American Woman Turns to Hunger Strike to Break Media Blackout on Yemen

Pamela Bennett | Yemen Hunger Strike

By Whitney Webb
Source

SAN FRANCISCO — In Yemen, 18 million civilians are now at the brink of starvation, including 5 million children. The situation in the country, widely considered to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, is entirely man-made – the sordid result of the Saudi Arabia/UAE coalition’s war to control the Middle East’s poorest nation, a war that deliberately targets civilian infrastructure and the civilian food and water supply. Despite the fact that these are clear war crimes, and despite the mass suffering it has inflicted on Yemen’s innocents, this effort continues to receive U.S. and U.K. support.

In the face of the enormity of this completely preventable crisis, some international activists have taken matters into their own hands, giving it their all in order to bring much-needed attention to the plight of the Yemeni people by sacrificing their own quality of life in a stunning and inspiring show of solidarity.

Pamela Bennett, an American woman living in San Francisco, has been on a hunger strike since October 8 in an effort to show solidarity with Yemenis facing famine and to raise awareness in the United States in particular about upcoming congressional efforts to reduce or end the U.S.’ role in the genocide currently occurring in Yemen. Bennett is not alone in her efforts, as a contact from her Facebook page, “Yemen Rising,” is also currently in the seventh day of his hunger strike. Bennett, however, is on her 23rd day.

Others had initially joined the hunger strike but had to end, some leaving for personal reasons while others were forced to stop after being hospitalized as a consequence of their participation. After some of the original hunger strikers had been hospitalized, Bennett began drinking juices and broth in addition to water in order to prevent major health complications.

As part of her bid to raise awareness about Yemen through the hunger strike, Bennett posts daily videos to Facebook discussing her experiences as a result of the hunger strike and her reasons for taking such a drastic step to raise awareness about the crisis in Yemen.

What Bennett hopes her hunger can accomplish

Bennett told MintPress that one of her main reasons for hunger striking for Yemen was that she was “enraged at how well the [Western] media has hidden this,” explaining:

I considered myself a quasi-activist, and I had no idea. I thought it [the humanitarian crisis] was a drought in Yemen or something when I even saw the rare post. When I discovered it was man-made, and that my own government was greatly responsible, I was frightened at how easily I was misled. I wanted action to combat that fear, so I thought of a strike.”

Another of Bennett’s motivations to start a hunger strike was:

How unfair it is for me to have food when millions of people, including pregnant women and children, don’t have any food because of corrupt people in my complicit media hiding what’s happening, and my culpable government preventing them from having good water and electricity with a blockade that decimated their economy, and bombs that destroy their world.”

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A doctor shows a photo of Fadl, an 8-month-old Yemeni boy taken in his last days before he starved to death, in this Feb. 10, 2018 photo at a hospital in Mocha, Yemen. Nariman El-Mofty | AP

She continued, stating:

I also felt that this action would keep my attention, and that of others, on the lack of food that most are suffering in Yemen, and would show solidarity with the Yemeni people. I can tell you, at [23] days now, it is much harder to distract myself than it was at the beginning, and I feel a tiny inkling of what millions are suffering at the hands of greedy people right now.”

However, it continues to be the glaring lack of coverage about the crisis in Yemen that has served as the main impetus for Bennett’s solidarity efforts. Bennett told MintPress:

I would not have to strike if the media did their jobs. I have not seen a fraction of the coverage needed on Yemen. I am sent photos, videos, and stories daily by the Yemeni people. Why would the Yemeni people be doing this if there was adequate coverage? As one Yemeni man put it, on feeling invisible in his suffering, ‘only God sees our tears.’”

Action from Congress?

At this moment in her hunger strike – now in its fourth week – Bennett stated that her immediate goal in continuing the strike was to raise awareness about current legislation in the U.S. Congress related to either reducing or ending the U.S.’ participation in the Yemen conflict, either by ending arms sales to the coalition or by ending the U.S. military’s role in the fighting and the coalition’s bombing campaign. In particular, Bennett is calling on U.S. citizens to contact their representatives, urging them to support Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) JR 54 that would end the U.S.’ role in Yemen as well as Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-CA) HR 138that also calls for a U.S. withdrawal from Yemen. Another House bill, Rep. Jim McGovern’s (D-MA) JR 102, would restrict arms sales to the Saudi government.

If Americans step up and put enough pressure on their representatives and any one of these bills is passed, the U.S. may pull out. Bennett opined that, if the U.S. is forced to withdraw, “I think that there is every chance Saudi Arabia, the U.K. and the UAE will follow suit, with enough pressure.”

To join the effort

Any person interested in participating in the hunger strike alongside Bennett is urged to contact her either through her page “Yemen Rising” or her personal Facebook page. Bennett stated that water-only fasts are no longer encouraged and that all potential hunger strikers need to be in good health before beginning. She emphasized that the hunger strike is “a media campaign to combat media silence, [so please make] videos about what you are doing and why these actions are needed to spread the word.” She also noted that some people have done shorter-term solidarity fasts, anywhere from one day to one week, in order raise awareness.

For those looking to aid solidarity efforts in another way, Bennett stated that it is of the utmost importance for U.S. citizens to search online for “the contact sheets for senators and representatives, and email, call and write. And tell your friends to do the same.”

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Killing Jamal Khashoggi Was Easy. Explaining It Is Much Harder

By Philip Giraldi
Source

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Getting to the bottom of the Jamal Khashoggi disappearance is a bit like peeling an onion. It is known that Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd to get a document that would enable him to marry a Turkish woman. It is also known, from surveillance cameras situated outside the building, that he never came out walking the same way he entered. The presumption is that he was either killed inside or abducted, though the abduction theory would have to be based on a Consulate vehicle leaving the building with him presumably concealed inside, something that has not been confirmed by the Turks. If he was killed inside the building and dismembered, as seems likely, he could have had his body parts removed in the suitcases carried by the alleged fifteen official Saudis who had arrived that morning by private jet and left that afternoon the same way. The supposition is that the fifteen men, which may have included some members of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s bodyguard as well as a physician skilled in autopsies who was carrying a bone saw, constituted the execution party for Khashoggi.

There are certain things that should be observed about the Turks, since they are the ones claiming that the disappearance of Khashoggi may have included a summary execution and dismemberment. The Turkish intelligence service, known by its acronym MIT, is very good, very active and very focused on monitoring the activities of foreign embassies and their employees throughout Turkey. They use electronic surveillance and, if the foreign mission has local employees, many of those individuals will be agents reporting to the Turkish government. In my own experience when I was in Istanbul, I had microphones concealed in various places in my residence and both my office and home phones were tapped. A number of local hire consulate employees were believed to be informants for MIT but they were not allowed anywhere near sensitive information.

As Turkey and Saudi Arabia might be termed rivals if not something stronger, it is to be presumed that MIT had the Consulate General building covered with both cameras and microphones, possibly inside the building as well as outside, and may have had a Turkish employer inside who observed some of what was going on. Which is to say that the Turks certainly know exactly what occurred but are playing their cards closely to see what they can derive from that knowledge. The two countries have already initiated a joint investigation into what took place. Turkey’s economy is in free fall and would benefit from “investment” from the Saudis to create an incentive to close the book on Khashoggi. In other words, Turkey’s perspective on the disappearance could easily be influenced by Saudi money and the investigation might well turn up nothing that is definitive.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, has a couple of cards to play also even if it did kill and dismember Khashoggi under orders from the Crown Prince. First of all, the system of petrodollars, which basically requires nearly all purchases of petroleum to be paid in dollars, is underwritten by the Saudis. Petrodollars in turn enable the United States to print money for which there is no backing knowing that there will always be international demand for dollars to buy oil. The Saudis, who also use their own petrodollars to buy U.S. treasury bonds, could pull the plug on that arrangement. That all means that the United States will be looking for an outcome that will not do too much damage to the Saudis.

Second, Saudi Arabia is in bed with Israel in opposition to Iran. This means the Israel Lobby and its many friends in Congress will squawk loudly about Khashoggi but ultimately shy away from doing anything about it. It already appears that a cover story is halfway in place to explain what happened. It is being suggested that a “rogue” element from Saudi Arabia might have carried out without the knowledge of the Crown Prince an interrogation or abduction attempt that went too far. Donald Trump speculated on Monday that that might be the case, suggesting that it may already be part of the official line that will be promoted. Those who know Saudi Arabia well, however, consider a high-level assassination not ordered by the Crown Prince directly to be extremely unlikely, but that does not necessarily mean that a cover story including that feature might not be successfully floated.

