Open Letter from Yemen Scholars Protesting War

We write as scholars concerned with Yemen and as residents/nationals of the United Kingdom and the United States. The military attack by Saudi Arabia, backed by the Gulf Cooperation Council states (but not Oman), Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, the UK, and above all the US, is into its third week of bombing and blockading Yemen. This military campaign is illegal under international law: None of these states has a case for self-defense. The targets of the campaign include schools, homes, refugee camps, water systems, grain stores and food industries. This has the potential for appalling harm to ordinary Yemenis as almost no food or medicine can enter. Yemen is the poorest country of the Arab world in per capita income, yet rich in cultural plurality and democratic tradition. Rather than contributing to the destruction of the country, the US and UK should support a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate, unconditional ceasefire and use their diplomatic influence to strengthen the sovereignty and self-government of Yemen. As specialists we are more than aware of internal divisions within Yemeni society, but we consider that it is for the Yemenis themselves to be allowed to negotiate a political settlement.

Robert Burrowes, University of Washington

Steve Caton, Harvard University

Sheila Carapico, University of Richmond

Paul Dresch, University of Oxford

Najam Haidar, Barnard College

Helen Lackner

Anne Meneley, Trent University

Brinkley Messick, Columbia University

Flagg Miller, University of California-Davis

Martha Mundy, London School of Economics

Thanos Petouris, SOAS-University of London

Lucine Taminian, The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq

Gabriele vom Bruck, SOAS-University of London

Lisa Wedeen, University of Chicago

Shelagh Weir

John Willis, University of Colorado

Stacey Philbrick Yadav, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Sami Zubaida, Birkbeck College, London

Republished from the Middle East Research and Information Project. Photo from a protest outside the Saudi embassy in London on April 11.

Guest Contributor

Articles by guest writers.



  1. All these aggressors including countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Egypt & any other countries involved in this unfair, unjustified, inhuman & barbaric bombardment of a sovereign country should be brought to the International court of Justice, There is absolutely no justification to what they are doing in this poorest region of the region. USA as the sole provide of arms to all these countries is also responsible. The powerful Pro-Israeli Lobby ($?) is feeding this frenzy accusations as part of propaganda against Iran. It is well known to everyone that the Iranian regime is no Angel, but this is absolutely outrageous & We got to demand from US government to stop any support including logistics to these barbaric, regressive & middle age style tribal regimes in the Middle est.

  2. For Saudi Arabia to consider Yemen its own property to kick around and abuse is beyond repugnant. Nothing gives Saudi Arabia this right. It’s further repugnant that the West has not roundly and immediately moved to condemn the invasion and instead has supported the aggression. If there is any poetic justice in all this it is what many people recognize: that in a round-about way this knuckle-headed move by Saudi Arabia and its junior partners is going to unleash the gates of hell for them just as Saddam had warned the U.S. invasion of Iraq would do, and that was the only time that the Butcher of Baghdad was right.

  3. Interesting that with all the power poured into Yemen by the U.S., it still couldn’t win. Now with the combined forces under Saudi control, they pull a Israeli Gaza like move, bomb the country back to the stone age, as has been done in each of the Muslim countries in the M.E. Of course, Yemen, like the other countries, are no match for the weapons/destruction poured upon the country. Strange bed fellows involved, especially with Israel in the mix.

  4. Yemen seems to be a trap for the Gulf countries set by the USA . These countries will come out of that war humiliated and weaken politically and therefore would have to accept that Iran is no more an outcast and that they are no more the ‘USA favorites’.
    Their looming failure in Yemen will bring them to negotiate with Iran a modus vivendi on an agreed repartition of the zones of influence in the region (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya)
    Israel will also have to deal with the same reality concerning Iran and will be forced into a negotiation on Palestine.
    The result of this Yemen war is a turning point in the region geopolitics

  5. Whilst it is correct that none of the nations attacking Yemen can put forward a legal justification under international public law for their attacks on the territory of that country and its Houthi and Sunni populations, the Security Council has already shown its bias against the Houthi population over the issue of a weapons embargo against ‘all; parties involved, which makes further recourse to it pointless.
    So, regretfully, the plain unpalatable fact that the signatories of this letter and their supporters must accept is that the US and the UK, both members of the Security Council, have turned a blind-eye towards international public law.
    In the case of the UK, I assume it is the provisions – public and secret – of the NATO treaty that bind the UK to ignore international public law considerations.
    For that reason I suggest the only effective way for the signatories to oppose the actions of their own governments is to bring the issue before the voting publics of the US and the UK.
    Since a general election campaign is under way in the UK, cannot the UK signatories and their supporters make out of their protest broader foreign policy issues and ‘push’ them to the forefront of the General Election debates?
    Those broader foreign policy issues might be:
    (i) What treaties, agreements, international obligations etc … , if, any, oblige or impel the UK Government to assist the commission of plainly illegal acts under public international law being committed by the armed forces of the sovereign states now attacking Yemen?

    (ii) Do such treaties etc … relieve or absolve the UK Government from being an accomplice to the commission of illegal acts – presently being committed in and against Yemen – under public international war: principally, the Law of War?

    (iii) Do the treaty obligations accepted by successive UK Government as a member of NATO conflict with and contradict the UK’s legal duties under the UN Charter, thereby, making continuing membership of NATO ultra vires and void, with the consequence being that the UK should withdraw from membership of NATO forthwith and chart a new course in its foreign relationships?

Comments are closed.