Armed Houthi militants have destroyed large number of Yemeni monuments in Aden and Ma'rib, Yemen- Eman Hanna
YEMEN – 12 April 2019: No one in Yemen has been spared the destruction of the Huthis, not even the monuments and artefacts. They attack everything, from human beings and humanity to monuments and civilization.
That’s how they have behaved in Yemen.
According to the Yemeni Center for Social Peace, the International Organization for Human Rights and the monitoring coalition for human rights violations, they destroyed 120 archaeological sites from 2015 to 2018.
In fact, 2015 registered the highest violation of a number of 69 archaeological sites in various provinces in Yemen such as the dam of Marib and, the famous al-Hajar in Hamdan in Sanaa, and the famous "Geff Asaad Kamel" in Ab.
Aden holds the largest part of the damage in this sector as a tourist and archaeological city in the first place. The number of affected sites reached eight important sites out of a total of 15 teachers and archeological sites. Among them are the most important archaeological and tourist landmarks including the National Museum, and parts of the castle of Sira and Aden tanks.
Speaking of the destruction that was done to tourism, Abdul Aziz al-Maflehi, former governor of Aden and adviser to the President of Yemen, said that the destruction had taken place in the city, which is the first tourism pillar in Aden.
Once an attractive touristic destination, the city is now in ruins.
Aden embraces the nature of mountain and beach at the same time, and was famous for many of tourism and archaeological places, primarily the ancient archaeological Crater area. It contains tanks, which were restored by Britain in 1885, and also the port and refineries of Aden, which, sadly, were hit by Houthi and stopped working.
A simple tour of the city will immediately reveal the wreckage of many tourist hotels such as Mercure, Sheraton Guldemir, Sama, Aden, Zahra El Madaen, Jazira and Paradise, as well as the destruction of a number of hotels on Shahwa Fayrouz Street in Dar Saad. Citizens of the city said they were five-star hotels and its buildings are luxurious. Sarhan Hanna, owner of a major hotel in Aden, close to Coral Airport, remembers the first shell falling on the hotel in 2015, adding that it had reached the swimming pool and no one was hurt. But the guests escaped and the hotel was left with workers only.
Sarhan added, “A week later another shell penetrated the roof of the building and fell on the floor of the restaurant destroying it and injuring some workers, and then we had to close the hotel since 2015. Only until this year, that we began to restore and re-open to become the first hotel to dust the war and rise again.” He expalined that Aden was attractive to international and Arab tourism, in addition to domestic tourism, and the rates of occupation reached 99 percent in the hotel in January of each year.
Director of another hotel, spoke to us, but declined to be named, fearing the Houthi, "The Houthis wrecked our homes. They were just gangs. They threw us with mortars and rockets every day and turned the hotels into dirt, and left behind a major problem; the cars petrol which prices in the black market reached 12 thousand riyals for the 20 liters, and it is basically hard to find it, after they destroyed the Aden refinery.”
"We are optimistic despite all the challenges. Aden has gone through difficult stages and has been able to get through. It is still emerging from war and in the recovery phase."
In the streets of Aden, your attention is also drawn to scenes of destruction of the religious monuments known to the city and destroyed by the Houthis, it contained synagogues, Indian and Buddhist churches and mosques, especially that Aden is known to have been the incubator of multiple cultures and ethnicities.
On our tour in the city's Kreiter district, we were stopped by a huge archaeological building on top of the mountain, from which you could see the whole of Aden, but the building is like many of the city's buildings, dark and broken windows and surrounded by a neglected area. We approached the church guard named Mohamed Yassin who told us: This church, a Victorian-style church, was built in 1867 during the British occupation of Yemen and it can accommodate 350 people.
It was later converted into the seat of the Legislative Council of South Yemen. It then remained as an important archaeological monument, but it suffers from neglect. When the Houthis attacked Crater, they shot from nearby some windows, and destroyed the surrounding area which became inhabited by bats instead of tourists
The Catholic Church of “Habl Bela Danass” in Aden was also subjected to the destruction of its buildings and contents by the Houthis. It was one of the three places of worship available to Catholics in Yemen.
The same was repeated with the Church of San Antony or the Church of the Rock, which was established with donations and contributions from the Government in 1864 and was located in a cave under the headquarters of the British Army Main Office. After its reconstruction in the 1960s, the church was kept on the rock of the cave until it was also destroyed. Destruct ion also reached Saint Joseph Church that was built in 1850 and is located in the district of Crater also on Queen Arwa Road.
Destruction of temples
Head of the Nashwan Center for Studies, Adel Al-Ahmadi, tells us about the ancient temples of which Aden is known that it is the whale of many synagogues and temples of Hindus and Persians, which were present in Aden and its environs. The Houthis destroyed many of them. As for the synagogues there were more than 10 temples, the most famous temple was star Abraham. However, many of them have been abandoned due to Houthi violence.
