“The Blind”  A Journey of Nonstop Suffering and  Brutality of Social Insurance [Archives:2000/11/Reportage]

March 13 2000

By: Jalal Al-Shar’abi,
Yemen Times

No one can imagine how unbearable the conditions of the blind in our country are. They always suffer despite their patience and temerity on account of the bad treatment they receive form the Ministry of Insurances and Social Affairs. All aids and funds donated from benefactors and foreign societies are not fairly distributed. Moreover, in many cases the Ministry prohibits funding organizations from rendering aids to the blind. Official sources reveal that there are 4700 blind persons who do not have residence and are perforce taking to beggary because the carelessness of the Ministry of Insurances.
Al-Nour Center, located in Sana’a, embodies a real tragedy that tear the hearts of the blinded because of the harsh treatment they are meted out by the Ministry of Insurances and other official authorities. The center itself is on its last legs with broken water pipes and out-of-order bathrooms and, in addition to that, all the blind do not have suitable clothes, clean food and good health care.

To highlight this situation and express their discontent, the blind organized a peaceful protest march to the building of the Ministry of Insurances and Social Affairs. However, what they found was nothing more than disdain and disrespect from workers there. Furthermore, they were subject to harsh beating and kicking from the guards of the Ministry and the general security. As a result of this merciless assault, the blinded suffered injuries, abrasions and even bone fractures. Some of them fell unconscious, others stayed in the hospital for more than five days and few even bled not to mention some who were imprisoned. This brutal act was a blatant violation of human rights because those brutal soldiers disregarded all canons of the constitution which prohibit violation the human rights against the blind.
Al-Nour Center submitted a letter to the Minister of Insurances in which the blind asked for their legitimate rights. The latter responded disdainfully, reporting saying to his Undersecretary: “Dear Undersecretary, what do they want” as if he was not aware of their demands.
The Yemen Times broke the ice and tried to analyze the problems of this vulnerable section of the society:
Mr. Abdullah Saleh Al-Nomayri: “We started a peaceful protest to protest against malicious grabbing of our land express our disapproval of taking our land by the Ministry of Insurances. However, we found ourselves targets for the sticks of the Ministry’s soldiers causing me injuries in my right eye and back. Our demands are legal and simple and all we ask for is a new set of clothes every year, hygienic food and clean residence”Mr. Mohammed Ali: “We registered our protest against the Ministry grabbing our land forcing the blind to streets since we do not have enough residential accommodation. So, this is why we asked for building a new residence instead of Ministry’s offices. We have authorized a committee to file our demands to the president’s office and the Cabinet.”
Some one, who requested anonymity complained that he always gets beaten because they accuse him of instigating others. “First, it is really a big tragedy to see the new members turned away every year because of the limited number of rooms in the residence. So what happened to us on Sunday, 6 March was even a bigger tragedy. We were shocked by General Security beating us harder than the Israelis do in Palestine. We have previously informed Mr. Mohammad Abdullah Al-Butani, Minister of Insurances, of our demands and he told us: “You eat and drink what more are you looking for?” We answered him: “Animals drink and eat too. So what is the difference”. Our center is half-disintegrated despite all the aids we receive simply because they do not reach us. For, example, in 1995 a Dutch organization leaded by a woman named Clair offered to build several classes for study but the Ministry of Insurances and Social Insurances asked the donors to give them the money assuring that they would do the job.
We appeal to the international society to understand and appreciate our problems. But no-one seems to be listening. There were many a blind including some kids namely Taha Abdullah Abduh, Yousif Al-Fakeeh, Moktar Sayf, Mohammed Al-Tam, Mohammed Al-Ba’adani and Mohammed Al-Mahagery who where beaten severely. They explained, with a choked voice and signs of beating clearly visible all over their bodies: “The soldiers told us to go up to the Ministers office and once we went in they started taking us out one by one beating us harshly in our backs and necks with the bottom of their shotguns and with metal wires.”
Mr. Mohammed Ahmed Zyad, Chief of Al-Nour Center said: “The center was established in 1967 in Sana’a and it had only 20 students then. In 1979, we built this center and there was no Ministry support then. Then, in 1983 the then Minister asked us to construct some buildings for the Ministry of Insurances.
Last Thursday I was told that the Ministry was making some construction in our yard. Many of the blind who came from all around Sana’a, some of whom have graduated 20 years ago, gathered and buried the foundations of the buildings of the Ministry of Insurances on Friday 3 March. Next morning, I went to the Minister’s office and suggested that they stop the construction and calm the situation but he insisted on the continuation of the project saying that the blind came only to study, eat and drink. They have nothing to do with the land. He also threatened to fire me from the administration of the center. Half an hour later, the Minister sent his orders for the construction to continue.
The center now has 135 students and we refuse accepting 50 to 60 more blind every year because of the limited seats available. Moreover, the center does not receive any aids even the barest minimum necessary to save patients. Therefore, I would like to ask all benefactors and International Organizations to help us get the necessary amenities at the center. They can sensitize utilization of the grants by themselves.
As for the decaying health condition of the blind, Assistant Doctor Mr. Fouad Doa’aysh says: “We, at the center, lack many health care necessities. Every thing that we have at the center is unhealthy and causes disease: food, beds and residence. Besides the Ministry of Health gives us hardly enough materials. Now, after the blind have been beaten many of them suffer greatly. So, if any body is sincerely interested in the welfare of these hapless victims of destiny, he could come and visit our center to directly experience the situation.
Mr. Hassan, Chief of The Society for the blind, said: “The Ministry always asks for aids in the name of the blind. The beatings in the harsh manner presents a good example of its dealing with us. We ask all international human rights organizations to stand with us in our tragedy for we are blind and handicapped, deprived of the privilege of leading a normal life. We all know that all laws, religions and constitutions prohibit assault on the blind. Finally, we ask his Excellency, the President to solve our problems because he is the father of us all”