The Untold Story of Iran’s Ship That Never Reached Yemen
In 2015, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of some Arab states invaded Yemen and their siege on Yemen started shortly after the start of the war. Setting sail from Iran’s southern port city of Bandar Abbas on May 11, the Nejat (Rescue) cargo ship, containing 2,500 tons of much-needed aid, including food (like flour, rice, canned food, and bottled water), medical supplies and tents all urgently needed in the conflict-wracked and impoverished state. Its passengers include doctors, anti-war activists from the United States, France and Germany, and journalists.
Having UN approval for the humanitarian mission, the aid consignment was donated by the IRCS and was set to dock in Yemen’s port of al-Hudaydah in the Red Sea, but the problems in the Red Sea led officials to change the path after coordinating with international bodies and Iran’s foreign ministry.
The ship finally docked at a port in Djibouti for its consignment to be dispatched to Yemen. The aid was discussed to be delivered by the United Nations, which has established a delivery hub in the African country.
Abbas Meshkini, an Iranian journalist who was on board shares his experiences of the voyage.
Q: You were on board the ship, tell us about your voyage.
With the support of some countries, especially the United States, Saudi Arabia launched a completely illegal and anti-human rights aggression against Yemen, which continues to date. Soon, Yemen was completely besieged by sea, air, and land, and it was deprived of humanitarian aid and relief in a media blackout. Many people in this country had problems accessing drugs and medical care. They even had problems getting the food they need. The situation was getting worse day by day. To break the siege, the Iranian Red Crescent Organization sent a ship to Yemen with journalists, aid workers, and doctors on board. International activists from several countries, including France and Germany were also among them. Breaking the siege was a very important issue. In fact, a country had to pioneer in breaking the siege to defend human rights, and it was the Islamic Republic of Iran that volunteered to do it.
From Shahid Rajaee Port in Bandar Abbas, the ship left the Persian Gulf for Yemen. After about 12 or 13 days, we entered Bab al-Mandeb Strait. When we witnessed and felt that the Yemeni people were waiting and the people of the world wanted this ship to get there, we wished we could get there sooner.
When we entered Bab al-Mandeb, several American ships approached our ship and claimed that they wanted to inspect and observe “Nejat”. Of course, their ships did not come close, they were observing us from a distance. They treated the cargo ship as if it was a warship, even though they knew our ship was carrying humanitarian aid. Our goal was to break the siege, and they wanted to maintain the siege of Yemen. This was what the dispute was about.
One night on the ship, when I heard that the Americans suggested a new destination for “Nejat”, I immediately told my friends that we would not reach Yemen. But I think we should have gone, and America could not have done anything with this ship; neither the United States, nor Saudi Arabia, nor any other country. If we had reached Yemen, the United States could have done nothing but threatening; our ship would have anchored in Hodeidah or another port and we would have entered Yemen.
Q: With the strong siege and blockade, were the people of Yemen aware of the ship carrying humanitarian aids to their country?
There was a Yemeni on board the ship, Abdul Rahman Rajeh, and we talked with each other a lot. People of Yemen were waiting impatiently for the ship to arrive; not for the food and drugs it was carrying, but for breaking the siege. They were waiting for the siege to be broken. If we succeeded in breaking the siege, all independent countries in the world could have followed the suit and helped Yemen. It could have been a ray of hope. But no one broke the siege and Yemen is still besieged.
Q: You said you reached Bab al-Mandeb and from there you were transferred to Djibouti. But, were you able to see the Yemeni people; from where did you return?
We felt good when we saw the Yemeni coast. As journalists, we felt that we finally succeeded to do something important in the world. But we arrived in Djibouti, and the dream didn’t turn into reality.
Q: So the situation made you sure that you were on the right side of the story, considering your voyage to Yemen.
Yes. But we wished to break the siege. All the journalists, the medical staff and Iranian and foreign human rights activists were members of a groups in a social messaging application. We have not left the group yet as we still hope to end our mission and sail off to Yemen again.
Q: If you could have anchored in Yemen, where would you have gone and what topics would have worked on?
For journalists with such concerns, this goal cannot be measured by any means and will never be forgotten. But if we had got to Yemen, I would have gone to Hodeidah, Sanaa, and talked to the Yemeni people. I would have taken a full report on the situation of the Yemeni people, trying to bring to light the voices of Yemeni fathers and mothers whose children were killed by the Saudis with the US support. I think there are still awakened consciences in the world fortunately, protesting against this crime if they hear about it, but I am sorry that there is a media blackout. The news about Palestine is sometimes reflected in the media in a limited, minimal way, but the news about the crimes committed in Yemen do not reach the people of the world at all.
Q: So, what would have been the effects of your report from inside Yemen?
The issue of Yemen could have been raised to an important issue in the world and changed the world's political literature. If we had reached Yemen, maybe our reports could have taken Yemen out of the siege or improved the situation for the people. Today, the situation is so bad that even a UAE Minister says that Yemen should be helped. However, the biggest help that the UAE has so far given to the Yemeni people is that they have given their fighter jets and money to Saudi Arabia to bomb the people with more advanced weapons!
This interview was originally published in Persian at Fars News.