Sirra Castle, A castle for the Houthis
In the old city, close to the church of Mary Gressen, stands a distinctive cylindrical building, although its facades are destroyed and the stones are broken, but it still witnesses the violations of the Yemeni ruins by the Houthis.
Al-Ahmadi told us, "The Houthis destroyed parts of its buildings and used them as a military barracks for snipers who fired at the area at that time."
The castle was built in the 11th century. Which was established by the Turkish ruler of Aden Osman al-Tikriti Alzangabaly. And then the British continued to develop the castle after their arrival in 1839, and were used by the army right after that, until the Houthis Khor Maksar and Crater entered, and turned it into a military barracks.
We left the castle and headed to the famous Aden tanks under the slopes of the high plateau of Aden about 800 feet from the sea surface, which consists of 55 lefts of which only 18 left, a few parts have been devastated by the limbs and have been neglected since Houthi entered Aden, says Dr. Adel Ahmadi: These tanks were built by Heemiares and were among the most important historical and tourist attractions to be visited by tourists coming to Aden.
These tanks were used for storage of rainwater for use in agriculture and drinking, and for the danger of flooding.
National Museum tourist heading
In Crater, too, you find a small building which features are barely shown. The second floor of the building is left with a broken facade and the left side of the building is completely demolished. The lower floor accumulates with stone entrances from the ruins, mixed with some old car frames. The floor also has no windows.
The biggest surprise of all: The National Museum of Aden, which is one of the largest museums in Yemen, is now empty except for the bats it inhabits, although before 2015 it was an important source of tourism income. According to Dr. Adel Al-Ahmadi, the building had 5,000 pieces Including manuscripts and photographs, and is located at the 14 October Palace It was called the Palace of Thanksgiving or Al Buraq Palace, where it was built in 1917 under the reign of Sultan Fadl bin Ali Al Abdali.
The museum occupied the first floor of the 14th of October Palace building consisting of three main halls and had a very valuable collection of antiquities which belong to the Stone Age and the Bronze Age.
The northern corridor had a collection of stone pieces written with different types of the old right line. The northern hall had monuments, including statues, bakeries, offerings and inscriptions inscribed on stone tablets bearing the names of the kings of the Kingdom of Sheba.
He added that the main hall was dedicated to the effects of the states of Qataban and Osan and included statues of kings, ornaments, decorations and offerings, the southern hall, the Islamic monuments, and the eastern corridor and the southern corridor and there were pieces and statues and dates back to the period of the kings of Sheba and Redan, noting that what happened with the National Museum was repeated With the military museum in Sana'a, which contained manuscripts of great importance.
Archaeological Ship Quay
In the Directorate of Altawahi, and not far from the port of Dakat al-Bailat we found the shipyard of the archaeological or as they call it Wells.
After the Houthi’s attack with missiles, its front has been destroyed and also two small walls were completely destroyed adjacent to the entrance. We were surprised to learn that this place was opened by Queen Elizabeth the second during the period of the British occupation, and was the destination of tourists from all over the world down to the city and have been knocked by Al-Houthi missiles.
According to Ali al-Awardi, head of the data unit of the Yemeni coalition for monitoring human rights violations, the destruction of monuments and tourism did not stop there, but it also extended to archaeological sites that were detonated with improvised explosive devices that were completely settled by the ground by Houthi gunmen and al-Qaeda members.
Including the Khoja Mosque and the Church of Shelden Bahnoun Catholic in Aden, Jamal al-Din Mosque and Qubbah Abdul Hadi in Taiz province, in addition to the mosque and the dome of the Imam Omar bin Ali historic in the province of Lahj and Fort Shakra archaeological in the province of Dhamar, in addition to the bombing of Cairo Castle and Al-Muzaffar Mosque and Mosque Ash Al-Hassan Palace in the city of Taiz, Dar Al-Hajar, Qasr Ghamdan in Sanaa, Al-Hassan Mosque in Sanaa, Dar Al-Hassan in Dhala and the Fort of Deifan in Amran.
Marib dam defies
The Marib Archaeological Dam is located in Marib governorate, a long distance from the center of the city. It is in the ancient city, a place known before the Houthis war as an internal and external tourist attraction. It also suffered like the people of Marib from the war of the Huthi militia; yet, it still keeps its amazing natural beauty as the water is surrounded by a high mountain range stretching up to Juan in Sanaa.
“Marib Dam is one of the most important historical dams in Yemen, in addition to the Jaffina, khaneq, adrouaah, markhah and shahek dams,” said one of the military media sections who accompined us, pointing out that the Marib dam was used by Yemeni farmers to store water to feed them and the whole Arabian Peninsula.
“It collapsed with the collapse of Hemiar civilization.”
The Yemenis, with the support of Sheikh Zayed, built it in 1982. It was built of stones carved from the mountain rocks, carefully sculpted, and gypsum was used to connect the carved stones to each other.
