Night Guards or “Night Bats” [Archives:2008/1152/Last Page]

May 5 2008

Mahmood Assamiee
Night guard service in Sana'a started 30 years ago and is found in all places, especially in historical parts of the capital such as the Old City of Sana'a and Al-Tahrir square. Night guards ensure that nothing harms the houses, cars and stores throughout the night until the early morning to prevent thefts, arson and other breaches of security.

Although they are not educated or trained in security affairs, these guards have an important role in enforcing security and arresting suspects or those people wanted by the authorities. ” They protect the security of the capital,” said Ali Mahdi, the zone leader of Bustan Al-Sultan in Al-Tahrir area of Sana'a. “They help arrest suspects and saboteurs.”

The night guards are usually ordinary citizens who want to protect the zones they work and live in. Their appointment is based on their honesty and familiarity with the neighborhood's people. They are affiliated with the Civil Guards Department (CGD) and their salaries come from the Ministry of the Interior. ” Night Guard must be home owners and known to all the people in the zone,” said Ismael Ghushaim, the director of the CGD . “He must be honest and clever and must be recommended by the zone leader, the local council and the district director.”

Redhwan Mojalli, 50, a night guard at Shukr al-Mashali Zone, was appointed to the area in 2003. “I guard everything in the zone; houses, stores, cars and foreigners. Our work is only at night, through two shifts distributed among two guards,” said Mojalli. “The first shift starts at 9 p.m. and goes to 1 a.m. and the second shift goes from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. You can say we are the human night bats”.

Mohammad Al-Jabali, 40, a guard in Old Sana'a, often works both night guard shifts.

“I have been working here since 2004. We sleep the whole day to be able to perform our work during the whole night,” said Al-Jabali. “Although our work is divided into two shifts, most of the time we are directed to work both of them during the night, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.”

How do they perform their work?

Night guards stay all night on a high corner in the zone to be able to see all the people coming to and from the zone. When the guard notices someone trying to open a store, car or nearing house, the guard uses a siren to notify the neighborhood and help him catch the suspect.

“I always stay in a suitable corner to be able to observe people coming to the zone. When I see some one who behaves like a thief or a suspect, I catch up with him and use my siren to notify the nearby guards or security person. Some times I use my mobile phone to call in emergencies at 199,” said Mojalli. Al-Jabali says that he only uses his mobile phone to call emergencies into 199 when he sees someone acting suspiciously.

” I only use my telephone to notify the nearby police station or to call 199 if I see suspect persons. I do not hurry up to catch the suspect because he might be accompanied by companions who are armed, and I would put my self in danger because I do not have a weapon to protect myself,” said Al-Jabali.

Enforcing security and reducing crime

“They play an important role in difficult times,” says Al-Mahdi, who asked for more volunteers to work as night guards, since he said the number of guards in his zone is insufficient.

Ghushaim stated that the crime has reduced in the capital thanks to these guards and the citizens who help them. “Night guards have great role in reducing crime and arresting suspects.” However, just in case, there are also nighttime security patrols that provide back up to the guards.

Guards also face dangers on a nightly basis

Night guards deal with many problems while on duty like cold weather in the winter and vulnerability to revenge acts by those whom they have helped to arrest.

“The work is hard because I always work two shifts without additional money. During winter time, we catch colds because we do not have special jackets or other materials to help us resist the cold,” said Al-Jabali. “In addition, night guards face dangers such as being hit or fired on by criminals or armed gangs”.

Meanwhile Mojalli says that he sometimes encounters problems from the people of the zone. “They sometimes leave their stores or cars open,” he said. “When they are stolen, they directly blame the night guards.”

He says that he is afraid of revenge crimes by some of the criminals whom he helped the police arrest as well.

The night guards state their demands

Night guards do not have guns to protect themselves against a sudden attack and their salaries do not exceed YR 24,000.

The guards said they asked for salary increases and promotions to cover their daily needs. They also asked for pistols and to protect themselves and clothes to fight off the cold during winter.

“We get only YR 23,000 and this sum is not enough to live on. We do not have monthly or yearly bonuses and at the same time we can not perform other work because we are sleeping during the day to be able to work the whole night,” said Al-Jabali.

However, Ghusaim said that the CGD is considering night guards' demands and security officials, specifically the director of the Capital Security Mohammad Miyad and the Interior Minister Rashad Al-Alimi, are greatly concerned about the night guards and the CGD.

“In addition to their salaries, night guards receive immediate rewards as soon as they inform security of any incident,” added Ghusaim. “They know our role in fulfilling their demands and that the director of the Capital Security has adopted these demands.”

The role of night guards is complementary to those of other security apparatuses who work day and night to keep the city safe.