Yemeni journalists share their stories of torture at the hands of Houthis

Press Release | Republic Underground, Timberwolf-Phoenix Media 

May 3, 2021 – 11 Mecca time

Image credit: Sana’a before the war: “Sanaá, Yemen” by Rod Waddington is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Where: Zoom Stand

Organizer: The Arab Initiative for Education and Development, in partnership with the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate

Session management: a. Nabil Al-Asidi / journalist and member of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate Council

Speakers:

1. The journalist, Hisham Al-Yousifi

2. Journalist Hassan Enab

3. Journalist Haitham Al-Shehab

4. Journalist Issam Belghith

5. Journalist Hisham Tarmoom

Guest of the symposium: Barry Tomalin / Freelance journalist and member of the Foreign Press Association in London

The symposium began with an intervention from Dr. Wessam, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arab Initiative for Development and Education, where she welcomed the participants and thanked the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate for their participation in the Arab Initiative for Education and Development in this important meeting in which journalists previously detained by the Houthi militia will speak about their suffering in front of a silent international conscience.

The initiative said: “It is our pleasure in the Arab Initiative for Education and Development to congratulate Arab journalists and workers in the press and media on this annual occasion, which is celebrated by Hope with a better reality than press freedoms in our Arab countries.”

Then I talked about the initiative following the intensification of the reality of press freedoms in the Arab countries and the tragic and very bad humanitarian situation that Yemen has experienced in Yemen, which has been in a state of war for years, and it became clear that the press is witnessing terrible setbacks as a result of the Houthi armed militia’s coup that does not believe in the freedom of the press against the authority. The law and the Yemeni constitutional law, and that the war of the Houthi militia against the Yemeni press and journalists is sufficient to reveal the essence of these criminal militias, their falsity and their allegations, and have proven how criminal they are, as they killed, kidnapped and disappeared journalists for years and practiced against them the most horrific types of torture in violation of international laws and human norms.

She emphasized that the Houthi militia’s practice of Yemeni journalists is nothing but additional evidence that it does not believe in democracy, dialogue, the logic of reason, and coexistence.

Dr. Wessam said: “On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, we remind journalists around the world that the death sentences issued by the Houthi militia against four Yemeni journalists: Akram Al-Walidi, Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, Abdul-Khaleq Omran, and Harith Hamid are still valid and the group has not yet dropped them, and they are still kidnapping them in their prisons with other journalists.” Some of them are forcibly disappeared, along with other journalists, including Wahid al-Sufi, whose family has not learned anything about him for nearly six years.

At a sensitive time like this, the kidnapped journalists live in a very poor state of health, confirmed by reports and reports issued by their families, and this situation worsens with the spread of the Coronavirus Covid 19, which the Houthi militia does not pay any attention to, and this doubles the risks to the health of journalists and their lives inside the prisons that the Houthis continue to push people into Infected with Covid-19 in it. “

She concluded by saying, “We stress the need to provide international protection for journalists kidnapped by the Houthi militia and release them immediately and unconditionally … and we call for international measures to be taken to prevent the perpetrators of crimes against journalists from escaping from punishment. We call upon Arab and international media working in Arab countries to show more solidarity with journalists.” The Yemenis and their voices are being heard in a way that represents the scale of the catastrophe they are experiencing … and we value all efforts in support of press freedoms as well. 

Then Professor Nabil Al-Asidi chaired the symposium and started his speech and thanked the Arab Initiative for Development and Education for organizing this symposium. Then he began by saying: “Everyone celebrates the press and the press freedoms and the achievements they have achieved during these stages, but we in Yemen have nothing but a massacre of press freedoms, as for Journalists arrested five years ago I will explain to you the accusation that the Houthi militia made to them (that they were working on press materials focusing on the suffering of people) and considered this a crime and a punishable accusation, and they were subjected to many violations during the period of their detention, and all kinds of violations were inflicted on them. “

He added, “The conversation continues for their suffering, and we will move to colleagues who were detained by the Houthis to talk about what happened to them, and who are considered a medal at the forefront of the press because they sacrificed solemnly for press freedom, which will not disappear from the Yemeni press, and in a comment on the seminar by the Houthis, the Houthis said.” “.

He added, “Yesterday we published the announcement of the seminar, and the Houthi figures still see this vision with the latest comments from their leaders and their comments on the seminar [that these are not journalists and that they are spies and deserve execution, and this we consider it a record and a direct threat even to colleagues who have been released.”

