Transcript: Yemen: The Forgotten War | Jun 03, 2016

Piya sits in the studio. She's in her forties, with dark brown, slightly wavy hair to her shoulders. She's wearing a gray blazer over a dark blue blouse, and a thin silver necklace.

A caption on screen reads "Yemen: The forgotten war. Piya Chattopadhyay, @piya"

Piya says CAR BOMBS DETONATED IN
THE STREETS BY FACTIONS OF
al-QAEDA AND ISIS.
AIR STRIKES FROM THE SAUDI-LED
COALITION SLAM TARGETS AIMING AT
IRANIAN-BACKED REBELS.
ALL SIDES KILLING CIVILIANS BY
THE HUNDREDS.
YEMEN, WITH ITS POPULATION OF
ABOUT 24 MILLION PEOPLE, TEETERS
ON THE BRINK OF A HUMANITARIAN
DISASTER AND TOTAL STATE
COLLAPSE.
BELKIS WILLE HAS RECENTLY
RETURNED FROM YEMEN AND SHE
JOINS US NOW FOR MORE.
SHE IS THE YEMEN AND KUWAIT
RESEARCHER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH.

Belkis is in her late thirties, with long straight blond hair. She's wearing a black blazer.

Piya says WELCOME.

Belkis says THANK YOU FOR
HAVING ME.

Piya says LET'S UNDERSTAND
YEMEN AT ITS BASE.

A map pops up showing the Middle East, with Yemen highlighted.

Piya says THERE IT IS, SOUTH OF SAUDI
ARABIA, NEXT TO OAN.
IT HAS BEEN MIRED IN WAR FOR 14
MONTHS.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Battles rage on in Yemen."

Piya reads from the slate and says
UP TO THIS POINT, IN 14 MONTHS
OR SO, THE CONFLICT HAS CLAIMED
MORE THAN 6200 LIVES AND
DISPLACED 2.5 MILLION PEOPLE.
SOUNDS PRETTY ROTTEN, TO BE
HONEST WITH YOU, AND YOU LIVED
IN YEMEN FOR THREE AND A HALF
YEARS.
YOU LEFT WHEN THE WAR BROKE OUT.
YOU'VE BEEN BACK SEVERAL TIMES.
THE LAST TIME IN THE SPRING, IN
APRIL.
WHAT'S IT LIKE ON THE GROUND
THERE RIGHT NOW?

The caption changes to "Belkis Wille. Human Rights Watch."
Then, it changes again to "Exchanging fire."

Belkis says WELL, AS YOU
SAID, THIS WAR THAT'S LASTED 14
MONTHS HAS HAD SUCH A DRAMATIC
EFFECT ON THE COUNTRY.
IT'S IMPORTANT TO POINT OUT THAT
BEFORE THIS WAR BEGAN, THERE
WERE MULTIPLE ARMED CONFLICTS
GOING ON IN YEMEN, IN DIFFERENT
PARTS OF THE COUNTRY BY
DIFFERENT ACTORS.
IT WAS BY NO MEANS COMPLETELY
PEACEFUL UNTIL THIS WAR BEGAN,
BUT AT LEAST THINGS WERE MORE
STABLE THAN THEY ARE NOW.
AND THIS WAR HAS HAD SUCH A
DRAMATIC AND DETRIMENTAL EFFECT
ON THE POPULATION, MOST NOTABLY
BECAUSE WHEN THE SAUDI-LED
COALITION BEGAN ITS BOMBING
CAMPAIGN, WHAT THEY ANNOUNCED AT
THE SAME TIME WAS A NAVAL AND
AERIAL BLOCKADE AND THAT MEANT
THAT THEY WOULD RESTRICT ALL
SHIPMENTS COMING INTO THE
COUNTRY.
YEMEN IS A COUNTRY THAT RELIES
90 percent ON IMPORTS FOR FOOD, FOR
MEDICINE, FOR FUEL.
AND SO THE MINUTE THAT SAUDI
ARABIA ANNOUNCED THIS BLOCKADE,
YOU SAW THIS MASSIVE
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS BEGIN
BECAUSE OF A FUEL SHORTAGE,
BECAUSE AFTER FOOD SHORTAGE, AND
BECAUSE OF MEDICAL SHORTAGE
BECAUSE COMMERCIAL GOODS SIMPLY
HAVEN'T BEEN GETTING INTO THE
COUNTRY FOR THE LAST YEAR.

Piya says AS I SAID IN THE
INTRODUCTION, THERE ARE SO MANY
ACTORS, PLAYERS, INVOLVED IN
THIS.
IS THIS A PROXY WAR, A CIVIL
WAR?
BOTH?
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THIS?

