Staggering Crime Facts in Yemen [Archives:1999/47/Reportage]

November 22 1999

Jalal Al-Shara’abi,
Yemen Times

It is a matter of great concern that the graph of crime in Yemen has risen sharply in the last few years due in large part to the social structure of the Yemeni society that still holds fast to certain conventions and customs.
The tribe as a social entity, largely interconnected with the state, commits crimes, violations and kidnappings regularly. This has almost become a norm. Psychologists and sociologists are unanimous that economic crisis and feeble religious restraint may be direct causes of the occurrence of crime.
According to latest official statistics of the Interior Ministry, more than 50 million weapons are in the hands of people. This puts Yemen on the edge of the precipice of a civil war which may arise at any time.
Crimes have different forms; They may originate at home, at school or in the street until they become part and parcel of one’s psychological make-up. The prevalent environment is congenial to the spread of crimes in the society. Children, the budding and innocent members of any society, may be victims of this horrible phenomenon, offering a scary and menacing picture about our future. They may be lured into the murky world of crimes by the violent films that they watch, which potentially induce them into the apparently adventurous world of crime.
Crimes have become an endemic phenomenon in our country. We find crimes of assaulting people, of swindling people’s money, of rape, violations of human rights, jeopardizing the national unity such as incidents of explosions, fires, kidnapping, and drug trafficking. The latest official statistics covering the past nine years by the Interior Ministry reveal a trend that these crimes have become widespread and common in our day to day life as illustrated below:
Year No. of crimes;
1990 : 15008
1991 : 15800
1992 : 16162
1993 : 16600
1994 : 16320
1995 : 19148
1996 : 23959
1997 : 24345
A staggering number of 147,341 crimes were committed during the years (1990-1997). Considering the crimes that have been dealt with by the prosecution since the re-unification in 1990, a rising trend in the crime rate is easily discernible.
For example there has been a steady increase in crimes each year, except for 1994, when there was a decrease in the number of crimes in comparison with the year 1993. Crimes then increased sharply in 1995, 1996 and 1997. This has led to the establishment of Public Property Prosecutions in Aden, Sana’a, Taiz, Hodeidah, Hadramout, Ibb, Ma’areb and Al-Gawf. The government has unleashed efforts to raise the people’s awareness to take the matter of disputes to law courts. A look at the profile of crimes reveals that minor disputes have precedence over more serious crimes to the extent of occupying 51.81% of the total crimes committed, as contrasted to 25.70% of serious crimes. Serious crimes thus come in the second place while violations of various kinds come in the third place at 11% of the total crimes. The fourth place is occupied by administrative complaints at only 10.96%.
Official statistics show that in the first half of 1999, reported crime incidents against individuals were 3400, those involving contraventions were 809. The total amount of seized drugs was to the tune of 38 kg. The Interior Ministry reports show that there has been a flagrant increase of crime, involving 315 cases of premeditated murder and 1749 crimes of assault, and around 47 crimes due to tribal feuds and blocking roads by highwaymen. Kidnapping tourists cases have also run to more than 62 cases. There were also around 46 suicide cases.
Amnesty International has always kept a wide open eye to all the violations that are committed against the human rights of Yemen’s trampled citizens. It revealed in its latest report, that torture, ill-treatment that ended up in death by mysterious circumstances, had been conducted against some people who were arrested by the government. This happens at a time when torturing is considered to be a crime according to the Constitution and Crime and Punishment Law. Furthermore, Yemen has also signed a treaty that bans torturing. Therefore, the government has to show its credibility by taking up legislative, judicial or administrative steps to halt torturing and prevent its occurrence. In cases of proven violations the people involved should be exposed to the heaviest penalty.
From time to time we come to hear that there are many crimes reported by newspapers due to tribal conflicts, revenge, disputes and wars. Brigadier General Husain Ali Haitham, chairman of the Penal Investigations said, “Crime in Yemen has not yet become organized as is the case in other countries. I believe that most of the crimes committed in Yemen happen mainly due to the social structure of the Yemeni society. We have never witnessed any well-organized and plotted crime. However, we can say that there are some crimes that are somehow organized such as blocking roads and robbing people of their money, kidnapping cases, bombing oil pipe lines, etc. Therefore, such cases are in some way organized and the government is doing its best to control this. In dealing with any case, we have a strong basis that no punishment should be applied unless there is a law and the accused is proven guilty. I believe that crimes happen in our society as a result of not dealing with them as promptly as possible. Hence, the president gives orders to solve such cases quickly so that they do not become so complicated to solve.
Psychologists assert that some of the reasons behind the increasing number of committed crimes are the following: Mr. Abdul Hakim Al-Shargabi, Teacher of Sociology in Sana’a University, talked about the reasons behind committing more crimes in the Yemeni society and said, “It is a widely-known fact that crimes in their different forms are a social phenomenon that have emerged in almost all societies since the beginning of life. However, when crimes increase in any society, this is a strong signal of a big disorder in specific dimensions of the society. I believe that pointing out a specific factor for the rise of crimes is far from ordinary. There are many factors that are related to each other which result in the dissemination of crimes. For example, the increased number of people below the poverty line is one of the main factors that helps increase crime. When a person can hardly satisfy his family’s basic needs, he may resort to committing crime. This does not mean that every poor person is perverted and a criminal. There are, of course, some other factors such as the absence of the religious and moral restraint. Crimes do also push individuals to be perverted. Crimes also exist in absence of a model and when the reward and punishment system is not valid. Crime also exists when laws are twisted to serve some top and influential guys. If these people who are supposed to maintain and enforce law and order are those who violate it, it is natural then to find that there is no decrease in crimes. This makes any perverted behavior something ordinary. If children are reared in such an environment, it is certain that their behavior will be perverted in the future. There are some other reasons pertaining to culture which can play a detrimental impact through presenting some violent programs on TVs. Watching all this color and scenes, the children cant help but be attracted to all that stuff. Hence, they start acting accordingly.”
