562,000 were displaced in Ma'rib from Sana'a , Hdeidah and Dhamar , Eman Hanna
ـsexual exploitation in return of bread ; a hidden crime
ـTragedies of families who lament the bitterness of living, displaced women: "some people Exploit our need to harass us",Even children were harassed
5 million, displaced in Yemen including 2 million and 800,000 children, and one million and 150,000 (since the war has begun in 2015 till 2018 according to chief executive of the IDP camps )
Children represent 55 percent of the total displaced, and the women 23 percent of the total
462,000 children in IDP are malnourished
women support 10 percent of the displaced families
Ma'rib,Yemen – 25 December 2018: Ma'rib is only 173 kilometers away from Sana’a, but going to this governorate, which includes 14 directorates, was extremely difficult Because there is no airport for civilians.
Ma'rib receives displaced persons in 4 camps, the largest of which is Al-Meel and Gaw Al-Naseem.
Ma'rib has the main source of the gas fields in Yemen, in addition to the oil fields. It has a population of 2 million, according to the governorate data. We went to the displaced persons camps .
There we listened to many of those who lived through the tragedies that led them to leave their homes and jobs and migrate to a land other, as result of the war. And instead of their houses, they became residents of camps in which the unknown awaited them.
IDP Camps on the Ma'rib - Sana'a border
We arrived at the Meel Camps, on the border of Ma'rib governorate with Sana'a. Children rushed to us, clearly looking forward to the guests carrying new hope or relief to alleviate the dire reality.
The IDP camp is composed of compact tents that are only a few centimeters apart. Its doors are made up of plastic or nylon bags. Some of the families put pieces of fabric looking for some privacy. Some of the camps are made of small cement rooms and some are made of randomly compact stones.
many people told us, that the amount of food assistance that was directed to the camps in Yemen is not enough. Many people assured us that, there is no presence of relief organizations.
They received only 46,274 tons of food materials transported by land, and 549 tons were airlifted through relief planes, (According to the King Salman Center for Humanitarian Affairs) during the period from 2015 to 2018.
Women are harassed ; a hidden crime
Yemeni women bear many burdens in every field; we found them in hospitals treating patients, also on the fronts rescuing the wounded; working as human rights activists, and they are also mothers of martyrs. Women in the IDP camps support more than 10 percent of the families despite the tough living conditions. Mrs K.A –who refused to mention her name- from Dhamar governorate, talked to us saying, "I am a mother in my thirties, I have two children, and their father is dead. The aid that is delivered here is only enough for few days; hence I have to look for anything to eat so that the children are not starved of hunger. I suffer from harassment and sexual abuse in return of bread, but I can’t object because this will ruin my reputation among the people. There are many women like me here. The only thing I can do is to keep searching for another place where I can get our food. This suffering became our everyday life, and sometime my children stay for many days without food!”
She guided me to another camp where a displaced woman from Hodeidah is supporting a family of two disabled twins. At first I asked her about what had brought her here. She replied, "The mines and the hunger. If you go out in the streets you will meet The Houthis everywhere and they might even arrest you for no reason. The high prices of oil made transportation scarceand, the price of gas cylinder 8,000 Riyals, so we stopped using it and started using plastic wastes instead of cooking gas. life is very hard, There is no electricity, the medicines are only for those who have money. Those who don’t have money die. The situation in Al Hudaydah is very hard and sad.”
“Some kind people lent me the taxi fare to escape. Of course I sleep in the tent which makes my afraid; I do not have a door to close, and no walls to protect me. Sometimes I find a man looking at me when I am not paying attention. When I need the bathroom, one of my children must accompany me to guard and protect me. When I go out looking for someone to help me to get the medicines of my children or a source of income, I suffer from harassment and sometimes sexual abuse. People exploit my need, but I can’t talk and I feel very sad and sorry.I lost my honor and dignity” .