Belkis says WELL, THE
THING THAT REALLY PRECIPITATED
THIS CONFLICT WAS A SHIA MILITIA
GROUP TAKING THE CAPITAL BY
FORCE, FORCING THE PRESIDENT TO
FLEE, AS YOU SAID, EARLY IN THE
LAST YEAR, AND THEN HE WENT TO
SAUDI ARABIA AND CALLED ON THE
SAUDI-LED COALITION TO START
BOMBING THE COUNTRY.
THERE IS A REAL QUESTION AS TO
WHAT EXTENT THIS GROUP IS
SUPPORTED BY IRAN, IS A PROXY OF
IRAN.
I THINK TO CALL THEM SIMPLY A
PROXY OF IRAN IS SIMPLIFYING
THIS CONFLICT A LOT, AND IT'S
NOT A CONFLICT IN WHICH GETTING
SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAN TO SIT
DOWN TO THE TABLE AND COME UP
WITH A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT
WOULD MEAN PEACE IN YEMEN.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THE
H UH-UH SIS THEY HAVE HAD AN
AGENDA IN YEMEN TO TAKE CONTROL
FOR A VERY LONG TIME.
THE GOVERNMENT OF YEMEN FOUGHT
SEVERAL WARS AGAINST THEM
BETWEEN 2004 AND 2009.
THE GROUP THEMSELVES SAYS THEIR
ANCESTORS RULED YEMEN FOR
THOUSANDS OF YEARS, AND THEY
FEEL THIS IS THEIR RIGHT TO TAKE
BACK CONTROL.
THIS IS NOT A TEHRAN AGENDA.
THIS IS WHAT THEY FEEL IS VERY
MUCH THEIR OWN AGENDA.

Piya says SO HUUDIS INVOLVED.
AND THE SAUDIS AND THE U.S.
IS THAT EVERYONE INVOLVED HERE?

Belkis says UNFORTUNATELY NOT.
IN ADDITION TO THAT YOU HAVE
al-QAEDA AND THE ARABIAN
PENINSULA.
al-QAEDA HAS CONDUCTED
OPERATIONS NOT ONLY INSIDE YEMEN
BUT ALSO ABROAD.
UNFORTUNATELY OVER THIS YEAR
WE'VE SEEN THAT SECURITY VACUUM
HAS BEEN CREATED, ONE THAT
AL-QAEDA HAS BEEN ABLE TO FILL
VERY EFFECTIVELY, PARTICULARLY
IN THE SOUTHEAST OF THE COUNTRY.
SO 14 MONTHS AFTER THIS WAR HAS
BEGUN, YOU SEE A MUCH STRONGER
BODY COMING OUT OF IT.
al-QAEDA AT THE END OF THIS
WAR, IF AND WHEN IT ENDS, I
DON'T THINK IS GOING TO BE AS
WILLING TO SORT OF RETREAT, HAND
BACK THE WEAPONS THAT IT'S
GAINED OVER THIS PERIOD, AND
SIMPLY SAY THAT THEY'RE HAPPY TO
SETTLE BACK TO WHERE THEY CAME
FROM AND NOT WANT A PIECE OF THE
PIE.
WE ALSO SUDDENLY HAVE THE
EMERGENCE OF THE ISLAMIC STATE
IN YEMEN.
HISTORICALLY THAT DIDN'T EXIST.
THIS IS SOMETHING YOU SAW IN
OTHER COUNTRIES, MOST NOTABLY,
OF COURSE, IRAQ AND SYRIA, BUT
SUDDENLY YOU DO HAVE SOMETHING
CALLED ISLAMIC STATE OR
INDIVIDUALS SAYING THEY'RE
AFFILIATED WITH THE ISLAMIC
STATE CARRYING OUT BOMBINGS AND
OTHER ATTACKS IN YEMEN.

Piya says THIS IS COMPLICATED STUFF.

Belkis says VERY.

Piya says OKAY.
I WANT TO TALK MORE ABOUT SAUDI
ARABIA BECAUSE OF COURSE OUR
SAUDI ARMS DEAL IS CONTROVERSIAL
IN THIS COUNTRY.
WE'LL TALK MORE ABOUT THAT IN A
BIT.
BUT WHAT IS THE SAUDI INTEREST
HERE?
IN WHAT WAYS IS IT SUPPORTING
PRESIDENT HADI.
HOW ARE THEY DOING THIS?

Belkis says WELL, ONCE
HADI LEFT THE COUNTRY WITH HIS
CABINET, HE FLED TO SAUDI
ARABIA, HE SITS IN RIYADH, AND
HE CALLED ON THE SAUDI-LED
COALITION TO LAUNCH THIS BOMBING
CAMPAIGN.