Then the journalist Hassan Enab began to talk about how the Houthis viewed journalists and how they dealt with them according to this perspective before and after their arrest: “Regarding this group, it appears other than what it does not cover, and it says other than what it does, and it is afraid of witnesses who show their actions to the community when it is This witness is a threat to this group and they are targeting him, since the Houthi militia entered Sana’a, they did not storm any government center, rather they started with the media centers, starting with the official Yemen Channel so that there is no other voice opposing their voice, then they joined targeting any other media organization, when I entered the prison I was surprised that there were prisoners accused of writing a post only and posting it on Facebook. “

He added, “In their media, journalists, and media workers are more dangerous than those who confront them on the fronts and carry weapons, and we have seen what happened to our colleagues Abdullah Qabeel and Yusef al-Eizari when they were placed as human shields to fly, as well as the colleague Anwar al-Roken, who was arrested by the militia and did not release him unless he became skin on a bone and died. Affected by hunger and torture; this group does not respect anyone and does not stop at any statements of condemnation by international organizations. It is indifferent to any laws or customs and all that matters to them is to terminate everyone who opposes them. “

Regarding the violations that occurred to him with his colleagues, he cites: “A justification was searched for our detention, which lasted for years, and after the organizations embarrassed them, they issued orders against us and our colleagues have the right to be executed and to remain under police control for three years, confiscate all the tools we have and stop the profession of journalism forever.

As for the Red Cross, I do not know how it accepted this mission and how it would turn the journalist into a prisoner to negotiate with prisoners of war from the soldiers, and after our release, we still receive threats from the militias, so we received messages saying: (Our mistake is that we let you go back to Sanaa and we teach you how to work leaflets).

Journalist Hisham Al-Yousifi talks about the details of the kidnapping and psychological and physical torture.

 He said: “Talking about the prison experience is not enough for it. No seminar or two seminars are 1,055 days, and every day there is a lot of suffering. He was arrested, which was among the incitement campaigns when they wiretapped journalists’ phones. “

He added, “On June 9, 2015, we were surprised to see armed men stormed the wing of one of the hotels in which we were staying, armed with various weapons and ARG shells into the rooms, then they found in our possession cameras, laptops and phones, then they forcibly collected us to the hall with a threat, and then another group came to the hotel, perhaps they were Close to him, and we were taken against our will outside the hotel. We found armed men on the stairs of the hotel as well, and around the hotel. The road leading to the hotel was cut off with vehicles. We were led in a humiliating manner and transferred to the Hasaba police station.

They took us to the prison and they placed us in a cell that was very small, clean and the air was not available. There were other prisoners here, and they were attacked and threatened, and from the first moment when he saw me talking to one of my colleagues, I was assaulted by one of the guards and he was beaten with his foot on my chest.

He continues, “We were starved and deprived of food for two days, then the investigation began and we were exhausted due to hunger. I was prepared, handcuffed, and tied to my eyes. In the interrogation room, there was psychological and physical torture, there was torture with rifle butts and pistols, heavy wooden sticks, and kicking in the chest and shoulder.”

The foot, and forcing us to do some strenuous exercises and lifting the concrete bricks, in addition to our illusion of physical liquidation while pointing the weapon at us, and because of the torture I fainted and when I woke up I was surprised that I was wet with water, also from torture, the police dog was brought to a threat us, and some colleagues were suspended by handcuffing Like our colleague “Abdel Khaleq Omran”, where we used to hear his screams from the other room. Akram Al-Walidi also heard his screams from one of the torture rooms next door. We were distributed in a cell and we could not communicate with each other. It was among us who was suffering from illness and needed medicine and could not happen. On her, and when we were looking for food to eat, we were tortured by the person called Abu Ahmed because of our request for food. “

He concludes by saying: “We have been forcibly hidden for more than once for a year and a half, our people do not know anything about us, and every period we are tortured so that our families could not see the signs of torture, we are hidden, but the traces used to remain for more than two weeks and may reach four months.”

