Ja’ashin victims tell their story [Archives:2008/1140/Local News]

March 24 2008

SANA'A, March 23 ) During a news conference held Thursday at the head-office of Women Journalists Without Chains (WJWC) organization, displaced peasants narrated what happens to the locals in Mansour's private confinements, adding that the powerful sheikh forces them from their homes, deprives them of eating and drinking, destroys and loots their property, and threatens to kill them.

Tawakul Karaman head of the organization declared that her organization is ready to prepare a documentary film on the conditions of Yemeni jails and how inmates are treated in these jails.

Giving his testimony against acts of the powerful sheikh, Abdu Mohammed Qaied, one of the displaced victims, complained that he has been jailed for three months in the Halaba Jail, one of Mansour's notorious prisons, disclosing that he was handcuffed and his legs were chained. The victim went on to say that the sheikh's militias used to torture them, throw cold water on them at night, adding that the jail inmates sleep overnight without any mattresses or blankets to protect themselves from cold weather.

Qaied said that the sheikh's followers brought a black snake to frighten him in jail after the sheikh deprived them of eating and drinking. “As a result of hunger while being in jail, I found myself obliged to eat a rabbit without having it cooked,” he revealed.

Ahmad Abdu Abdullah, another Ja'ashin victim, revealed that he was exposed to physical beating, saying he was beaten by the sheikh's soldiers in a private confinement and his fingernails were pulled out. One of the district's teachers cried that he has been jailed in the notorious Halaba prison where he was handcuffed, and therefore suffering hunger and thirst for more than two weeks.

All displaced peasants reviewed the threats Mansour practices against them, complaining that the powerful man destroys their homes, confiscates their cattle, shoots at their women and children to frighten them and forces them to evacuate their homes if they resist to pay illegal ransoms to him under the guise of Zakat (alms).

Sana'a University professor Mohammed Abdulmalik Al-Mutawakil held President of the Republic and prime minister accountable for what happens in the Ja'ashin district. Having listened to some victim's testimonies at the news conference, he told them, “It is a shame that you tolerated oppression, injustice and insult for such a long time period. We are living in a society that should be completely changed.”

At the beginning of the conference, lawyer and human rights activist Khalid Al-Anisi, Executive Director of the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, known as HOOD, commented on a bid made by Interior Ministry to resolve Ja'ashin citizens' issue and arrest their perpetrators, but on condition they must not disclose conditions of the sheikh's notorious jails during the conference. The ministry added if these peasants want to have their problems solved, they have to cancel the conference.

Al-Anisi pointed out that it is usual for Yemen's interior ministry to behave this way and it is not the first time for the ministry to make such a bid. He said that security authorities did not allow citizens to perform Friday prayers at the Square of Liberty, where they stand in solidarity with the victims.

According to HOOD's executive director, Ja'ashin citizens rejected the interior ministry's condition, saying the oppressed citizens are strong enough to tolerate extortion and pressures practiced against them. “Those oppressed peasants will continue their peaceful protests until the government protects and ensures their legal rights,” he maintained.

Karaman said at the conference, “It is remorseful and regretful for Yemen to see such conditions in the 21st century. It is sorrowful to see that people are enslaved fifty years after the Yemeni Revolution broke out.”

“A tribal sheikh, who is also a Shoura Council member, treats citizens as if he owns them, considers what they have as his own property. He obliges them to grow sheep and cows for him to eat,” Karaman regretted. “Mansour evicts Ja'ashin citizens from their homes whenever he wants. He jails them in his notorious confinements whenever he wants and however he wants,” she added.

HOOD called on all Yemeni journalists to express solidarity with the oppressed Ja'ashin citizens and communicate their issue to the public opinion, as well as help displaced citizens who have been suffering hard conditions in Sana'a for 20 days during their search for 'missing justice'.

Many displaced Ja'ashin peasants are gathering at Yemen Female Media Forum, claiming the relevant authorities in the government to rescue them from Mansour's cruel treatment and oppression. They held a sit-in on Wednesday before Parliament, protesting against the policy followed by Mansour obliging poor citizens to pay large sums of money, amounting up to YR 10,000 under the guise of Zakar, which is supposed to be paid to the government and not to the powerful sheikh.

Minister of Local Administration Abdulqader Ali Hilal promised displaced citizens from Ja'shin's Unaisain village on March 3 to form a committee to be in charge of investigating their complaints. He warned them against politicizing their issue, saying “there is no need to throw more oil into the fire” since the country experiences unprecedented unrest. He assured the homeless citizens that from now onward, they can pay Zakat to the relevant government agencies after 40 years of paying it to Sheikh Mansour.