Piya says AIR STRIKES.

Belkis says AIR STRIKES.
SO WHAT YOU'VE HAD IS 9
COUNTRIES IN THIS COALITION, LED
BY SAUDI ARABIA, THE WAR ROOM
SITS IN RIYADH, THE SPOKESMAN OF
THE COALITION IS A SAUDI GENERAL
AND THEY'VE BEEN CARRYING OUT
THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF
BOMBING CAMPAIGNS OVER THE LAST
14 MONTHS.
THE NUMBER THAT YOU CITE OF
INDIVIDUALS THAT HAVE BEEN
KILLED IN THIS WAR, I THINK IT'S
REALLY MORE IMPORTANT TO LOOK
AT, OF THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
KILLED, HOW MANY ARE CIVILIANS.
OUT OF 3,200 CIVILIANS KILLED...
AND THAT'S A NUMBER GIVEN BY THE
U.N. AND I THINK IT IS A GOOD
NUMBER TO TRUST... 60 percent OF THOSE
DEATHS ARE COMING FROM AIR
STRIKES.
SO THE MAJORITY OF THE DEATHS IN
THIS WAR REALLY ARE COMING FROM
THIS BOMBING CAMPAIGN LED BY
SAUDI ARABIA.
THE MAIN SUPPORT THAT'S BEEN
GIVEN TO PRESIDENT HADI, IF YOU
TALK TO EVERYDAY YEMENIS ON THE
STREETS OF YEMEN, DESPITE THE
FACT THAT THE INTERNATIONAL
COMMUNITY STILL CALLS PRESIDENT
HADI THE LEGITIMATE YEMENI
PRESIDENT, MANY YEMENIS WOULD
SAY HOW CAN WE HAVE A PRESIDENT
WHO HAS CALLED ON COUNTRIES TO
BOMB AND KILL OUR OWN PEOPLE.
UNFORTUNATELY
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE'VE SEEN
AND THIS U.N. REPORT THAT YOU
TALK ABOUT, IT WAS A PANEL OF
EXPERTS IMPANELED BY THE U.N.
SECURITY COUNCIL.
THEY WROTE A REPORT THAT WAS
LEAKED TO THE PUBLIC IN JANUARY
OF THIS YEAR AND IT VERY MUCH
MARRIED EXACTLY THE FINDINGS
THAT I'VE BEEN ABLE TO SEE ON
THE GROUND.
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH HAS
DOCUMENTED 43 UNLAWFUL AIR
STRIKES.
THESE WERE UNLAWFUL EITHER
BECAUSE THEY WERE
DISPROPORTIONATE OR
INDISCRIMINATE.
WE THINK SEVERAL HAVE AMOUNTED
TO WAR CRIMES.

Piya says WHAT ARE THEY HITTING HOSPITALS?

Belkis says YOU NAME IT.
HOW MANY TIMES.
MULTIPLE TIMES HOSPITALS HAVE
BEEN HIT, INCLUDING MEDICINS
SANS FRONTIERES, WE'VE HAD
SCHOOLS HIT, MARKETPLACES, THE
MOST RECENT EGREGIOUS ATTACK AND
I WAS ABLE TO GO TO THE AIR
STRIKE SITE SEVERAL DAYS AFTER
IT HAPPENED, IT WAS A
MARKETPLACE AT NOON FULL OF
CIVILIANS, TWO BOMBS WERE
DROPPED, U.S. BOMBS BECAUSE WE
WERE ABLE TO FIND THE REMNANTS
AND IDENTIFY THESE AS U.S.-MADE
BOMBS, KILLING AT LEAST 97
CIVILIANS, AND WHAT WE'VE SEEN I
THINK ACROSS THE BOARD AND IT
VERY MUCH CAPTURES THE FLAVOUR
OF THIS BOMBING CAMPAIGN AND WHY
YOU SEE SO MANY CIVILIANS HAVING
BEEN KILLED IS JUST THIS
INCREDIBLE LEVEL OF
RECKLESSNESS, A LACK OF
WILLINGNESS ON THE SIDE OF THE
COALITION TO ABIDE BY THIS KEY
PRINCIPLE OF THE LAWS OF WAR.
WE NEED TO ALWAYS THINK ABOUT
HOW WE MINIMIZE CIVILIAN
CASUALTIES WITH EACH STRIKE.

Piya says WHAT ARE THE
AMERICANS DOING?
ARE THEY INVOLVED IN THIS?
HOW ARE THEY ASSISTING.
YOU'VE MENTIONED THEIR BOMBS.

