YEMEN: Internet and Telecommunications are NOT Military Targets!

YEMEN is currently plunged in a nationwide internet blackout after Saudi-led airstrikes targeted a telecommunications building in the Houthi-held city of al-Hodeida last Friday, on January 21. The airstrikes killed hundreds of civilians, with many still lost under the rubble.

The attack has also destroyed a power plant connected to the international undersea FALCON cable at al-Hodeida–the only source of internet in the country. All telecommunication services, including the internet, have been disrupted ever since and Yemen has now officially gone offline.

The Internet is now only available to large companies and banks still connected through satellites, as well as those subscribed to the ‘Aden Net’ network, which has a very limited number of subscribers.

Since the beginning of the war in Yemen, the coalition’s raids have targeted communications facilities on the pretext that they are “used for military purposes,” while the Houthis have cut off the Internet intermittently under different excuses. Even when the Internet is not disconnected or targeted, the conflicting parties often block certain websites, including social media applications and sites.

In addition, the internet and telecommunications infrastructure remains destroyed due to the coalition’s prohibition of importing maintenance parts and equipment. At the same time, submarine cables connecting Yemen to the global internet network are not working, either due to disagreements over their management by different authorities, such as the AAE1 cable, or they have not yet been connected, such as the SeaMeWe-5 cable.

According to TeleYemen, internet connection should soon resume, yet some activists express fears of renewed attacks on internet facilities.

We strongly condemn the purposeful targeting and destruction of telecommunication units in Yemen. Internet blackouts in war zones such as Yemen contribute to concealing crimes against humanity and severely damage an already fragile economy.

Sign this petition to say NO to the #YemenBlackout. We call on the international community, and the conflicting parties in Yemen, to:

  • Neutralize the telecommunications and internet sector as it is not a target in conflicts and disputes between warring parties.
  • Force the coalition to allow the import and entry of technical equipment for telecommunications maintenance, especially since the coalition was the one responsible for their destruction in the first place.
  • Include the right to communication and internet access in the United Nations’ human rights reports to monitor violations of digital rights.
  • Include the digital rights and freedoms of Yemeni citizens in the ongoing negotiations between disputing parties.
  • Operate the internet submarine cable in Aden, which Yemenis had already paid for, instead of the destroyed FALCON cable.

 

Feature image via submarinecablemap.com

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SMEX

SMEX is a registered Lebanese NGO that works to advance self-regulating information societies in the Middle East and North Africa.