Twenty-two aid groups working in Yemen have called on Washington to revoke a last-minute move by the administration of former US President Donald Trump to designate Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement as a foreign terrorist organization.
“This designation comes at a time when famine is a very real threat to a country devastated by six years of conflict, and it must be revoked immediately. Any disruption to lifesaving aid operations and commercial imports of food, fuel, medicine and other essential goods will put millions of lives at risk,” the aid groups said in a statement on Sunday, Reuters reported.
The administration of President Joe Biden has already begun to review the designation, following worldwide condemnations directed at the Trump designation as well as calls to reverse it.
“As noted by Secretary-designate [Anthony] Blinken, the State Department has initiated a review of Ansarullah’s terrorist designations,” a spokesperson at the State Department said on Friday. “We will not publicly discuss or comment on internal deliberations regarding that review; however, with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen we are working as fast as we can to conduct the review and make a determination.”
The aid organizations said the legal implications of the designation are not fully understood, and the US’ exemptions – which include aid groups, the UN, the Red Cross and the export of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices – do not cover enough of the commercial sector.
“The licenses and associated guidance do not provide sufficient guarantees to international banks, shipping companies and suppliers that still face the risk of falling foul of US laws. As a result, many in the commercial sector will likely feel the risk is too high to continue working in Yemen,” they said.
Mercy Corps, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee were among the signatories of the statement.
The Saudi-led war against Yemen, which was waged in 2015 in hopes of reinstalling Yemen’s former pro-Riyadh government, has turned the country into the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Six years on, the war has killed tens of thousands of civilians, including women and children.
Last week, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah warned Saudi Arabia that it cannot expect to stay safe from retaliation.
“Those, who mobilize their militants towards Yemen with the goal of causing death and destroying its cities and villages, cannot expect us to respond by waving at them and sending them flowers and peace doves,” Abdullah said.