20.3 C
New York
Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Buy now


Yemeni detainee tells of torture after prisoner swap release | News

Sanaa, Yemen—— For eight years, Majed Albazili said he did not see the sun.

The last time the then university student was walking on a street in the Yemeni capital Sanaa before Houthi fighters jumped from his car and detained him.

After that, there’s darkness—and prison.

It was an ordeal that did not end until April 16, when Albazili, 32, was released as part of a prisoner swap between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis as part of a deal between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis. It is part of continuing broader negotiations to end the conflict that began in 2014.

More than 800 captives from both sides were released. This breakthrough caused countless families to shed tears of happiness.

After the prisoner exchange was complete, Albazili and his other former detainees still recall the horror of incarceration and the ecstasy of freedom.

Albazili was on his way to start his new semester at his university’s engineering faculty when he was caught. Instead of attending classes, he was held in a cell where, he claimed, he was physically and mentally abused.

“Torture in prisons includes solitary confinement, humiliation, deprivation, beatings with cables and sticks, and electrocution,” Albazili told Al Jazeera. “It’s torture I can’t even imagine.”

Albazili still doesn’t understand why he was taken. “[I was] A civilian and a college student. “

During his incarceration, Albazili was allowed few family visits and gifts were limited.

“I tried to bring at least one book into the jail, but they refused,” he said. “I tried everything and I offered to give them money to receive the books. All my attempts failed. They destroy education and hate educated people.”

Since the group took over in September 2014, the United Nations and human rights groups have accused the Houthis of cracking down on critics and opponents and severely restricting freedom of expression in Sanaa.

The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels deny a policy of abusing prisoners and defend themselves, saying detainees are often convicted for cooperating with the Saudi-led coalition that began air strikes in Yemen in March 2015 in support of the U.N.- Recognize the Yemeni government.

eat meat twice a year

Gamal Buhaibeh, from Marib, was captured three years ago while fighting Houthi rebels trying to gain access to the resource-rich province. Buhaibeh is not a soldier, but he considers fighting as part of his “duty to defend his province”.

Buhaibeh said conditions in prison were harsh.

“Nutrition in prison is terrible,” he told Al Jazeera. “For breakfast and dinner, they used to give us lentils. Lunch was a small amount of cooked vegetables and rice. That was our food for years. We received meat twice a year, once during Eid and once [Prophet Muhammad’s] Birthday. “

Medicines are also difficult to obtain.

“Prison chiefs give sick prisoners free medicine, but that medicine is about to expire. In most cases, prisoners have to buy their own medicine,” Buhaibeh said.

In Malibu, Buhaibeh is used to the desert heat and the overhead sun. From his prison in Sanaa, high in the Yemeni mountains, he says he longs for the daylight deprivation.

“Deprived of adequate exposure to sunlight exacerbated the suffering of the prisoners. As a result, our immunity weakened. Skin-related diseases, anemia, and tuberculosis began to spread.”

Interactive Yemen Control Map_April 20, 2023
[Alia Chughtai/Al Jazeera]

beating and insulting

Ziyad Aldaeri, 32, was one of hundreds of Houthis, mostly militants, released by the Yemeni government and Saudi Arabia under a captive swap agreement.

Pro-government forces arrested him in 2018 in Hodeidah, where he fought the Houthis.

Speaking of his ordeal, Aldaeri told Al Jazeera, “I was beaten and humiliated in many prisons. I went from one prison to another, handcuffed and blindfolded.”

Aldaeri said it was worse when he was sick. Despite his joint pains and fever, his captors gave him little care.

“I asked those who controlled the prison to give me medicine. But I got nothing. Other prisoners protested not to give me medicine, and they were beaten. After the doctor came and prescribed medicine.”

Yemeni government officials have previously called allegations of prison torture “overblown”.

joy of freedom

For hundreds of Yemeni families, the prisoner exchange has replaced years of sorrow with joy.

Buhaibeh said it was a gift from God to see his family after so many years of separation. “I can’t describe my joy in words,” he said. “Years of deprivation and separation from family are over. Today, my joy knows no bounds.”

Al Baziri, now reunited with his family, had to choke himself to ensure his freedom at last.

“I can’t describe my happiness,” he said. “I can see the sky again and breathe fresh air. Today, I ask myself, is this a dream or reality? This is a rebirth.”

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles