Continued [Archives:1997/48/Reportage]

December 1 1997

from Front Page The Injured Girls Cry Out!
Ms. Galeelah Shuga’a, who has been running Al-Moshiki School for Girls for the last 11 years, is more than just a school principal. She transformed the school into a model of high academic standards, hygiene and modern educational methods of which the people of Taiz are very proud. Although state-owned, Al-Moshiki School has exceeded many private schools in its top quality education. There are good laboratories and other facilities which make the process of learning more effective. Ms. Shuga’a has set a great example for other schools, not only in Taiz but also in other parts of Yemen. The principal also participates in social and charity work. She has helped more than 500 students coming from poor families. Since the Ministry of Education has stopped giving the school its annual allocation of free books, Galeelah has been active in collecting donations from Taiz businessmen and international organizations to buy not only books, but also stationery, school bags, and other necessary item for each of the 6000 students Al-Moshiki. Trouble started when a directive came from the Education Office in Taiz replacing Galeelah with her assistant. This greatly aroused the anger of not only the students, but also the parents, some community leaders, and the people of Taiz in general. The students decided to stage a sit-in on November 15th when the new principal started preparing to receive her post. Four MP tried to mediate in order to solve the problem by peaceful means. Two days later, the Minister of Education went down to Taiz to investigate, and promised to reinstate Galeelah. The head of the Taiz Education Office insisted on enforcing his own previous decision, without the slightest regard to the minister’s promise or the wishes of the people. The girls had to go on protesting. After 4 days of a continuous sit-in, the police and anti-riot troops were sent in.
Najma : Second-year, intermediate-level student. They sprayed the girls with water jets. A policeman first hit me on the back where the kidneys are and then on my head, which led to internal bleeding. Now I feel dizzy and tired every time I read a book to do my homework.
Ashjan Taha: Second-year, intermediate-level student. I was standing with Najma when a policeman threw a stone towards us, directly hitting my eye. Now I can’t see very well with my injured eye. The doctor gave some medication prescribed glasses, and asked me to come back after two weeks.
Hanan Ahmed: Second-year, intermediate-level. The police were already surrounding the school when I arrived in the morning. They did not allow us in. They said, ‘ will kick the hell out of anyone who tries to enter the school.’ We defied them and went in, but were prevented from going into our classrooms or eating at the canteen. We just stood or walked around in the courtyard from 7 AM to 5 PM. We felt very tired and hungry. Then came the water cannons. The water jet hurt a lot when it hits your body. I was later hit on the leg by a policeman.
Najat Ahmed Hassan: Third-year, intermediate-level student. The water jet was so powerful, it knocked me over. I fell hitting a desk and spraining my ankle. It still feels painful. I am unable to do my daily prayers.
Asmaa Mohammed Ali Nasser: First-year, intermediate-level student. The police refused to allow us into the school, so we scaled the back wall and jumped in. They then hit us with water jets and stones. We hit back using their own stones. A policeman hit me on my waist and pushed so strongly, knocking me to the ground.
Nawf Ahmed Kayid: Fourth-year, primary-level pupil. They threw stones at us and a policeman hit me on the forehead with a baton. I had to had seven stitches.
Nahid Nasser: Third-year, intermediate-level student. When they failed to disperse us with the water cannons, the policemen started hitting the girls, indiscriminantly. The first hit was very strong, I fell to the ground. The policeman continued beating me on the my kidneys with his baton. He was like in a fit of hysteria. I was very frightened. I was examined at the hospital with X-ray and I am still on medication. My back is badly bruised. I feel pain when I breathe deeply, cough, or even talk.
Salwa Ahmed Mohammed: Third-year, intermediate-level student. I shook with fright when the police started firing in the air and released the tear gas. It felt like my heart stopped beating, and my left hand felt as if it became paralyzed. I have a heart condition, you know. I fell unconscious for almost two hours. When I came to, I could not leave the school because it was completely surrounded. Some teachers were put in jail. At home, my parents gave the special heart medicine I use regularly. I still feel a continuous dull pain in my chest.
Abeer Abdu Saleh: First-year, intermediate-level student. When the policemen started firing, I could not breathe and fell unconscious. I was taken to hospital where they put me on artificial ventilation.
Fatten Abdulghani: Third-year, intermediate-level student. A policeman hit me strongly on the leg with a black leather baton.
Afnan Qassem: Sixth-year, primary-level pupil. The policemen used very bad language and called our names. They even shouted at our mothers and said we were ‘street children.’ They prevented the school canteen caterer from giving us food, which they ate themselves without paying.
