“Our cause is just” – fighting for Yemen’s jailed critics

By Salwa Ali Abdo Amran Yemen,

News editor Abdelkhaleq Amran is one of many critics, journalists and activists who have been arrested and imprisoned without charge or trial by the Huthi armed group, which controls much of Yemen. His sister-in-law Salwa Ali Abdo Amran describes their family’s struggle for his release.

A year has passed with its feasts, joys and sorrows, but we don’t know the taste of happiness.

My brother-in-law Abdelkhaleq was abducted by the Huthis in June last year. He is a journalist, researcher, politician and activist, and had been trying to expose violations, including abductions and torture, by the Huthi militia.

Abdelkhaleq's niece holds up a poster demanding his release. Credit: Private.

Before he was taken, he and his colleagues were often followed and threatened. All of the newspapers they used to work at were shut down. They continued their work from a hotel until their room was stormed by armed men at 4.00 am and Abdelkhaleq and eight fellow journalists were taken, first to two detention centres in Sana’a and then, after a month, to unknown locations.

We suffered for four months as a result of his disappearance; anyone who dared to ask about him and his colleagues was threatened with abduction. We’ve been through very tough times, not knowing which door to knock on or which authority to ask.

Human rights champion

Abdelkhaleq has always been a champion of human rights and liberties. He wants to educate society to plant the seeds of freedom, justice, equality and coexistence. He wants to raise awareness about the need to combat racism, sectarianism and oppression.

He is a kind and loving husband. He always helps his wife to pamper the kids, and gives them affection, love and understanding. He’s so patient he does not mind being reprimanded by his youngest daughter if he is late home from work.

Salwa and other women campaign for detained activists in Yemen. Credit: Private.

When he disappeared we approached different authorities for help but they all turned out to be controlled by the Huthi militia. Eventually, we learned from others who had been detained and then released that he had been taken to a prison in Sana'a run by the Ministry of Interior. 

He’s now allowed one visit a week, but just for a few minutes. More often than not, we learn that the visit has been cancelled at the last minute. Of course, they do not say there are no visits, but they claim that he is not there; this really frightens us and makes us worry even more.

Pale and fatigued

When we first visited Abdelkhaleq, he had grown a long beard and looked pale and fatigued. We later learned that he was subjected to the worst torture. He had been placed in solitary confinement, denied access to a toilet, made to carry heavy objects and forced to stand on one foot with his hands tied above him. He was also beaten with rifle butts and starved for long periods.

These details took a heavy toll on us all, especially his elderly parents. His mother has visited him twice in prison, but would worry so much afterwards she would end up in hospital with infections. His six-year-old daughter visited him once and was so choked by her tears she could not express her longing to him. 

He was beaten with rifle butts and starved for long periods.
Salwa Ali Abdo Amran

I have met many families suffering the same thing. Some have lost all means of income because their breadwinners are behind bars. Fathers and mothers suffer health conditions including heart attacks. Some families don’t even know where their loved ones are.

All one family

That’s why we have established an Association for Mothers of Abducted Persons. We want to support these families and help alleviate their pain. We all share the same suffering as one family. What inspires us to hold on and stand steadfast is that our cause is just. Our abducted victims were not armed and had not incited hatred against one side or another. They just wanted to convey the truth of what was happening in society at the time.

I have big hopes for my country, and these hopes have helped me stand strong. I hope for a homeland that is being built rather than being demolished. I hope that children will learn knowledge and enjoy good health rather than carry arms and kill other children. 

I hope to see journalists working for society, free from being monitored by the state. I hope to see smiles on the faces of children who lost their parents and their childhood. I hope to see a homeland that is not divided into areas or sects. We want to be brothers and sisters, and our motherland is Yemen.

Son, brother, father

My message to those detaining Abdelkhaleq is as follows: Release him and all the other innocent people. He has never antagonized you, nor has he ever destroyed a home or killed a child. Is this your reward for those who aspire for a better country? Is this the way to treat your fellow citizens? Is this the way to rule the country after you have killed its sons, displaced its families and destroyed its institutions?   

Abdelkhaleq Amran. Credit: Private

My message to everyone reading this is: Please stand with Abdelkhaleq, for he is a son missed by his elderly mother whose heart is broken. He is a brother who languishes behind bars leaving his other brothers helpless and in pain. And he is a father who yearns for his children day and night. 

 

TAKE ACTION

The Huthis – an armed group at the centre of Yemen’s ongoing conflict – have mounted a fierce clampdown on people who oppose their control. Together with their allies, including forces loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, they’ve swept up hundreds of activists, journalists and political opponents, holding them without charge for months at a time.

In some cases, people have been tortured and even “disappeared” – kept in secret locations, denied contact with the outside world, and deprived of any protection under the law.

Join us and tell the Huthis and their allies to release all critics held without charge or trial. 

Many Huthi leaders and members are on Facebook, so we’re asking as many people as possible to copy and paste the message below as a comment or post on their pages.

Huthi officials and allies on Facebook:

Mohammad Abdulsalam: Official Huthi Spokesperson

Ali Abdullah Saleh: Former President of Yemen, allied to the Huthis

Copy and paste this as a comment on their most recent post:

“The Huthis and their allies must release all critics held without charge or trial NOW! http://gph.is/1TETxmo