Six Muslim MPs supported a motion in Parliament last week for the UK to withdraw support for Saudi military operations in Yemen, whereas seven voted against, abstained or failed to turn up for the vote, writes Ahmed Kaballo.
Five Labour MPs – Khalid Mahmood, Rupa Huq, Naz Shah, Imran Hussain and Tulip Siddiq, along with the Scottish National Party’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh – supported the motion which was put forward by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.
Meanwhile, Labour MPs Rushanara Ali, Rosena Allin-Khan, Shabana Mahmood, Rehman Chishti and Yasmin Qureishi all opted to abstain or not show up for the vote. An estimated 100 Labour MPs didn’t vote in what many have argued was a calculated decision to undermine the Labour leadership.
Conservative Nusrat Gani was the only Muslim Member of Parliament to vote against the motion which was defeated by 283 votes to 193.
Gani spoke in the debate justifying her position by saying: “My reservations about how Saudi Arabia conducts some of its affairs, internally and externally, are known… But however critical we are and will be continue to be about the involvement of Saudi Arabia in this conflict, that involvement is at the request of the legitimate government of Yemen, to deter aggression by the illegitimate Houthi rebels…
“We know the danger posed by failed states. It is the fuel that Daesh breeds on, allowing it to export its ideology and terrorism. As we continue to defeat Daesh, we must also recognise the role being played by Saudi Arabia within the Islamic military alliance, which now has 39 members. The organisation’s joint command centre is in Riyadh, and the role of the alliance in the future defeat of Daesh has been recognised by us, the United States and others. We cannot risk weakening that alliance or the willingness of its leading members to lead the fight against Daesh by attempting to undermine its role in the Yemen conflict.”
On the other hand, the SNP’s Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said coalition forces backed by the Saudi Arabia have acted in a manner that is at odds with international law.
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She said: “I understand that many atrocities have been carried out against Yemeni civilians by al-Houthi rebels, who have also shelled civilian homes, and deployed snipers who have targeted women and children. That is evil, wicked and wrong, and of course we do not agree with it. However, it is the actions of the Saudi coalition that concern me most today, because it is in that respect that the UK should be able to make decisions and use its influence for good.”
The parliamentary debate came against the backdrop of a Human Rights Watch report that provided evidence that UK arms were being used by Saudi Arabia to target civilian populated areas.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has also accused the British state of continuing to approve billions of pounds worth of weapons to the Saudi regime despite the serious allegations of human rights abuses.
Saudi Arabia launched its military intervention in Yemen in 2015, leading a coalition of nine Middle Eastern countries to influence the outcome of the Yemeni Civil War.
The Saudi-led coalition has attacked the positions of the Houthi militia and loyalists of the former President of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, which are supported by Iran, in response to a request from the internationally-recognized but domestically-opposed government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
It’s thought that up to 10,000 people have died in the war and millions have been internally and externally displaced.