A young future ruined by others’ dispute [Archives:2008/1151/Reportage]

May 1 2008

By: Almigdad Mojalli
[email protected]

Having missed two years of school, 19-year-old Abdullah Ali Al-Kumaim has decided not to return to his studies due to being filled with fear and pain after being kidnapped last year.

Three Bani Dhabyan tribesmen seized Abdullah and another youth, Mohammed Al-Kumaim, for almost nine months, also kidnapping five engineers this past January, in a land dispute between Bani Dhabyan sheikhs and a businessman from Al-Kumaim village.

Although the perpetrators knew the hostages were unrelated to their dispute with businessman Abdullah Ahmed Al-Kumaim – who shares the same surname with the youths – they insisted on a ransom and two weeks ago, the hostages were released for a YR 85 million ransom paid by the Yemeni government.

Kidnapped three days before his final school examinations, Abdullah lived a completely different existence during his nine-month captivity, suffering much. “I lived in constant terror, from the very first moment until my release. Because I was kidnapped three days before the beginning of final examinations, I lost an entire school year,” he lamented.

In captivity, the youth lived a primitive life in a hut, washing out in the open and eating very simple and basic foods. “When I arrived at the kidnappers' village, they put me in a mud and stone hut where I lived with three men serving as guards,” Abdullah narrated.

“I ate essentially the same meals throughout those nine months. For breakfast, they gave me beans, olive oil with matet (a popular meal of boiled milk with flour and spices), coffee, tea, hot milk and bread.

“For lunch, I had rice, aseed (a popular meal of flour paste usually eaten with some type of broth), soup and cow's milk. Additionally, they would slaughter at least one lamb per week,” he explained, “After lunch, we'd have qat brought to us from a very distant place. Dinner consisted of only bread covered with olive oil and milk tea.”

Water was another problem for Abdullah, who was forced to drink extremely polluted water from a stream. If he wanted to bathe or use the toilet, he had to go in an open area where he could have a quick bath, answer the call of nature and wash his clothes.

“I didn't dare look at that water when I drank it. No one in the village had a toilet in the home, so everybody had to answer the call of nature in the open. I used to drink, bathe, answer the call of nature and wash my clothes in the same place,” he noted.

During his captivity, Abdullah wasn't allowed contact with anyone except his three guards and the farthest he could wander was one and a half kilometers.

Abdullah's daily life involved the same routine with little change, but then the change was for the worse.

“In the beginning, I stayed with one kidnapper named Al-Abhash, but then one day, Sheikh Abdurabu Alttam came with one of his employees to take me with them. Al-Abhash refused to hand me over to them, so they began fighting.

“During the fight, one of them killed Sheikh Alttam's companion. It was the first time to see a man killed before my eyes,” Abdullah recalled.

Throughout those nine months, the youth lived in huts, tents and mountain caves, braving snakes while bathing and foxes at night. Many times, people fought in front of him and killed each other, so all of these incidents and circumstances have caused him numerous psychological problems.

Although released two weeks ago, his release comes at the end of the school year, so he now has lost two years and must spend another two making up for them. Additionally, he also lost the money he was going to use to travel to work in Saudi Arabia.

Having returned to his family, Abdullah now is experiencing “fear and confusion,” as he says. He's frustrated and doesn't know where to restart his life.

“I actually don't know what to do. Although I lost all of my money, I still want to travel to Saudi Arabia,” he says, “I don't think I'll return to school. Because I've lost two years, it's difficult to see my classmates who now have preceded me.”