Protesters against the war in Yemen hold a banner in Fresno on Dec. 15. Photo by Peter

Fresno Responds to War and Famine in Yemen

By Camille Russell

Local Response

More than 75 people in Fresno fasted during December to bring attention to the famine and humanitarian crisis facing people in Yemen due to war. Yemeni children under the age of five are suffering the most—85,000 of them have died of starvation and disease since Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in April 2015.

In addition to bombing, the Saudi-led coalition blockaded the Yemen port of Hudaydah through which most of Yemen’s food enters the country. The United Nations reports that 14 million people, about half of the population in Yemen, are on the brink of starvation.

Peace Fresno organized the “Yemen Can’t Wait” fast in December as part of a campaign to end all U.S. military support to the Saudi Arabian government and is extending the fast until Jan. 31.

Peace Fresno President Ken Hudson said, “Peace Fresno opposes all war. With Congress finally addressing U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen and the media covering the story, it’s an excellent time for people to take action. Fasting is a tried and true nonviolent tactic for bringing attention to a problem and pressuring those in power to acknowledge the problem and work to solve it. The more people who fast, the more effective it will be.”

Peace Fresno held two demonstrations in Fresno during December to raise awareness of the crisis—one at Blackstone and Nees and the other held jointly with the Democratic Socialists of America–Fresno Chapter outside the offices of Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) in downtown Fresno. Rep. Costa had two opportunities in recent weeks to oppose U.S. military involvement in the Saudi-led attack on Yemen, and he voted the wrong way both times.

Dan Yaseen, Peace Fresno vice president and host of KFCF’s Speaking Truth to Empire, interviewed Kathy Kelly on Dec. 19 regarding the situation in Yemen. Kelly is a peace and justice activist and a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. She coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org), a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. She has a history of organizing nonviolent direct action going back to the 1980s and has lived with people in Iraq and Afghanistan for extended periods of time.

The full radio  interview may be found at

U.S. Involvement in War on Yemen

The war in Yemen is a civil war in which the United States is taking sides with the faction supported by Saudi Arabia. Our government is supporting an undemocratic country that is brutally destroying its neighboring country, Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East.

Last year, the United States sold the Saudis 10 maritime helicopters in a $1.9 billion deal. Since 2010, according to the New York Times, the United States has sold the Saudis 30 F-15 multirole jet fighters, 84 combat helicopters, 110 air-to-surface cruise missiles and 20,000 precision-guided bombs. An American defense contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, “earned tens of millions of dollars training the Saudi Navy during the past decade.”

In a recent article, Kelly wrote that “starvation is being used as a weapon of war—by Saudi Arabia, by the United Arab Emirates and by the superpower patrons including the United States that arm and manipulate both countries.”

She also reminded us that during the 1990s following the first Gulf War, then President Bill Clinton continued bombing Iraq and imposed strict sanctions and no fly-zones. “The children died first by the hundreds, then by the thousands and eventually by the hundreds of thousands.”

The protest for peace in Yemen. Photo by Peter Maiden

We are also reminded that under former President Barack Obama, the United States was involved in drone attacks in Yemen, described chillingly by Jeremy Scahill in his book and DVD Dirty Wars.

How a Fast Can Affect Public Opinion

Well-publicized fasting is a powerful way to raise public awareness and pressure those in power to acknowledge a problem and adopt a solution. Peace Fresno will continue publicizing and promoting widely and broadly. When the fasters say “no” to the food they would normally eat, they remember the people of Yemen who are starving. That memory prompts them to take further action.

Fasting Requirements

Peace Fresno’s “Yemen Can’t Wait” fast is a rolling fast. That means participants will sign up with Peace Fresno to fast for a day or more. The kind of fast people choose is up to them. They can decide which liquid they will drink. Skipping a meal or two is a fast. A Muslim fast is sunrise to sunset, so you are skipping lunch. In other words, we ask people to do either a 12- or 24-hour fast, skipping one meal or two meals. A rolling fast has the advantage of engaging many people and not putting one person at risk of damaging her/his health.

Joining the “Yemen Can’t Wait” Fast

RSVP to FresnoFastsForYemen@peacefresno.org or call 559-276-2592. Provide us with 1) your name, 2) the date/s of your fast, 3) your e-mail address and 4) your phone number if you wish. We’ll add your name only to the fasting calendar, which will be made public.

Yemen Crisis Resources

“A Shift: Repudiating War on Yemen,” Kathy Kelly, Dec. 21, 2018,

“Yemen Conflict Explained in 400 Words,” June 13, 2018,

“Yemen Girl Who Turned World’s Eyes to Famine Is Dead,” Declan Walsh, Nov. 1, 2018,

*****

Camille Russell is a board member and founding member of Peace Fresno and serves on the Community Alliance board. Contact her at camille.russell@att.net.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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