As the civil war in Yemen stretches into a third year, Amelia Johnson ’18 is in the midst of conducting a long-term research project for the Yemen Peace Project (YPP), exploring “the role of civil society in Yemen’s peace and reconstruction process, and how civil society groups can be supported during the war.”
Founded in 2010, the YPP is a U.S.-based non-profit that works to support the rights of Yemenis; advocate for peaceful, constructive policies; and promote a better understanding of the country globally. Johnson began working remotely for the organization from the HWS campus this semester, following last fall’s political science capstone course, “Yemen and the Politics of Disintegration,” taught by Yemen expert and Associate Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav.
“Throughout my time at HWS, I have taken many classes on the Middle East, but this class solidified for me that I want to pursue a career in which I research policy related to the region,” says Johnson, a political science major and English and Writing Colleagues minor. “We read multiple reports and articles produced by the Yemen Peace Project, and then Professor Philbrick Yadav pointed me toward an internship opportunity listed on the website.”
Drawing on skills she developed in her coursework — including researching, debating and producing policy proposals — Johnson has found that the YPP is “a perfect place for me to explore this interest, and simultaneously work for a cause I am really passionate about. In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition is fighting a rebel group to re-establish the power of Yemen’s official government. The U.S. supports and supplies the Saudi-led coalition in their airstrikes, which are the leading cause of civilian death in Yemen. The damage the U.S. has done in this country makes me passionate about advocating to change U.S. policy.”
Johnson’s work so far has focused around developing summaries of policy reports (including one by Philbrick Yadav), writing blog posts on U.S. policy in Yemen, monitoring news outlets for relevant articles and writing related news summaries and media posts — all designed to bring attention to the issue, both from the public as well as governmental leaders.
“Starting with my seminar, I learned researching and working to improve the situation in Yemen can be a frustrating and emotional task. Ten thousand people have died in this war, and 22.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. These statistics are devastating, and the work to improve the lives of Yemenis is challenging,” says Johnson. “This is a fractional war, so no grandiose solution will work and many actors, including the Saudi-led coalition, have violated humanitarian laws. As I work I have to consider all the nuances of the war and know the situation will only get worse as long as this war continues.”
But “working with people who are so passionate about helping Yemen,” Johnson says, helps underscore the fact that she is “part of something meaningful.”