic. These landmines have not only killed and permanently maimed thousands of people, but also keep families from accessing clean water and harvesting crops. These landmines keep displaced families from returning to their homes. They prevent international organizations from providing humanitarian aid and assistance.
We should call this policy what it is, terrorism.
Think of it this way. The Houthis have not built anything in Yemen since the coup four years ago, except for one thing: With the assistance of Iranian technology, the Houthis build landmines, millions of them.
According to Conflict Armament Research, the Houthis mass produce landmines on a scale “previously only achieved by Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.”
It is time for the international community to come together and demand an end to the Houthi land mining of Yemen.
It’s immoral and illegal and no civilian in Yemen can be safe as long as the Houthis (with Iranian support) are allowed to construct and disburse landmines that will impact the Yemeni population for decades to come.
If peace negotiations are ever to produce real peace, if Yemen is to be restored and once again become a safe place for families and children, the very ground of the nation itself cannot be a threat.
Moammar Al-Eryani is the Minister of Information of Yemen.
Follow him on Twitter @eryanim.
All views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of The Defense Post.
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