In regional terms, Saudi Arabia is also key to Trump’s anticipated Middle East peace plan. If it pulls out from the expected financial guarantees aspect, the plan will fall apart. Riyadh is also committed to buy tens of billions of dollars’ worth of American arms, an agreement that could be canceled if Washington begins to pressure the Saudis for answers. Beyond that, Saudi Arabia could stop pumping oil or fail to increase production when Iranian oil becomes subject to U.S. sanctions early next month, driving the price per barrel up dramatically for everyone. The Saudi government has already indicated that it will respond forcefully to any attempts to punish it over Khashoggi and there is no reason to doubt the seriousness of that threat.

There are, of course, possible impediments to selling the fake news narrative. Some early reports suggested that Khashoggi’s fiancé had observed and possibly recorded the execution inside the consulate using the victim’s Apple wristwatch linked to an iPad in her possession. If that is true, the release of such material to the media will create worldwide demand to learn the truth that will be difficult to control. Also, there are unconfirmed reports that U.S. intelligence knew in advance of Saudi plans to abduct Khashoggi, which could prove embarrassing to the Trump administration and could narrow its options.

The trick will be to see how a bit of extreme brutal behavior by the Saudis can be manipulated by all interested parties to produce a solution that doesn’t damage anyone too much. It will undoubtedly be far from the truth, but truth doesn’t necessarily matter much these days.

Will Khashoggi Incident Be Saudi Crown Prince’s Undoing?

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance since October 2 after entering Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate clearly suggests foul play.

His likely abduction and possible murder by Riyadh created an international uproar.

Make no mistake. Saudi relations with the US and other Western countries are strong – given its huge oil reserves and support given Washington’s regional imperial agenda.

How crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) fares if Khashoggi’s abduction and/or murder is proved is another issue entirely.

His status and ascension to the kingdom’s throne could be doomed. Saudi king Salman may replace him as crown prince to soothe international anger, especially in the region and West.

On Monday, Turkish President Erdogan demanded Riyadh prove Khashoggi left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as claimed.

“Do you not have cameras and everything of the sort,” Erdogan asked? “They have all of them. Then why do you not prove this? You need to prove it.”

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi was abducted and killed because of his outspoken criticism of the kingdom.

Until Monday, Trump was silent, finally expressing weak-kneed concern saying:

“I don’t like hearing about it. Hopefully that will sort itself out. Right now, nobody knows anything about it, but there’s some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it.”

Pompeo on Monday tried downplaying the incident, saying there are “conflicting reports on (Khashoggi’s) safety and whereabouts.”

Turkish media reported that a number of diplomatic vehicles left the consulate on October 2, the day Khashoggi disappeared. 

Turkish investigators believe he may have been killed, his body dismembered, taken from the consulate in boxes, and flown to the kingdom for disposal.

The so-called anonymous Saudi Julian Assange whistleblower known as Mujtahid uses Twitter as a platform for his remarks.

Last April, he was wrong tweeting in Arabic: “Circles close to Mohammed bin Salman have disclosed that he has coordinated with Trump and Jared Kushner to have King Salman step down from power to be succeeded by the Saudi Crown Prince by July 4 at most.”

On Tuesday, he tweeted: “It seems that the details that Turkey will announce (in the near future about the fate of Khashoggi) are enough to put an end to the political career of Mohammed bin Salman.” 

“It is also likely that an international stance will be formed against Saudi Arabia which is a law-breaking government and bin Salman will be sued (in) the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”

He believes evidence Turkish investigators uncover may dissuade the Trump regime to stop supporting MBS – suggesting Ankara already has enough evidence to prove his responsibility for Khashoggi’s disappearance and likely death, adding they’re waiting to complete their investigation before passing judgment publicly.

According to Turkish/Arab Media Association head Turan Kislakci, “(w)hat was explained to us (by Turkish officials) is this. (Khashoggi) was killed. Make your funeral preparations,” adding:

“We called a few other places. These are lower officials, but they said: ‘We have evidence he was killed in a barbaric way. We will announce it’ ” later this week.

Last May, exiled Saudi prince Prince Khaled bin Farhan Al Saud since 2013 said the kingdom could “descend into chaos,” destabilizing the region and elsewhere.

