“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.” — Hunger striker Pamela Bennett
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.”
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  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 138 that 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.”