Inside the camps of Gaw Al-Naseem, we met Samira Mohammed, a mother of three children, who came from Sana'a ـ we found her sitting alone and sad besides her tent ـ She said, " in Sana'a Houthi followed my husband, so he escaped till now and I do not know where is he. I came to here with my kids . We suffer here also,The living conditions are very bad, sometimes we sleep feeling hungry. No relief organizations visit the camps and humanitarian aid is very limited, so I obliged to search about another sources during that I expose to harassment and sexual abuse just in return of bread, no one sympathizes with us.
Suffering of Children in IDP camps..harassemet&hanger!
Children are the ones who pay the largest share of the war bill and its repercussions, mainly displacement. They represent one third of the displaced persons in Yemen as a whole.They lose their dream of education and future, also they are the most vulnerable to diseases.
Number of children and young girls talked to us about their suffering from harassment and sexual abuse, Inside one of IDP, we met a young girl, who asked not to be named. She was 14 years old. She talked about what she was exposed to inside the displacement camp: "I was exposed to harassment, especially during the night because there is no lighting. Once a young man tried to rape me, but I screamed and ran away. I was afraid to tell any body even my mother about what happened. My father is dead. Some other children are exposed to this and they can not say anything about that. We have no door to closed and protect us.”
In one of the displacement camps we met the young girl Seham Mohammed, who is 11 years old and she led from Sana'a. She stands in a small shop selling simple packets of sweets.
Seham tells us the conditions that pushed them to fled ,"The Houthis expelled us from our homes; I was in the fifth grade. They were raising the cost of education regularly. They were asking for 500 riyals a month from every student, and we didn’t have the money to pay”."
She continued in a faint voice: “my father was killed in the war, then Houthi has imprisoned my brother till now, he is 20 years old. Then I came here with my younger brother and my mother, because they chased us. We are even can not visit my brother. I work to help my mother in our daily expenses, but I hope I can go back to school and continue my education.”
Child Ayman Menem: I dream of a pair of shoes
From Al-Meel IDP camps to the camp of Gaw Al-Naseem also on the border of Ma'ribـSana'a, the place is very similar to its predecessor. While we were in Gaw Al-Naseem IDP camp we were approached by a child named Ayman Menem, 6 years, who asked questions we could not answer. He said: "Are you going to take us from here? When are you taking me back to my home?... I left my toys and clothes there beside the closet. I only have a slipper and I hope I get a pair of shoes because the sand here is very hot and it hurt my feet.”
Salma Moaz, in the fifth grade, says: "I have 6 brothers and we came to escape the war. I have stopped studying and my only hope is to go back and study again”. While Mohammed Yasseen, 7, said: “I hope to return to our home again in Dhamar governorate.”
Displacement statistics.. a humanitarian disaster !
Displacement is one of the worst violations of the war against the Yemeni people. Women and children have been particularly affected by these violations. This is confirmed by Dr. Mohammed Askar, the Yemeni Minister of Human Rights, who pointed to the health problems caused by displacement, such as diseases of malnutrition. There is a total of 462,000 children suffering malnutrition. Moreover, in the words of Askar, displacement is often accompanied by some crimes and violent practices. Some fled from killing, arrest or mines.
Dr. Najeeb al-Saadi, chief executive of the IDP camps, said that since the war has begun in 2015 till 2018, the total number of displaced people in Yemen has reached 5 million, including 2 million and 800,000 children, and one million and 150 thousand women.
Al-Saadi addd, "Million and a half of the total displaced returned, so the number of displaced Yemenis now is 3 and a half million, including 3 million inside Yemen, and half a million are outside. The number of displaced children is now one million and 800 thousand and the number of women is 800 thousand. Children represent 55 percent of the total displaced, and the women 23 percent of the total, while women support 10 percent of the displaced families. He added that the displaced are distributed in large numbers in each of Ma'rib, Aden and Taiz, having 562,000, 435,000, 427,000 displaced in them, respectively. While the Yemeni Alliance for Monitoring Human Rights Violations pointed out that the majority of displaced persons came for Sana'a, Albayda, Taiz, Dhamar, Hodeidah, Al-Jouf and Al-Dhali."
