The Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, aims to ease the suffering of women in conflict areas. Will action follow?
We have often posted items on this site concerning our support for, and arming of, the Saudi regime in its war in Yemen and the awful human toll that this has caused. Thousands have died, cholera is at epidemic proportions and civil society has been catastrophically damaged. A blockade is making matters worse. The has been considerable evidence that UK arms have been used to attack civilian targets including schools, hospitals, weddings and funerals. Yet we continue to aid the Saudis and the sale of weapons continues. The Royal family is used to visit the regime and to welcome them here on a recent state visit. The sale of weapons is so valuable that any concern at the destruction caused is effectively ignored.
In the context of the Yemen, as in many other conflicts, it is women and children who suffer often disproportionately. The destruction of their community, the bombing of medical facilities and schools, the difficulty in acquiring food and clean water, all make life extremely difficult for them. So it was interesting to read that the Defence Minister, Gavin Williamson, attended a meeting in London with representatives of countries experiencing conflict. Countries included: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Ukraine, as well as several international action groups, were welcomed to discuss the issues faced in their countries, particularly by women.
It is noticeable that Yemen was not among them.
Mr Williamson said:
Conflict can have devastating effects for anyone caught in its path, but life can be particularly traumatic for women. They are subject to violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, and their calls for justice are often falling on deaf ears.
I am determined we do more to listen to those who are often not given a voice. It is only by understanding the situation faced by women and girls that we will be able to protect them. Ministry of Defence news story, 19 July 2018 [accessed 27 July]
It appears that most if not all the countries attending had UK-trained peace keepers deployed there. The news story went on to claim:
The UK has already increased peacekeeping in Sudan and Somalia, has deployed four Military Gender and Protection Advisers to DRC and has established a UK centre of excellence to integrate guidelines on women, peace and security into its work. It is also among the first countries to publish a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security
The minister claims that he is determined to ‘do more to listen to those often not given a voice‘. This raises the question of what happens when he is told it is your weapons which are destroying our lives. What more does he need to be told? There have been countless authenticated reports on the destruction our weapons (and those of USA and France) have caused in war zones like Yemen. A Médecins sans Frontières report is another example among many. Countless reports, evidence on the ground, news reports and footage, all graphically describe the terrible events in that country.
So the questions for Mr Williamson are – when you have read the reports and done your ‘listening’ what are you going to do? Will you take steps to cease arming the Saudis with weapons they are using to cause such mayhem? Will you bring home the RAF personnel who are involved in the conflict? What in short will you do to ease the plight of women caught ‘in its path’ as you put it? Or was this just an exercise in public relations which will have no tangible or beneficial effects on the lives of women in war zones?
Will you listen and do nothing?
If you live in the Salisbury area we would be pleased to welcome you to our group.