Khashoggi the Tragedy, Yemen the Statistic
When it comes to the ‘who’s who’ of journalists, I will admit that I am not the most learned. You could have mentioned the word ‘Khashoggi’ to me one thousand times over the last few years and I would not have known who he was… until this month.
A quick summary of the situation (and I do mean quick): Khashoggi was an advisor to the Saudi royal family who fell out of favour, exiled himself to the US and criticised the regime from the States. Cue October 2018 where he visits the Saudi consulate in Turkey (to obtain a document showing he had divorced his ex-wife in order to marry his fiancée) and never returns. A huge fiasco ensues where KSA continue to change their story, revealing more information drip by drip (at the time of writing, they admitted that the murder was ‘premeditated’).
The death, in and of itself, is wrong. The murder of any innocent civilian should be enough to warrant critique. The fact that he was a legal, permanent US citizen and was murdered for, ultimately, his journalistic endeavours (a profession which has almost always universally been protected for its commitment to out truth) has made things incredibly worse, testified by the fact that we’re still talking about it almost a month later.
It has, however, been around 50 months since Houthi rebels took over most of the capital of Yemen, 44 months since a Saudi-led coalition began air strikes against the country, 25 months since a Saudi-led airstrike hit a crowded funeral killing 140 and injuring 500, and 17 months since an outbreak of Cholera killed 2,100 and affected almost 900,000 others in the country. The head of programmes for Oxfam in Yemen called it “…one of the world’s worst crises”, and the senior UN official in the country stated that “the world has turned a blind eye to what’s happening in Yemen”. 8.4 million (around the population of London) are at risk of starvation and 75% of the country is in need of humanitarian assistance according to the UN. Almost 400,000 people under the age of 5 are at risk from severe acute malnutrition and half the population are facing “pre-famine conditions” leading to perhaps “the worst famine in the world in 100 years.”
The link? State-sponsored terror.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to play oppression Olympics here. I’m not saying the killing of Khashoggi should be an afterthought to the crisis in Yemen (although most things ought to be), but rather attempting to look at the entire thing from a more philosophical perspective; attempting to understand why it is that the murder of a journalist can incite a righteousness that the deaths of over 10,000 haven’t been able to (or at the very least, haven’t been able to sustain).
This is the way the world operates. We turn blind eyes because it is in our (see: governments, corporations etc.) benefit to do so. We profit greatly from the sales of arms to such countries and we do not look back because if we don’t sell them, someone else will, and we can provide them with assistance on how not to target civilians and this helps to support British jobs. There are those that simply forego such facts in their arguments but that is often problematic because it doesn’t accept the world for what it is: a world in which classical principles and values do matter, but only to the extent where they do not impinge on other principles and values, the ones which allow countries like the US and the UK to sell arms to assist in war crimes, where countries are happy to help bomb mosques whilst their neighbours continue to spew sermons about peace and respect to one’s brethren.
In doing so, we have chosen to devalue the principles of justice and of truth in order to sustain ourselves for maybe another few years, another few decades. I see where those who make these decisions and those who agree/do not care are coming from; it is just…not right.
What does being right have to do with anything? Well, it has to do with the idea that if in our lives, the few years we have on this earth before we inevitably depart, we cannot advocate for humanity, stand up to injustice wherever it may present and sacrifice worldly benefits for the pursuit of justice… what do our lives amount to?
I do not just speak to those who know nothing about injustices or who choose to hold back for worldly gain but also to those who have chosen to play pick and mix with principles, allocating them to where they see fit. There are countless people today who turn a blind eye to Yemen because it raises too many difficult questions. The regime that murder innocent civilians and have oppressed minorities within their own country for decades, if not centuries, also happen to be, for a lot of people, the moral compass with which they guide their life or, at the very least, a ‘respected’ nation because they hold the keys to the two most holy sites in Islam. Attention is directed at Syria and Palestine but little at Yemen. I speak only from my personal experience and observations, but I doubt many would argue against the point that Yemen has remained an afterthought. Upholding principles and values are not paths of least resistance and the raising of difficult questions is often the first sign of a correct recalibration of one’s moral compass.
There are those who will read this and think this has nothing to do with me, why should I care? All I can say is that morality is the only thing we have in this world; the way one conducts themselves and the ethics they uphold. To quote Imam Hussain:
“If you do not have any religion, then at least be free in your present life.”
I am not saying that it is only the religious that have this sense of the afterlife and one’s actions in this world having a direct effect on the next, but rather whatever one believes, whether it is in a God, in Gods, in no God or anything in between, at least be free in this world, be free to choose right over wrong and be free from the agendas of those so clearly in amorality.