Belkis says YES, AMONG
OTHER THINGS, IT'S NOT SIMPLY A
MATTER OF THEM PROVIDING THE
WEAPONRY FOR THIS WAR, AND I
MIGHT ADD THAT THERE'S BEEN A
MASSIVE UPTICK, AS ONE COULD
PROBABLY IMAGINE, IN ARMS SALES
THE LONGER THAT THIS WAR GOES
ON, INCLUDING WITH COMPANIES IN
THE U.S. AND THE U.K. AND OTHER
COUNTRIES, BUT ACTUALLY, THE
U.S. HAS GONE QUITE A BIT
FURTHER.
THEY ARE PROVIDING NOT ONLY
MILITARY INTELLIGENCE TO THE WAR
ROOM IN RIYADH, SO THAT THE WAR
ROOM CAN SELECT TARGETS TO HIT,
BUT THEY'RE ACTUALLY GOING
FURTHER AND PROVIDING TARGETING
ASSISTANCE.
NOW, UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW IF
A STATE IS PROVIDING TARGETING
ASSISTANCE, THAT ACTUALLY MAKES
THEM A PARTY TO THE CONFLICT.
SO WE HAVE SAID THE UNITED
STATES IS ACTUALLY A PARTY TO
THIS WAR.
AS SUCH, WHEN AN AIR STRIKE THAT
THEY'RE ASSISTING IN GOES WRONG,
THEY HAVE A LEGAL OBLIGATION
THERE TO BE INVESTIGATING AND
HOLDING ACCOUNTABLE THE
COMMANDERS THAT CARRIED OUT THAT
STRIKE.

Piya says YOU ALSO JUST GOT
BACK I THINK TODAY PERHAPS OR
YESTERDAY FROM OTTAWA, AND YOU
WERE TALKING TO FEDERAL
OFFICIALS THERE ABOUT CANADA'S
ROLE IN THE REGION, AND I WANT
TO TALK ABOUT THE SAUDI ARMS
DEAL.
SIGNED BY THE LAST GOVERNMENT
BUT IT'S BEEN PLAGUING THE
TRUDEAU GOVERNMENT.
SOME ARE SAYING IT'S THE
GOVERNMENT'S FIRST MAJOR SCANDAL.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "The Saudi arms deal."
It shows a drawing of an armored vehicle and a caption that reads "2014: Harper government signs 15 billion dollar 15 year deal with Saudi Arabia."

Piya says JUST TO TAKE US BACK, IN 2014
THE HARPER GOVERNMENT INKED THIS
15 BILLION dollar DEAL TO SELL
WEAPONIZED VEHICLES, THERE THEY
ARE, SIMILAR ONES USED IN
AFGHANISTAN.
WE SELL THEM TO SAUDI ARABIA FOR
15 YEARS.
ONE OF THE LARGEST ARMS EXPORT
CONTRACTS IN OUR HISTORY, IN
CANADA'S HISTORY.
THEN FAST FORWARD TO APRIL 8TH
OF THIS YEAR.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER
Stéphane DION SIGNED OFF ON THE
REMAINING PERMITS FOR THIS DEAL,
AND BASICALLY SAYING, HEY,
THERE'S NOT VERY MANY... NO
HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS.
THE NEW GOVERNMENT SAYING NO
HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS.
THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WAS ONLY
RECENTLY UNCOVERED.
LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT THE LAV ON
THE SCREEN THERE.
IT HAS A GRENADE LAUNCHER, A
CANNON, THE TURRET, THE TOP
TURRET-MOUNTED MACHINE GUN.
THEY WEIGH ABOUT
20,000 KILOGRAMS AND CAN SPEED
UP TO 100 KILOMETRES AN HOUR.
DURING THE LAST FEDERAL
ELECTION, PRIME MINISTER
TRUDEAU... NOT THE PRIME
MINISTER AT THE TIME... BUT HE
DID CALL THESE VEHICLES JEEPS.
TELL ME THIS: IS THERE A
SIGNIFICANT RISK OR LET'S JUST
SAY RISK THAT THESE CANADIAN
MILITARY VEHICLES COULD BECOME
WEAPONS IN THE WAR IN YEMEN?

The caption changes to "Canadian culpability."