The school nurse One of the girls started hemorrhaging from the nose out of sheer fright. We took her to the hospital where she was kept for an hour and a half. Najwa Abdu Mohammed who is a third-year, intermediate-level student had to scale the school’s back wall in order to get in. A policeman saw her and hit her on the shoulder with the butt of his rifle. She now limps.
Mr. Abdulbasit Abdulrabb Saif: A teacher of history at Al-Moshiki School I was prevented from entering the school on that black morning. When I insisted, a soldier took me to the commanding officer, a captain I think. He immediately accused me of being a rebel rouser and agitator, and ordered his men to take me to the Osaifara police station. I was kept there for about 12 hours without knowing the reason. They interrogated me and later sent me to Deputy Director of Political Security who ordered my release.
Abeer Ahmed Ali: First-year, intermediate-level student. I was hit with two stones. The police and a number of thugs from the neighborhood showered us with a hail of stones like rain.
Mr. Mohammed Ghalib: A teacher at Al-Moshiki School. We were surrounded inside the school like we were some sort of criminals.
Mr. Abdulrahman Abdullah Al-Romeima: An official at the Education Office in Taiz and a member of the Haq Party. I was entrusted with running Al-Moshiki School while the principal, Ms. Galeelah Shuga’a is away attending a conference. This temporary assignment came on the directives of the Education Office, the Governor, and the executive bodies in Taiz. This school is quite exemplary in the way its run and its high educational standards, which I did not intend to alter. Compared to several schools I visited in other Arab countries, Al-Moshiki is quite advanced. Ms. Galeelah Shuga’a has done a great job. Nobody can contest that. I condemn all the injustices done to her in the past by the former officials at the Education Office. Despite all the obstacles put in her way by malicious people, she persevered in excellently carrying out her duty. Sometimes they even instructed checkpoints on the road to Sanaa to stop her when she goes to do some paperwork in the Ministry of Education. She does not deserve all that. Instead of being praised and accredited, she is maliciously denigrated. What happened at the school was the action of a few irresponsible individuals. I really do not believe that the strong presence of police and anti-riot troops around the school was instigated by high-ranking officials in Taiz. The unfortunate events took a turn for the worse when the students decided to stage a sit-in protesting the replacement of the much loved headmistress. The sit-in dragged for two days and Ms. Galeelah Shuga’a was away. The police were sent to peacefully remove the students and prevent them from staging another sit-in. One thing led to another and the situation deteriorated rapidly, leading to those sad events. I think that some individuals or parties exploited the event by associating it with other more political aspects. We’ll try to solve this problem as best as we can. The governor of Taiz has expressed his willingness to cooperate in finding a suitable solution.
Mr. Hamoud Mansour Al-Kamel: The sheikh of Al-Rawadha Quarter, where the school is situated, and a member of the PTA at the school. I was in Sanaa on the day of the incident. Three of my granddaughters study at Al-Moshiki School. What happened is deplorable. I strongly condemn it. The girls are adamant. They want their beloved principal who has done a lot to make the school the way it is now, an example of good management and high academic standards. We all want her to stay in the school. She has done much good work not only for the school, but also for society in general.
Ms. Galeelah Shuga’a: The principal of Al-Moshiki School The replacement of a school principal is usually done when a that particular person is found to be involved in administrative, financial, or ethical irregularities. I first accepted the replacement order, and started preparing to hand the post to my successor who is my assistant. I know her very well and trust her ability to run the school smoothly. She was one of my students. I thought that leaving the school would be an opportunity to allocate more of my time to working with the NGO for disabled people which I run in Taiz. When the police surrounded the school, I was out of Yemen attending a conference. Returning back and seeing the injured girls made me very angry, so I decided to stay at my post. The support of the parents and the community was a big factor in strengthening my resolve. The Minister of Education also annulled the directive of the local education authority. They used the carrot and stick method with me. I was offered the post of cultural attach abroad or a consultant at the Ministry of Education within Taiz, but I refused. I want to stay with my students and serve the school as best as I can. I just want one reason from them for replacing me. There are many school principals in Taiz who have held their posts for many years longer than me. Al-Moshiki School has become a model for other schools all over Yemen. Six of the top ten intermediate-school graduates in Yemen last year were students in my school. If other changes were done in other schools, I would have relinquished my post. But I feel that I am being targeted for some personal and political motives. They went to destroy a very successful educational experiment in Yemen. Those who ordered the police to break into the school did not even bother to inquire after the conditions of the little girls, some of whom had to be hospitalized. Some of the policemen who went into the school stole a number of expensive lab instruments and some money.
By: Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Times Managing Editor