Regarding the violence that women are prone to and the reasons behind attacking them, Miss. Sabah Abd Al-Mageed, Member of the Central Committee of the Nasserrite Popular Union, said, “The ultimate reason behind the increase of crimes in our society is due to the total negligence of security forces to hold things in control. They should enforce the law which should be applied to all without favor or fear and with no exception. Those violators and criminals should be liable to strict penalties. If the letter, as well as the spirit of the law, is applied we will certainly witness a decrease in the proliferation of crime in our society. This would be so because when these criminals see that they will not get away with their crimes, they will think twice before doing any unlawful and infamous action.
The political factor has also a dynamic role in proliferation of this phenomenon. This is obviously seen when we hear about the continuous series of kidnapping, bombing oil pipelines,…. etc.
Moreover, police forces are conducting political oppression against women who belong to opposition parties. The ruling power is also trampling their rights and restricting their freedom to speak their minds.
Women are prone to different multifaceted crimes; They are the victims of parental oppression, domestic violence, rotten, sick social customs and conventions, etc. So, whatever they face in life increases their suffering and pain. Even those kept in prisons are subject to many assaults and torture, however, no-one can respond to their complaints and cries for help. Above all, violence is exercised against them in the name of the law.”Mr. Amin Al-Azazi, Teacher in the Public Relations Department in the Faculty of Media, said the following: “Crime has become a social behavior in our society. It has many historical, cultural and social dimensions in our society, especially in places where a tribe has the upper hand. Crime has also different motives and incentives such as revenge, disputes among tribes often resorting to wars to solve them, land disputes, either in towns or in villages, and deplorable and hard economic conditions. Besides, there are some people who have hostile attitudes towards others, they do not restrain themselves from committing any illegal action that may claim people’s wealth or lives.”
Crime also has a very negative impact on the psychology of people. As for the psychological impact that may befall the people, Mr. Mohammed Awad Ba-Obaid, Teacher of Psychology in Sana’a University, said, “When talking about the proliferation of crime and violence in Yemen, we should talk about this in relation to the negative social behavior throughout different historical periods. Years ago, cases such as robbing, stealing and killing had a very limited scope. However, I believe that in the past ten years they started taking new hazardous turns and dimensions. These years were characterized by strong violence. Violence may start at home when children are exposed to violence either in terms of some problems within their family or in terms of watching violent films or detective stories. Thus, the child will be very much influenced and affected by this. Then all this will be reflected on his behavior.”
On another level, violence is spread due to some psychological reasons. Violence has been associated with the false feeling of manhood and with some positive concepts in the society. Therefore, violence has a social value and has been used to solve some private as well as public problems. Youth are more liable to be exposed to violence if they have some psychological problems, what is called “psychological mechanism” in psychology. It means that when human beings see such violent actions and scenes, they become naturally affected by them and therefore they tend to make up legitimate warrants based on the culture of the society for doing such actions. Therefore, they tend to deal with such violent actions as something ordinary, they do not have to make a big fuss about. For example, when anyone beats his sister he may give himself the right to do so and claims that he has the right to control his sister for she may be led astray if he didn’t do so. Depending on this stand these people feel some kind of psychological balance. Therefore they never feel any sense of regret for their actions. These problems become dangerous and are a horrible omen. The ever-increasing occurrence of these crimes push some people to pull together and make efforts to retrieve the situation before it is beyond control.
One of the organizations that has taken upon itself the mission of solving some of the disputes that often result in mass killing is Al-Salam House for Arbitration and Social Peace. Mr. Abdul Al-Rahman Yahia Al-Marwani, chairman of the house, said, “Our main objective is to intermediate between individuals and tribes to solve revenge problems, disputes, kidnapping and to raise the religious as well as human awareness among the people. We also join hands with all good people and try to release the prisoners who are kept in custody. The house has managed to solve around 52 revenge cases between some families and different tribes. The house members include many social dignitaries in Yemen, including around 20 members of Parliament, those interested in human deeds, around 17 scholars, 170 sheikhs and 90 judges, lawyers, engineers and doctors.”To make a long story short, we are looking forward to seeing positive action by the government in terms of enforcing law and order for all without favor or fear and with no exceptions. This is one of the most important factors that will decrease crime proliferation in our country.