Belkis says YES, AND
HERE'S WHY, AND THIS IS... AND
THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WAS
TRYING TO RAISE IN THE MEETINGS
THAT I HAD IN OTTAWA.
YOU'VE HAD CHANGE LARGELY, AT
THE BEGINNING OF THIS WAR, HAS
BEEN AN AERIAL CAMPAIGN ON THE
SIDE OF THE COALITION, BUT IT
WAS IN FULL RECOGNITION FROM THE
BEGINNING THAT WARS LIKE THIS
CANNOT BE SIMPLY WON BY AIR
STRIKES BUT YOU NEED FIGHTING
AND BOOTS ON THE GROUND.
AND SO YOU DID, SINCE THE
BEGINNING OF THE WAR, HAVE VERY
SMALL NUMBERS OF TROOPS FROM
DIFFERENT COALITION PARTNERS IN
YEMEN, BUT MORE AND MORE WHAT
WE'VE SEEN HAPPENING IS A
DECISION ON THE SIDE OF SAUDI
ARABIA, PARTICULARLY IN JULY OF
LAST YEAR, TO START EMPOWERING,
ARMING A NEWLY CONSTITUTED,
RECONSTITUTED YEMENI MILITARY
FORCE.
THEY BROUGHT FORMER MILITARY
OFFICERS ACROSS THE BOARD FROM
SAUDI ARABIA INTO SOUTHERN
YEMEN.
THESE INDIVIDUALS ARE BEING
TRAINED UNDER A FORMER MILITARY
COMMANDER, AN INFAMOUS ONE IN
YEMEN'S HISTORY, ONE THAT WE AT
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH HAVE BEEN
DOCUMENTING ABUSES FOR MANY
DECADES, AND UNDER HIS WATCH,
THIS NEWLY CONSTITUTED MILITARY
FORCE HAS NOW BEEN DOING
INCURSIONS BACK ACROSS THE
BORDER.
THESE FORCES ARE BEING TRAINED
BUT ALSO ARMED BY THE SAUDIS AND
THEY ARE TAKING SOME KIND OF
MACHINERY ACROSS THE BORDER BACK
WITH THEM.
THEY ARE TAKING VEHICLES THERE,
DRIVING ACROSS THE BORDER.
ON MY LAST TRIP WHEN I WAS THERE
IN MARCH AND APRIL I WAS ONLY A
FEW KILOMETRES FROM WHERE THESE
INCURSIONS WERE HAPPENING.
I CAN TELL YOU THERE ARE TROOP
MOVEMENTS ACROSS THE BORDER.
I HAVE NO IDEA IF THESE LAVs
ARE GOING TO BE USED BY THEM, I
HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TYPE OF
VEHICLES THEY ARE USING AT THE
MOMENT.
AS I UNDERSTAND IT, THE CANADIAN
STANDARD IS NOT THAT THIS WILL
HAPPEN, IT IS RISK THAT THIS
MIGHT HAPPEN, AND I THINK GIVEN
THE TROOP MOVEMENTS THAT WE'RE
SEEING, GIVEN THE WAY THAT SAUDI
ARABIA HAS BEHAVED IN THE
CONTEXT OF THIS WAR SO FAR, I
THINK THE RISK IS HIGH ENOUGH
THAT ANY GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE
EXTREMELY CONCERNED ABOUT A DEAL
LIKE THIS GOING THROUGH AT THIS POINT.

Piya says ALL RIGHT.
I WANT TO DRILL DOWN ON SOME OF
THE THINGS THAT THE CANADIAN
GOVERNMENT HAS SAID, REASONING
FOR THIS TO GO FORWARD.
I SHOULD SAY BY WAY OF
BACKGROUND, A LOT OF OUR ALLIES
IN THE E.U. ARE SAYING LET'S DO
AN ARMS EMBARGO TO SAUDI ARABIA,
THE BELGIANS, THE DUTCH ARE
REFUSING TO SELL ARMS AT THIS
POINT, AND THEN CANADA IS TAKING
ITS OWN POSITION.
LET ME PUT A COUPLE OF THINGS TO
YOU THAT OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
IS SAYING.
THEY SAY THAT 3,000 CANADIAN
JOBS ARE DEPENDING ON THIS DEAL.
IF THE DEAL GOES, SO DO THE
JOBS.

Belkis says I MEAN, YOU
KNOW, I'M NOT AN ECONOMIST, I'M
NOT AN EXPERT IN THE ECONOMY OF
CANADA, BUT I'D WONDER AS TO
WHETHER THESE ARE... THESE ARE
THE KIND OF... IS THE VALUE OF
3,000 JOBS... I WONDER WHETHER
WE KNOW, DOES THIS MEAN 3,000
JOBS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRETY OF
THIS CONTRACT OR IS IT AT ANY
GIVEN POINT IN THE CONTRACT?
THAT'S A DIFFERENT QUESTION.
BUT THESE 3,000 JOBS, ARE THEY
WORTH IT IF THE NEXT THING THAT
WE'RE GOING TO SEE IS A PHOTO
EMERGING WITH ONE OF THESE
CANADA LAVS CROSSING THE BORDER?
I DON'T KNOW IF THE CANADIAN
PUBLIC IS WILLING TO PAY THAT
PRICE.

