Fatigue Over Conflicts in Syria, Yemen

Fatigue Over Conflicts  in Syria, YemenFatigue Over Conflicts  in Syria, Yemen

Airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition targeting the Houthis in Yemen, destroyed a hospital run by the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders this week. Although there were no deaths, the hospital was the latest casualty of a campaign that has claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people since March, AP reported.

But those strikes on hospitals brought little international outcry—a sharp contrast to an Oct. 3 American strike on a hospital in Afghanistan that killed 30 people and brought a firestorm of criticism on Washington.

The reasons are many, perhaps chief among them is general fatigue over the conflicts in Syria, now in its fifth year, and in Yemen, a relatively impoverished and isolated country mired in turmoil for more than a decade.

Also, while the US acknowledged relatively quickly that it carried out the strikes and US President Barack Obama apologized to Doctors Without Borders, which also ran that facility, Russia and Saudi Arabia categorically deny that their campaigns hit civilians, and conditions on the ground make confirmations more difficult, muddying the waters for critics.

 Humanitarian Concepts Dead?

“After more than four years of war, I remain flabbergasted at how international humanitarian law can be so easily flouted by all parties to this conflict,” said Sylvain Groulx, head of Doctors Without Borders’ mission for Syria. “We can only wonder whether this concept is dead.”

The Syrian conflict has killed a quarter of a million people, producing a seemingly endless churn of death and devastation to viewers around the world. Hundreds of medical facilities have been destroyed throughout the war and 670 medical personnel have died since the start of the conflict in March 2011, according to Physicians for Human Rights.

The war in Yemen has generated little attention. There, Saudi Arabia and its allies have been waging an air campaign since March to back the president, ousted by Houthi forces who have taken over large parts of the country.

Civilian areas have borne a large part of the violence, and the UN said the Doctors Without Borders hospital hit Monday was the 39th health center struck in the air campaign.

Few governments around the world are eager to vocally criticize oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia, since many benefit from its aid or investment.

For example, in Egypt, which is officially a partner in the Saudi coalition, little coverage of the Yemen war appears on TV stations and what does appear is uncritical.

“The media silence, coupled with a general lack of knowledge of Yemen and a growing anti-Shia sentiment in the country, fuels the apathy toward the war,” said Egyptian analyst and sociologist, Ziad A. Akl.