I’m on Hunger Strike Until the US Ends All Support for the Saudi-led Blockade against Yemen
By Iman Saleh*-WP
My name is Iman, and I am entering the 11th day of my hunger strike in Washington, D.C. I’m Yemeni American, and for years I have watched helplessly as a Saudi-led coalition — backed by the United States — has blocked food and basic necessities from reaching my family and my people as part of an illegal war, creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
At least 400,000 Yemeni children under 5 could die of starvation this year without urgent intervention, according to four United Nations agencies. The siege against Yemen not only has had a crippling effect on everyday life, but it is also compounding the ongoing conflict in the country, causing damage that exceeds even the violence itself in both scale and intensity.
During the past few days, I have marched and chanted and drummed my way through the streets of Washington. I have cried and laughed and sung with whatever voice I was able to muster. I have linked arms with other hunger strikers, with my sister, friends and strangers. I have strived to not only imagine a more just world, but also to demand one.
After days without food, I have lost much of my short-term memory. Day in and day out, I feel the physical burden of starvation that my people have endured for so long. But my pain cannot amount to that of Yemenis under siege.
I am starving, but I am not being starved. I am suffering, but I can choose to end that suffering.
To go on a hunger strike is to put my body, my very physical existence, in the line of fire. It is not nonviolent to go on a hunger strike. Starvation is an attack on the body, a last resort. As I write this, my body is breaking itself down to keep me alive.
The blockade on Yemen prevents fuel from entering the country. A key to survival in any war zone, fuel heats stoves, powers engines, lights buildings and allows for the foundation of an economy to be rebuilt, so that a nation may have some hope of feeding itself on a larger scale. Without fuel, hospitals are unable to run their generators. Food remains at ports, unable to be transported to towns and villages where starvation is rampant. Without fuel, Yemen will bleed dry until no blood remains.
In the past few weeks, the blockade has reached a critical stage, with food reserves totally depleted and thousands of children at grave risk of imminent starvation. Time has run out. We are no longer waiting for a human tragedy to unfold — it has unfolded: Yemenis are experiencing famine, displacement, poverty, a deadly outbreak of cholera, lack of medical aid, no access to education.
This urgent situation persuaded my friends and me in the Yemeni Liberation Movement to bring attention to our people’s plight. We are on strike with one demand: that the United States end all support to the Saudi blockade causing mass starvation in Yemen.
In February, President Biden announced that he would end “all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.” But neither Biden nor Congress has taken any concrete steps to end the support.
For the administration, this will require only the stroke of a pen and a series of commands issued to the US military. We do not believe these actions would end the war in Yemen, but they would certainly be effective steps toward alleviating an unimaginable amount of suffering on the ground.
Our people are resilient. They have survived hardships most people will not experience in their time on this Earth. And yet, there is only so much our bodies are able to withstand, no matter our strength or our determination. For me, each passing day on hunger strike is a searing reminder of that reality.
Ending US support for the blockade will single-handedly provide relief and restore hope for millions of Yemenis whose lives hang in the balance. We demand that the Biden administration act immediately.
*Iman Saleh is the general coordinator of the Yemeni Liberation Movement.