Minister of Immigrant Affairs to YT: “Many Yemenis were physically assaulted, threatened by hatred groups…or interrogated by the FBI.” [Archives:2001/42/Interview]
The whole world was shocked by the incidents of September 11 in New York City and Washington DC. The Arabs and Muslims living in the West, particularly in the USA, were devastated by the attacks. Yemen Times made reports of assaults, murder, and arrest incidents against Yemenis in the USA and Europe. To focus more on this issue, Jalal Al-Sharaabi of Yemen Times met with the Minister of Immigrant Affairs, Mr. Abdo Ali Al-Qubati, and filed the following interview.
Q: What were the implications of the terrorist attack against the USA regarding Yemenis abroad?
A: No doubt, the human conscience was shaken off by the attacks against the USA that occurred on the black Tuesday September 11, 2001. The devastating terrorist actions left victims and wounds that will take years to heal. Our President, H.E. Ali Abdullah Saleh, was among the first to strongly condemn the attacks. He called for combating all forms of terrorism and dealing with its motivations and causes. He also called upon the nations of the world to work together in order to face the challenges of terrorism under an international umbrella.
However, the attack, which caused international outrage worldwide, caused some in the USA to attack and accuse Arabs and Muslims creating hatred against people from the Arab and Islamic worlds.
Those also participated in spreading violence, chaos, horror and discrimination against Muslim minorities all over the world. This comes in the context of a Zionist framework to create conspiracy among nations and break the network of international interests and the current bonds among nations in social security.
There were strong reactions against all Asian and African races in the USA and Europe, particularly against Arabs and Muslims including Yemenis. This led to a rise in our activities by increased contacts with Yemeni embassies and consulates all over the world.
Q: Could you provide us with a summary of Yemenis who were killed in the USA following the attack?
A: The officially reported murder cases of Yemenis abroad are:
1-Ali Mohammed Al-Mansoub, an American of Yemeni origin, was killed in the State of California on September 19. The murderer was arrested and the case is on court. According to American authorities, the reason behind the attack was purely criminal and not based on hatred.
2-Hamood Qaid Al-Shaif was assassinated in Richmond City in the State of Virginia where the culprits were arrested and presented to court on September 20.
3-Abdo Ali Ahmed, an American of Yemeni origin, was killed in Berkeley City in California on 29 September by 4 American gangsters. Police and security forces are still looking for them. The attack against Abdo, whose wife and children continue to live in Berkeley, was said to be based on hatred. Our consulate in San Francisco along with the Administrative Committee of the Yemeni Community are closely following this case in cooperation with the US authorities.
Q: Are there any Yemenis missing so far?
A: As for the Yemenis still missing in New York City, we only have a report on Abdulsalam Ali Saleh Al-Malahi, an American citizen of Yemeni origin. Al-Malahi used to work in a hotel near the World Trade Center and is the only Yemeni who was reported to be missing following the attacks to the Yemeni Embassy in Washington DC and to the US authorities. There are unofficial news items that were reported in US newspapers saying that 8 Yemenis are also missing but this is not yet confirmed. Fortunately, the Yemenis, whose number ranges from 15 to 20, were all employees in the afternoon shift. We, at the ministry, are working together with the US authorities to get more information about possible Yemeni victims and will report that to the press once we get new information.
Q: We had reports of Yemenis interrogated. Some were released and some were not. Could you brief us on that?
A: There is currently one Yemeni in custody in New York City. Ramiz Noman, a computer student, was arrested by the FBI based on their suspicion of his relation with one of the accused in the attack. There was information leakage from the US immigration circle on September 16 saying that 13 Yemenis living illegally in the USA were arrested. The US authorities did not inform us about their cases. Initial information says that there are more than 3,000 Yemenis without legal residence permits currently living in the USA.
The number of Yemenis interrogated or interviewed by the US authorities and later released totaled around 18 Yemenis, 10 immigrants and 8 students including Omar Bakir, Mihdhar Mohammed Abdullah, Abdullah Al-Maouri, Ahmed Al-Ammari, Mohammed Jazim, Abdullah Jazim, Ghassan Jazim, Hussein Al-Attas, Yahya Al-Amri, Ahmed Qassim Ahmed, Saleh Qassim Saleh, Akram Abdullah Rashid, Adnan Hawwash, Hamdoun Qalalah, Raid Al-Wusabi, as well as others.
Q: Did you receive reports of attacks against Yemenis?
A: Yes indeed. There were small damages caused to 6 stores belonging to Yemeni merchants in the state of Michigan , in NY, and Chicago. Hassan Al-Baadani’s fuel station in Chicago was set on fire but did not result in great damage. Two Yemenis in Detroit were attacked and windows of houses where Yemenis live in the states of Michigan and New York were shattered. Ahmed Issa, an American of Yemeni origin, was fired from his company in the state of Michigan after working there for 15 years because of his employer’s ” hate towards Muslims”.
On September 17th, Mohammed Abdullah Ismail along with his wife and kids were interrogated at an airport for a short while and then released. Unfortunately, even the honorary consul and representative of the ministry was harassed by officials at the airport after arriving to help in the Yemeni family’s case. Five Yemeni immigrants were also prevented from taking the flight back to their homeland because the airport officials claimed that the airplane did not have guardians. A lawsuit was filed against the airport and the airline by the lawyer of the Yemeni community and those Yemenis with US citizenship.
There were also several reports of other harassment cases against Yemenis. Many Yemenis were physically assaulted, threatened, irritated by hatred phone calls, and interrogated by the FBI. Many of those incidents occurred in NYC against immigrants and merchants.
Q: What about incidents against Yemenis in other countries?
A: There were a few cases in the city of Manchester in the UK. There were six reports of harassment incidents. On 13 September, a Yemeni lady was harassed while bringing her children home. On 14 September, a Yemeni girl was attacked while on her way to college. On September 17th, an attack was launched against the Islamic Center and Mosque causing substantial damage. On 18 September, a child was assaulted while playing in the playground. On September 19th, an elderly Yemeni was harassed on his way home after evening prayers at the mosque.
There were also several attacks against Islamic and Arab centers and mosques in some suburbs of Manchester. However, most of the attacks did not result in substantial damage.
In Canada, Tariq Farook Aman, 19, was killed in Ottawa on September 27 after being brutally beaten up by 3 Canadians who were later arrested. The case is currently being looked at in a court in Canada. Local police mentioned that the case was purely criminal and was not based on hatred. Najeeb Abduljabbar Al-Haddi, a Yemeni immigrant, was arrested on September 17 at Toronto Airport on the accusation of holding three passports with different dates. He was also suspected to being involved in the WTC attacks as his flight was diverted from the USA to Canada. He is currently being prosecuted at a Canadian court after having appointed a lawyer for his defense.
In Germany, press reports said that two Yemenis were arrested after being suspected that they may be related to the attacks in the USA. However, the German authorities have not provided any information about them, even their names, to the Yemeni Embassy in Berlin. Communications with German authorities are still being carried out to know the details of this arrest.
Q: Any final comments that you may have?
A: In the current tense circumstances, as human beings, we should not retaliate to radicalism in a radical way. We should response in a realistic, logical, and humane manner. We should cooperate towards development, progress, and peace. We are different nations with different cultures, different ideas, and different ways of life. There is a lot to offer, a lot that we can give, a lot that we need, and there is a lot that we can take. As different societies and nations, we should make the right choices towards achieving the interest of people all over the globe. By this, we can develop and construct a better world. We call for international cooperation between all nations of the world to live in peace taking advantage of the variety of differences between us. Those are the ideas that we should convey through our press, media, and our public and governmental communications.