“I would like to say to Europeans that the situation in Saudi Arabia resembles a volcano that is about to erupt. And if this volcano erupts, it will not only affect the situation inside Saudi Arabia or in the Arab region, but it will also have an effect on you too,” he said, adding:

“(I)f Saudi Arabia descends into a state of chaos, there will be global chaos, and (the kingdom) will be a source of terrorism for the entire world as it will support and sustain international terrorism” – what it’s done for many years, he failed to explain.

On Monday, he tweeted: “If the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi is proved, I invite all walks of life in Saudi Arabia to cooperate in a legal measure and change the political system through civil disobedience.”

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), at least 81 members of the profession were killed in 2017 globally, calling attacks and threats against journalists at “epidemic levels.”

So far this year, IFJ reported 73 journalists killed worldwide. No fatalities from their ranks in recent memory caused the international uproar like Khashoggi’s disappearance and likely murder.

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Did the Saudis Kidnap and Murder Journalist Jamal Khashoggi?

On October 2, prominent Saudi journalist/critic Khashoggi disappeared after entering the kingdom’s Instanbul, Turkey consulate, needing documents for his upcoming wedding, scheduled for this week.

He hasn’t been seen or heard from since, likely victimized by foul play. Turkish officials believe he was murdered by a Saudi hit squad sent from the kingdom to eliminate him.

According to Turkish police, 15 Saudis, including several officials, arrived in Istanbul on October 6. They entered the consulate when Khashoggi was believed alive inside.

On October 7, Turkish/Arab Media Association head Turan Kislakci cited unconfirmed reports that he was killed in the consulate, his body dismembered, then removed undetected.

Instabul’s chief prosecutor initiated an investigation into what happened, including an examination of all video surveillance footage of consulate entrances, along with checking all inbound and outbound flights since Khashoggi’s disappearance. 

On Monday, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry asked permission to conduct a forensic search of the consulate, after Saudi envoy to the country Waleed AM El-Hereiji was summoned to the ministry for the second time.

Last year, Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia over harsh crackdowns on regime critics. Friction between him and its despotic ruling family surfaced after saying the kingdom should be “nervous about a Trump presidency.”

He opposed Saudi aggression in Yemen, its unacceptable policies toward Qatar, and harshness against critics.

Banned from writing and speaking out publicly, he self-exiled himself to America, saying “I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice,” adding:

“To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot.”

Earlier this year, he said Saudi intellectuals and journalists risk imprisonment for criticizing ruling family policies.

“(N)obody…dare(s) speak and criticize reforms” initiated by MBS. “I haven’t heard him make even the slightest inference that he would open the country for power-sharing, for democracy.”

The State Department was largely silent on Khashoggi’s disappearance, a statement saying it’s aware of reports and seeks more information.

Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is ruthlessly intolerant of regime criticism. If it’s proved responsible for Khashoggi’s death, relations with Turkey will likely worsen.

They deteriorated markedly in recent years. Saudi consul-general Mohammad al-Otaiba claimed Khashoggi “is not at the consulate nor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the consulate and the embassy are working to search for him.”

His fiancee Hatice Cengiz waited for him outside the consulate. She disbelieves the regime’s explanation about his disappearance.

Kingdom assassins likely murdered him. Its ruling are authorities contemptuous of civil and human rights, along with disdaining the rule of law.

GOP Senators Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, and Ben Cardin called for honest answers on what happened to Khashoggi, Graham tweeting:

“We agree that if there was any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government it would be devastating to the US-Saudi relationship, and there will be a heavy price to be paid — economically and otherwise.”

Senator Chris Murphy said if reports about US resident Khashoggi’s murder by the kingdom is true, “it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”

Khashoggi is a Washington Post columnist. Commenting on his disappearance, its editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said “(i)f the reports of (his) murder are true, it is a monstrous and unfathomable act.”

Separately the broadsheet accused kingdom authorities of unlawfully “carry(ing) out hundreds of arrests under the banner of national security, rounding up clerics, business executives and even women’s rights advocates.”

Khashoggi was likely abducted and murdered to silence his criticism. If proved, it’s unlikely to disrupt longterm bilateral relations America – notably strong since Franklin Roosevelt met with king Abdul Aziz in 1945.

Around the same time, the State Department called Middle East oil riches, mainly Saudi ones, “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”

The kingdom’s likely responsibility for whatever happened to Khashoggi isn’t likely to change longterm US/Saudi relations.

By Stephen Lendman
Source

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