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White poppy campaign launches with call to remember Yemen

White poppy wreaths

White poppy campaign launches with call to remember Yemen

The Peace Pledge Union has said that Remembrance Day risks being a 'festival of forgetting' if we ignore Yemen and other current wars.

The Covid-19 pandemic has fuelled the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Yemen, which has already killed over 20,000 people and left 10 million on the brink of starvation.

Launching this year's white poppy campaign, the PPU is using the slogan 'Remember Yemen', along with the usual call to 'Remember Them All' – victims of all nationalities in all wars, including current wars and lesser-mentioned colonial wars of the past.

White poppies, which have been worn since 1933, have three meanings:

  • Remembrance for all victims of war, both civilian and military, of all nationalities.
  • A commitment to peace.
  • A rejection of militarism and any attempt to celebrate war.

The PPU has repeatedly condemned British complicity in the bombing of Yemen, pointing out that Saudi forces have been trained by UK forces, both in the UK and in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the UK government has recently allowed the resumption of arms sales to the Saudi regime.

In August, British soldier Ahmed Al-Babati was arrested by Military Police for peacefully protesting against the war in Yemen.

While white poppy sales and remembrance events this year are likely to be affected by the ongoing pandemic, the PPU reported that there has already been an increase in orders of white poppy material for schools. This includes a new Remembrance Education Pack, featuring suggested activities and lesson ideas for both primary and secondary schools.

White poppies are distributed by the Peace Pledge Union, a pacifist campaign group, although not all white poppy wearers are pacifists.

Geoff Tibbs, the Peace Pledge Union's Remembrance Project Manager, said:

“White poppies stand for remembrance of all victims of war – including those it suits the UK government to forget. Many white poppy wearers this year will remember Yemen, where British-trained pilots are dropping bombs from British-made planes. White poppies challenge militarism, as well as the hypocrisy of those who talk of remembering the past while ignoring the present.”

Adhiyan Jeevathol of London Students for Yemen, who is backing the white poppy campaign, said:

“We should remember Yemen because we are in part responsible for the misery in Yemen if we do not take a stand against the policies of the UK government and arms companies. Through remembrance we can endeavour not to be responsible for another Yemen.”

White poppies were founded by the Women's Co-operative Guild in 1933. Money raised through white poppy sales goes towards promoting nonviolent approaches to conflict and producing educational materials. Many white poppy wearers also donate to charities supporting veterans or other victims of war.

The Peace Pledge Union will hold an Alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony on Sunday 8 November. Owing to the Covid pandemic, it will this year be largely online. More details will be announced shortly.

You can order white poppies online, see a list of outlets in your area and read more about the meaning and history of white poppies.