Al-Saadi says that displacement is a disaster that has resulted in many crises. the families don’t have decent, safe and healthy housing. They lose their livelihoods and that made the vulnerable groups -women and children- subject to many violations, especially harassment or sexual exploitation in exchange for earning a living. There is exploitation, especially that women support a proportion of these families.
He adds that some few cases were documented, although the violations are inherent to the displacement and occur frequently, but the majority prefers secrecy, because the Yemeni society is conservative, and controlled by the culture of shame.. He noted that children are the most affected. They do not have access to education. There is also a lack of health services in the places of displacement, which creates problems for the host communities. He pointed out one of the other problems of displacement is the recruitment activities of the armed groups within displacement communities, in particular child recruitment.
“Sayda” fled with her baby
the constant screams of infant lead us to another family,The woman and her infant fled from Sana’a.Sayda said, “ we fled from the hell in Sana’a. We were tired of hungry. The journey took 15 hours, and my infant was sick and hung between life and death and I had fever.”
she said, "My husband was killed, and the Houthi held his body for three months even when they return it back , they said ”solace is prohibited”!, and I was afraid of the pursuits. My infant was getting sick& hungry, cause I couldn’t find milk for him. Everything there is very expensive.”
women count their families
Sayda's story is not different from Amal's, whose husbandـAbdel Hameedـ died in Houthi prisons afterThey arrested him while he was searching for any source of income, one day Amal opened the door of the house and found his dead body. His mother died of sadness for her son.
The stories of the widows who support their families in IDP camps are endless. Al HajaNagia, is the mother of Hussein Abdul Nabi, who diedـwithout getting back his corpseـ and left her his three children. They have no one to support them except their grandmother.
Al Haja Nagia continues, " My son died by Houthi then we fled from Sana’a, My daughter in law was killed with a bullet in her head.I hope someone would help us.”
Displaced woman: The Houthis pursue my family
In another camp we met with the wife of Rashid, so she told us, after she said that she did not mention her name to anyone, and continued: "I fled a year ago, because the Houthis chased and pursued my brotherـuniversity employeeـ and my husband, he was a teacher. They imprisoned my sister’s husband for a year."
She added: "The Houthis attacked the house of our neighbors in Dhamar, and killed the man in front of his family”.
Al Haja Maleka, whom we met in also fled to the camp of Gaw Al-Naseem since two years ago, said "The Houthis expelled us from our homes, and we came here disguised. I have two daughters and suffer from a heart conditions and diabetes. My sin has brain disease, and we can not get him medications. need and I am responsible for them. My husband is deceased, and no one helped us."
Al-HajaFazaa, who fled of the torture of the Houthis in Sana'a , She burst into tears while narrating to us her story, and said "We left our homes, I had two sons, one went to fight on the front and was killed, and the other was kidnapped by the Houthis and they killed him before I saw him. I lost everything”.
Mohamed: fled with one leg
Inside one of displacement camps which we visited, was composed of a toilet and a room. As we entered it was already dark, and there is no electricity or lighting means. As the sunset approaches they open the bags that close the camp, perhaps a beam of light enters so they can do what’s necessary before the evening.
People here are forced to give up their privacy in return for lighting the darkness.
We noticed him when we found him sitting in a dark corner; that’s the young man Mohammed Mohammed Ali. He is a displaced from Sana'a who came to the camp a week ago. He told us that he had lost his right leg by mine, and came to the camp with one leg. After hesitation, he agreed to talk to us about his life in Sana'a, saying, “Anyone who talks is imprisoned immediately, they start hitting, beating and torturing him, and they only leave him when he is paralyzed. The Houthis are spread disguised in the streets. they suddenly attack houses and take anybody from his home in front of his family, without knowing where they are taking him.”
fugatives from the turture in Houthis' prisons
In another camp that we entered, we found Qaran, a displaced woman from Sana'a. She refused to give her full name for fear of the Houthis. She sat in front of the stove to make bread. She told us that the Houthis imprisoned her husband for a year and 7 months without any guilt. She continued, “I was looking for him like crazy in all the prisons. They hid him, although he did not do anything. When he came out of captivity, he came here.”