Piya says I GATHER YOUR ANSWER
TO THAT IS: NO, IT'S NOT WORTH IT.

Belkis says AGAIN, I
THINK THAT'S UP TO THE CANADIAN
PUBLIC TO DECIDE.
OR PUSH THEIR ELECTED
REPRESENTATIVES TO MAKE THAT
DECISION.

Piya says HERE'S ANOTHER REASON
FROM THE GOVERNMENT.
THEY SAY IF WE GO BACK ON THE
DEAL, IT'S GOING TO RUIN
CANADA'S INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS
REPUTATION.
A GOOD REASON?

Belkis says I THINK...
FOR ONE THING AS YOU RIGHTLY
POINTED OUT, THIS IS A DECISION
TAKEN BY A FORMER GOVERNMENT AND
IT WAS TAKEN AT A VERY DIFFERENT
TIME.
THIS WAR WAS NOT GOING ON AT
THAT TIME.
SAUDI ARABIA DID NOT HAVE THE
SAME RECORD AT THAT TIME.
RIGHT NOW YOU'VE GOT A U.N.
PANEL OF EXPERTS' REPORT SAYING
SUCH DRAMATIC THINGS THAT HAVE
BEEN DOCUMENTED, AGAIN SAUDI
ARABIA AND THE REST OF THE
COALITION.
YOU'VE GOT A CASE IN WHICH, AS
YOU POINTED OUT, THE ENTIRE
EUROPEAN MOVEMENT, THE EUROPEAN
PARLIAMENT HAS CALLED FOR THERE
TO BE AN ARMS EMBARGO ON SAUDI
ARABIA SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE OF
ITS BEHAVIOUR IN THIS WAR.
YOU HAVE COUNTRIES IN EUROPE
BLOCKING ARMS TO SAUDI ARABIA.
SO THIS WOULDN'T BE COMING IN A
VACUUM AND I THINK IT WOULD BE
AN UNDERSTANDABLE DECISION TO
TAKE AND ONE THAT WOULDN'T LOOK
AT ALL INCONGRUOUS.

Piya says I WANT TO GIVE YOU
ONE OR TWO MORE.
WE'LL SEE ABOUT TIME.
REASONS THAT OUR GOVERNMENT IS
GIVING.
HERE'S ANOTHER ONE: IT WILL HURT
OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE
SAUDIS.
WE HAVE ABOUT 16,000 SAUDI
STUDENTS STUDYING HERE IN
CANADA.
IT'S ABOUT SOFT POWER.
WE COULD HELP APPRECIATE... YOU
KNOW, GROW THIS APPRECIATION OF
CANADA, THEY TAKE IT BACK HOME,
INCLUDING THINGS LIKE OUR
WONDERFUL DIVERSITY, OUR GENDER
EQUALITY.
GOOD REASON?

Belkis hesitates, and says I MEAN, YOU
KNOW, THE LIVES OF REAL PEOPLE
ARE AT STAKE AT THE END OF THIS
AND I THINK ONE REALLY NEEDS TO
THINK IN THOSE STARK TERMS.
I HAVE BEEN ON THE GROUND IN
YEMEN WHERE I WITNESSED IN TERMS
OF THE HUMAN COST OF THIS WAR IS
SO INCREDIBLY HIGH, AND I THINK
ANY COUNTRY THAT HAS LEVERAGE
RIGHT NOW OVER SAUDI ARABIA HAS
TO BE USING THE MOST EFFECTIVE
LEVERAGE THAT THEY HAVE TO STOP
THESE VIOLATIONS FROM HAPPENING,
AND IF YOU HAVE AN ARMS DEAL
RIGHT NOW, YOU HAVE MORE
LEVERAGE THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY,
AND WHAT YOU CAN SAY TO SAUDI
ARABIA IS: WE ARE UNDER A LOT OF
PRESSURE, NOT FROM OUR OWN
PUBLIC, FOR THIS DEAL NOT TO GO
THROUGH.
THEREFORE YOU, SAUDI ARABIA, YOU
NEED TO SHOW US SOMETHING UNTIL
WE CAN GREEN LIGHT THIS.
SHOW US THAT WHEN YOU CARRY OUT
AN ATTACK THAT LEADS TO DEATH OF
CIVILIANS, YOU DO CARRY OUT AN
INVESTIGATION, YOU DO HOLD SOME
COMMANDER ACCOUNTABLE, AND YOU
DO COMPENSATE VICTIMS.
THAT HAS NOT HAPPENED A SINGLE
TIME IN THIS WAR.
UNTIL THAT STARTS HAPPENING, NO
GOVERNMENT CAN CONTINUE TO GREEN
LIGHT THESE SALES.

Piya says AND ANOTHER POINT,
YOU KNOW, CRITICS MAKE, IS THAT
SAUDI ARABIA IS A COUNTRY WITH
VAST MISOGYNY, PUNISHES
DISSIDENTS IN THE WORST POSSIBLE WAY.
KILLS THEM.
WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING OVER
THERE AND MAKING DEALS WITH THEM?

Belkis says YES, WHICH IS
A VERY FAIR POINT.

Piya says WHAT HAS TO BE DONE,
WHICH IS A BIG QUESTION?
WHAT DO WE HAVE TO DO BEFORE
CANADA SAYS, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE
ALL OUR ASSURANCES.
WHAT WOULD BE OKAY FOR YOU, WHAT
BOXES DO WE HAVE TO TICK OFF?

Belkis says WELL, FOR ONE
THING, THERE COULD BE A STRONGER
PUSH ON THE SIDE OF THIS
GOVERNMENT TO SAY WE WANT TO
SEE, FOR EXAMPLE, FIRST OF ALL,
A CLEAR AGREEMENT AS TO WHAT
THESE LAVs CAN AND CANNOT BE
USED FOR AND THAT HAS TO BE IN
WRITING AND CLEAR AGREEMENT ON
THAT.
SECONDLY, IT CAN'T BE SIMPLY
LEFT TO ASSURANCES.
WE'VE SEEN MANY CASES IN WHICH
THE SAUDIS HAVE BEEN WILLING TO
GIVE ASSURANCES AND HAVEN'T
LIVED UP TO THOSE.
SO A MODERN MECHANISM WOULD HAVE
TO BE PUT IN PLACE THAT THE
CANADIAN GOVERNMENT WOULD FEEL
COMFORTABLE WITH THAT WOULD
ALLOW THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT TO
KNOW IF INDEED THESE LAVs END
UP BEING USED IN A WAY THEY
SHOULDN'T BE USED.
IF THAT HAPPENS, THE FINAL THING
I THINK THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT
NEEDS TO DEMAND BEFORE THIS DEAL
CAN GO THROUGH IS TO SEE PROOF
THAT A COMPENSATION MECHANISM
HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED SO THAT IF
THESE LAVs ARE USED IN AN
ATTACK THAT LEADS TO CIVILIAN
CASUALTIES AND AN ATTACK THAT IS
UNLAWFUL, THAT THERE IS A
MECHANISM IN PLACE THAT WILL
LEAD TO COMPENSATION FOR THE
VICTIMS.
UNTIL ALL OF THOSE BOXES ARE
TICKED, I REALLY DON'T SEE HOW
THE GOVERNMENT CAN GO THROUGH
WITH THIS.

Piya says WHEN YOU WERE IN
OTTAWA THIS WEEK AND YOU SAY ALL
THAT TO THEM, DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE
LISTENED TO, HEARD?

Belkis says I WOULD SAY
THE POSITIVE RESPONSE WAS THERE
IN THESE MEETINGS.
I DO THINK THAT THE GOVERNMENT
REALIZES THAT, AS YOU SAID, IS
LOOKING LIKE QUITE A BLACK MARK
ON THE GOVERNMENT.
THERE'S A LOT OF PRESSURE ON THE
FOREIGN MINISTRY IN PARTICULAR
TO TRY AND REMEDY THIS AS MUCH
AS POSSIBLE.
I DIDN'T SENSE THAT THERE'S A
WILLINGNESS TO STOP THE DEAL
FROM GOING THROUGH, BUT I GOT
THE SENSE THAT THERE IS A VERY
STRONG INTEREST IN THE SIDE OF
THE GOVERNMENT ON PUTTING IN
PLACE SOME TYPES OF CHECKS AND
BALANCES SO AS TO TRY AND ENSURE
THAT THESE LAVs ARE NOT USED
IN AN IMPROPER WAY.

Piya says FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
WATCH, YOU ALSO TAKE CARE OF
KUWAITI, IF I CAN PUT IT THAT WAY.
THERE ARE U.N.-MEDIATED PEACE
TALKS GOING ON IN THAT COUNTRY.
IS THAT GOING TO LEAD TO PEACE THERE?

The caption changes to "Reaching peace."