Journalist Haitham al-Shihab spoke about the mechanisms of torture, the health situation, and the diseases they were exposed to, as he said: “Torture is not limited to the body, but to the soul with contempt and humiliation, which started from the way they stormed the hotel and the heavily armed elements, which was the first shock for us, and when we were sitting together with each other. They prevented us from speaking, and we placed with criminal prisoners with knives “sharpening” they waved at us, as well as the introduction of spies from the Houthi criminal criminals to watch us in prison. “

He added, “They put us in a prison previously reserved for women, with no electricity and no blankets. Then we met three people who spoke very low and shrugged their voices from the mother and told us that it is forbidden to speak.”

Some sentences were directed by telling us in the interrogation room that you are not here but in the weapons stores. And when moving from one prison to another, we used to say that we were going to our end. Water was forbidden for us, and if we asked, they would enter us mentally ill to prevent us from asking. At times, the jailer would enter to open sounds of torture on his phone to make us feel anxious and intimidated.

They used to deliberately disturb and break the prisoner’s mood, scare us and our anxieties so that we live in a state of psychological instability… And restraints are placed on our feet even if the prison is hit by bombing, we cannot escape. The prison lights were either dim and dark, or strong yellow lights that you could not control.

And he concludes by saying: “We were also forced in the political security prison to sign papers that we do not know what is inside … and upon issuing a death sentence against our colleagues, this news had a great role in destroying the psyche and souls.”

Then the journalist Hisham Tarmoom talked about the suffering of journalists and their journey of torment and struggle, saying: “There is no doubt that if you look at my picture, it will summarize for you my condition that I have been living in since my arrest because of the 1 fatigue I suffered. I suffer from a medical herniated disc and we did not know about it until I arrived in Cairo. The psychological effects have accompanied us until this moment. We do not sleep like others, nor do we naturally suffer from nightmares and panic, as the Houthis are present with us even in sleep.

Our colleague Haitham Al-Shehabi suffers from very high diabetes, and he is at a young age… We suffer from severe stiffness in the knees. We cannot walk as others do because of the torture we have been subjected to. The Houthis threaten us with ignorance, and this is what really happened because now we are out of prison we cannot deal with the Zoom platform, because of its appearance and we have been in prison for years, we are watching to think what we will do in the future, we have lost our jobs, we lost health, we suffer from being separated with our families because we live in Cairo and our families in Yemen.

He added, “We are suffering and cannot return to Yemen because of the war and living conditions, and the Houthis have threatened us that they will reach us wherever we are and that if we speak, they will liquidate us. We have previously heard voices while we are in prison while they liquidate people in legitimate areas to inform us that they will reach us wherever we are…

And he concludes, saying: “We need psychological and health rehabilitation in order to be able to start in life. We are continuing on the journey of suffering and the impact of the kidnapping we were subjected to is still.”Interventions:

Then the journalist Essam Belghith, who was previously detained by the Houthi group, sent a message to his fellow journalists who were kidnapped by the Houthis after he talked about the stage of their hunger strike before they left, and then he said: “The hunger strike was in order to get out of prison, but we were surprised that the militias dealt with us cruelly, and it was done. We were transferred to the Central Security Forces and they tried to force us to eat, after it was forbidden to enter our meals, they forced us to enter a few large cells with other prisoners who were allowed to enter food, but we refused to break the strike.

In the end, we decided to end the strike after we were about to die, and when we demanded food, the jailer “Yahya Saree” and a group of jailers came and hit us with batons and slapped us all on the faces. “

Essam sent messages to several parties and said: “I send my message to all parties to address my four colleagues who were sentenced to death. Tawfiq Al-Mansouri’s case is severe as he suffers from kidney failure and the case of the other three.

My message to the international organizations we thank them for their interaction for what they have shown while we are in prisons, but we hope that this solidarity will intensify efforts to get the rest of our colleagues out of prisons, and a message to the Red Cross, you fell short while we were in prisons, but we hope that you go to see our colleagues and look at their cases and their situation and the situation of prisons. And my message to the United Nations, we hoped that she would be the custodian of rights as she claims, but we were shocked that she agreed to leave the journalists with the prisoners’ deal. How do you accept that a journalist bargains with a prisoner of war?

He concludes by saying: “Although the indictment is one, we and our colleagues have been sentenced to death, so why not focus on journalists in Yemen despite the fact that there is interaction with any violated journalist in any other countries?”

As for my message to the legitimate government, to rehabilitate and integrate journalists and support them, and to raise an invitation to international courts in order to condemn the Houthis for what they did with us, and we demand the government to facilitate this matter for us.