She continued, “The period of his imprisonment was a difficult one. I was responsible for my four children on my own. The Houthis used to enter the houses and beat the women. The prices of all commodities were doubled every day. Whole families died there of hunger. We would spend days without eating, so I took my children and came here.”
We moved to the husband, who asked not to be named, only to call him "Abo Salah",for fear of the Houthis, because his father and brother were still in the hands of the Houthi. He told us, “I was working as a private sector driver, moving shipments. One day a problem happened between me and a client who was a Houthi leader. He was using my car to move supplies for the war effort of the Houthis. After the fight ended, I went to pray in the mosque. When I came out armed Houthis took me and imprisoned me for nine month, and no one knew anything about my whereabouts."
“They assigned a crew just to torture me. They locked me in a secret basement at the depth of three underground floors in the Political Security headquarters in Sana'a; a room that does not see the light. I had seven other persons detained with me in the same small room. They turned some schools into secret prisons for torture, and they took me to one of them. I was a captive for a year and seven months, during which I was subjected to all forms of torture.”
He recited the details of the torture he suffered in Al-Houthi prisons, “We slept while standing, so I now have rheumatism and a back injury. The interrogation is carried out under torture with electricity and beating with a stick. The same thing happened every day.”
He said,“Some people died in front of my eyes and other people lost their minds.”
Abu Salah continued, “They have a lot of types of torture; each type has a specialized crew. The severity of torture varies from one person to another, according to the offense committed. I mean, for example, I was deprived of family visits. They threw meat on our bodies and let the dogs loose to chase us. We were severely injured and some of us died.”
“They also force the captive to stand on his fingertips for long hours, until some people have been paralyzed. Those who are released have memory and bone problems or paralysis.”
He pointed out that to ensure that the prisoner keeps silent after his release, the Houthis keep one or more of his family in captivity, explaining that, after I went out they put me under tight surveillance, and with of my friends I fled to Ma'rib.”
Poisonous insects and rape in prisons
“A.M” is another fugitive from captivity, who refused to be named for fear of his life and his wife and asked to be referred to with initials of his name. He said, “I was a government employee. Once when I was going back home, they grabbed me and took me to unknown place. There, you be forced to confess what they want, or they will start slapping you, in many different ways of torture. The have staff specifically to slap the captives till they bleed or get paralyzed.”
He continues, “They served us one meal every couple of daysـ contained bread and the remnants of the soldiers' foodـ then they stopped and started asking for money in return of food. Those who didn’t have money would die of hunger. I saw people dying because of the lack of food.”
“There were employees scattering poisonous mountain insects around you, so you can't fall asleep. "He concluded: "Those who are released from Houthi prison become ubnormal .”
Rape in Houthi prison
Anas Al-Sarari tortured in the prisons of Houthi also, he revealed to us the secrets of torture, that he was hit with an electric stick, hanged and forced to stand on his fingertips and on tuna cans for 23 hours till becoming paralyzed. He added ,”some of us were raped in Houthi prisons also”.
A blind man: please save the disabled
In the camps we met with a family composed of a blind father, his wife, his mother who is sitting on a wheelchair, and four children. He refused to be named, because the rest of his family was still in Sana'a, and he did not want to endanger them.
He told us, “We came from Sana’a, in order not to die of hunger. The Houthis besieged Al-Noor center for the disabled and tortured them. No one saved them.”
This article is part of a series of articles on Yemen by Eman Hanna.Hanna has taken a 30-day trip to monitor the suffering of the people during the war .