Belkis says I THINK THE
PROBLEM WITH THE PEACE TALKS YOU
HAVE IN KUWAIT, DESPITE THE FACT
THAT THEY ARE MEANT TO BE
CARRIED OUT IN TANDEM WITH THE
CEASE-FIRE IN YEMEN AND WITHIN
HOURS OF THAT CEASE-FIRE COMING
INTO EFFECT, IT WAS BROKEN AND
THERE HAVE BEEN AIR STRIKES AND
FIGHTING ON THE GROUND
CONSISTENTLY THROUGHOUT.
SO THAT'S ALREADY SOMETHING THAT
DESTABLIZES NEGOTIATIONS.
BUT THE OTHER BIG PROBLEM THAT I
SEE IS THE FACT THAT, YES, THE
GROUP IS IN KUWAIT... BUT THERE
ARE A PLETHORA OF OTHER ACTORS
FIGHTING ON THE GROUND IN YEMEN.
SOME VERY LEGITIMATE POLITICAL
PLAYERS.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE MUSLIM
BROTHERHOOD PARTY OF YEMEN WHICH
HAD THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POPULAR
BACKING AND IF THERE HAD BEEN
ELECTIONS BEFORE ALL THIS
HAPPENED, THEY WOULD HAVE GOTTEN
THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE POPULAR
VOTE.
THIS PARTY HAS NOT BEEN INVITED
TO THE TALKS.
SO IF THE TWO PARTIES COME HOME
WITH SOME SIGNED AGREEMENT AND
ARE ASKING THE REST OF YEMEN TO
SIGN UP TO THIS NEW DEAL, I
DON'T SEE GROUPS LIKE THE MUSLIM
BROTHERHOOD IN YEMEN AND OTHER
GROUPS BEING WILLING TO STOMACH
WHAT THAT DEAL IS GOING TO BE,
AND I UNFORTUNATELY CAN SEE THAT
LEADING TO MORE FIGHTING ON THE
GROUND.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: TVO.org, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; @theagenda"

Piya says I MENTIONED SYRIA.
I DON'T WANT THIS TO BE A
HIERARCHY OF TRAGEDIES IN WAR,
BUT THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR HAS
BEEN GOING ON MORE THAN FIVE
YEARS NOW.
IT GETS MORE ATTENTION, PROBABLY
NOT ENOUGH, BUT MORE ATTENTION
THAN THE OTHER CONFLICTS IN THE
REGION, 280,000 PEOPLE
DISPLACED, MILLIONS DEAD, OUT OF
SYRIA.
HOW DO YOU GET ATTENTION FOR THE
YEMENS OF THE WORLD WHERE WE'RE
SO FOCUSED, MAYBE NOT ENOUGH,
BUT MORE FOCUSED ON SYRIA?

Belkis says YEAH.
I MEAN, IT'S A GOOD QUESTION,
AND I THINK ONE OF THE KEY
REASONS... BECAUSE I DON'T THINK
IF YOU LOOK AT SORT OF THE
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS AND THE
LEVEL OF THE CRISIS, THE
SITUATION IN YEMEN IS PROBABLY
AS DRAMATIC OR EVEN WORSE.
YOU KNOW, THE PRESIDENT OF THE
INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE
RED CROSS CAME TO YEMEN 5 MONTHS
INTO THE WAR AND HE SAID 5
MONTHS OF WAR IN YEMEN LOOKS
LIKE 5 YEARS AFTER THE WAR BEGAN
IN SYRIA.
I MEAN, THAT'S HOW DRAMATIC THE
WAR HAS BEEN THERE.
AND YET AS YOU SAID IT GETS VERY
LITTLE ATTENTION AND I THINK THE
MAIN REASON FOR THAT IS BECAUSE
YEMEN HAS TWO LAND BORDERS THAT
HAVE BEEN CLOSED SINCE THE FIRST
DAY OF THE WAR AND THEN THERE'S
AN OCEAN AND IT'S VERY HARD FOR
YEMENIS TO MAKE THAT ROUTE OUT.
SO THE YEMENIS ARE NOT SHOWING
UP ON THE SHORES OF EUROPE,
WHEREAS THE SYRIANS ARE.
THAT'S WHY THE SYRIANS ARE ABLE
TO GET THE STORY OUT SO MUCH
MORE EFFECTIVELY AND THE WORLD
HEARS ABOUT THEIR CONFLICT, BUT
YEMENIS REALLY DON'T HAVE THE
ABILITY TO TALK TO THE OUTSIDE
WORLD, IT IS SUCH AN ISOLATED
COUNTRY AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN.
IT'S A TOUGH... IT'S A TOUGH
BATTLE THAT WE'VE BEEN FIGHTING
FOR THE LAST YEAR AND IT REALLY
IS HARD TO GET ATTENTION TO THIS
CONFLICT.

The caption changes to "Producer: Harrison Lowman, @harrisonlowman"

Piya says THANK YOU FOR
BRINGING IT MORE READILY TO OUR
ATTENTION.
BE SAFE WHEN YOU GO BACK THERE.

Belkis says THANK YOU.

Piya says THANK YOU.

Watch: Yemen: The Forgotten War