As for the militia’s final message, the torture of journalists in prisons must be stopped. History will not show mercy to you, and we will document this moment. Journalists should be allowed to practice their work in all regions of the republic and to enter the areas controlled by the Houthis to convey the suffering of people, and the immediate release of all journalists and kidnappers, and the suspension of death sentences issued by them.

The guest, Barry Tomalin / independent journalist and member of the Foreign Press Association in London, spoke: “My pain goes back to what I listened to today, and to all its details. My heart is still with the detained journalists who are facing the fate of death. We hope that there will be quick intervention. I focus here on four points. They are: The role of the United Nations to support freedom of the press in 1948, Article 19 in the international media for human rights, what is happening in Yemen, and at the heart of this article is the first point: So what is happening here is that the support of the United Nations based on the media led to the emergence of these organizations that seek to defend About freedom of the press, but how do you do that? The second point: Today in celebration of the freedom of the press, we talk about the media, “One Hook” is hosting the 32nd Forum sponsored by UNESCO. The first point is the continuity of the media.

Two supporting the media and media knowledge to better understand the course of media and journalism.The third point: Usually a growing number of journalists are in prison today, and in many cases, they oppress and kill in order to do their work, in order to seek and search for truth and good, public and accountability of politicians and decision-makers.The fourth point: the need to deal with the experiences of suppressing the press as it is in Yemen.

There are those like you and me to support freedom of the press, support transparency, support investigative journalism, and confront media camouflage and lies, so what we must do is work together internationally. There, the European Council brings together journalists as part of media research from 14 countries, which brings together organizations and policymakers, so that there is a follow-up to press freedom.

So there is an idea which is the International Press Freedom Alliance and Research Center, and it can be developed. Local organizations and clubs may come together to defend this principle.

Barry concludes, “I express all my solidarity with all that I have listened to, the blood of my heart, and I hope that the world will hear whenever it happens in Yemen, with the union and other trade unions. There must be a project to communicate whenever it happens in Yemen and influence countries to recognize the role of the media, I promise you that I will communicate what I heard today.” For everyone who has it. 

Interventions:

Arwa Al-Khattabi, where she said: “What I heard today is more than I had imagined crimes against humanity that are not subject to the statute of limitations. I emphasize Barry’s words that the world really does not know what is happening in Yemen. The suffering of Yemeni journalists has not reached the world, but these horrific stories the world does not know about. Berri said that, indeed, an organization must be devoted to the transfer of the Houthi’s crimes. The great disaster is that the world does not know the world. It wants French, English, and German languages ​​to intensify conferences and seminars in different languages. Documentation is important because it is important for everything and for the sake of history. And there must be a body of lawyers. Reporters to submit it to the United Nations for submission to international courts. Symposium recommendations:- Demanding the unconditional release of the remaining journalists from the militia.

Hold accountable to all those who committed crimes of violations against humanity that do not lapse with the statute of limitations.

The call for international organizations to support journalists in Yemen during this stage, whose solidarity was timidity.

The legitimate government must assume its responsibilities to protect press freedoms in its regions and for the sake of caring for the journalist, returning cut-off salaries for journalists, caring for the families of the kidnapped journalists who were released, and taking care of them, and we call on them to the necessity of their psychological, living, economic and professional rehabilitation.

It is the duty of all international bodies, the UN envoy, the US envoy, and the ten countries sponsoring peace. They must stop this war against the press and journalists and fight for the protection of press freedoms in Yemen.

The issues of journalists and civilians in conflicts not to be politicized.

The need to bring to justice all those who tortured journalists.

 Inviting the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression in the Human Rights Council to implement his internal regulations to visit Yemen.

A committee must be found for documentation and communication.

Professor Nabil Al-Assidi concluded the symposium, saying: “I invite the Red Cross, who has been offered to them more than once, to visit journalists as the least duty, and they did not do so until this moment, and this is a disappointment that we feel in the Syndicate and the journalists, and I call on fellow journalists to continue the struggling journey and not to surrender to disease or psychological fatigue or not.” I salute the journalists in detention and the professor, Yahya Al-Jubaihi, whose son is still being kidnapped so that he does not speak to the media.

Mercy for the martyrs, journalists, and photographers. A cure for our sick and wounded colleagues. I hope that press freedoms and safety will be restored to my country. “