Researchers once considered the dam "the miracle of the history of the Arabian peninsula.”
An unprecedented destruction of monuments
Dr. Ali Taaiman explains that there is a large sector of the monuments of Yemen in general has been destroyed by Huthi in several provinces and not only Aden, including the "Palace of Arms" in Sana'a, which dates back to the sixth century AD, and is one of the oldest palaces and wonders of architecture, The old city of Sana'a was destroyed, pointing out that in Saada the Old City was bombedin addition to the Imam al-Hadi Yahya ibn al-Husayn ibn al-Qasim Mosque, one of the oldest mosques there, which dates back to 290 AH.
Houthis destroyed “Dar al-Hassan” archaeological site in the historic village of Dimit, and the city of Bareqesh, which was built in the period before the fifth century BC, was destroyed. In Taiz, the school and mosque of Ashrafieh, the school of the Muzaffariyah mosque, and the dome of the Mahdi were destroyed. He points out that the list also includes a wall of Sarawah, which dates back to the Sabaean state, in the 7th century BC, and in the "Dali" the bombing of the stone house of the stone.
A Mafia for Looting and selling Monuments
The Huthi crimes did not stop at the destruction of archaeological sites, but spread to the theft and looting of their contents to trade through the mafia networks selling monuments, that is monitored by many official statistics of the General Authority for Antiquities and Museums of Yemen, as a Yemeni sources confirmed who refused to mention the name for fear of the Houthi.
He pointed out that the Houthi militia collected tens of millions of dollars, through organized operations to smuggle Yemeni antiquities under direct supervision of them, and are led by an international mafia of Iranian and Lebanese figures belonging to Hezbollah, indicating that there is a black market for antiquities trade in the salt market in BAB Al Yemen, Neighbor and undercover gangs follow the Houthi group buy and sell them to foreigners and mafia from outside Yemen and in various countries, including European countries.
Researched and Sana’a University faculty member Ali Taaiman said that smuggling is due to the beginning of interest in antiquities at the end of the 20th century. However, smugglers have found a greater chance in the recent war.
The smuggling, buying and selling processes increased with the help of elements from some foreign countries, who claimed that these sites were destroyed in the war; this is not true.
He pointed out that the list of looted monuments included statues made of bronze and made of marbles, as well as pieces of gold and silver and new inscriptions on stone and bronze. They also escaped important leather manuscripts that tells about Part of the date in N talk, was Maj. Gen. Mahdi looted the house of the argument, which includes hundreds of artifacts.
Jews have a role
He added that the Houthis understood that coordination with the Jews gave them logistical and political support, so they facilitated the smuggling of Hebrew manuscripts and the oldest version of the Torah as part of a deal that allowed a batch of the last Jews of Yemen to go to Israel.
The rare version, which was handed down by the Yemeni Jewish rabbis, This smuggling story was fabricated on March 22, 2016, while high level coordination between the Houthis and Israel was carried out through external intermediaries who may be Germans, Americans, Arabs and Iranians.
In this regard, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received in Tel Aviv, the Jews who came from Yemen to Israel. The Israeli government spokesman said that the group, which came from the city of Rida, included the rabbi of the community there, who brought a Torah manuscript believed to be old Between 500 and 600 years.
Ways of Monuments smuggling
Tawfiq al-Samaei, a researcher and expert in the field of antiquities, talked about the methods of smuggling antiquities, explaining that they are active in the governorates of Al-Jawf, Taiz, Shabwa and Sana'a. They are transported via special means of transportation such as military vehicles belonging to the Yemeni army and ambulances to Saada governorate or areas near the Red Sea coasts And Hodeidah, to transport boats from the Yemeni coasts as fishing boats to be received at sea by mafia boats coming from the Eritrean coasts in addition to the means of private land transport that are not subject to inspection.
He added that the antiquities were smuggled through the airport, some of them using diplomatic passports that are not subject to inspection, while others bought some airport employees or issued an official authorization from the state. Some of the country's top leaders are the head of trade gangs and smuggling of antiquities. Or across the sea," he said. In the sea ports, they are smuggled in different ways and shipped in professional ways, and some of them have been detected many times, but when it is not revealed to the Yemeni museums, but go to the possession of these leaders again, pointing out that the antiquities trade was active during the reign of former President Abdullah Saleh, That the symbols of his regime are accused of being at the head of the trade.
Smuggling the oldest copies of the Quraan
Yemeni reports confirm that the oldest copies of the Qur’an, which were kept in the Great Mosque in Sanaa and written on the skin of the deer, were sold to an Iranian businessman for 3 million US dollars.
Tawfiq al-Sama'I, a researcher, commented, “The Grand Mosque in Sana'a contains the most important ancient Yemeni manuscripts, including the Quranic tablets, which were revealed during the restoration of the Great Mosque recently. We knew that the manuscripts of the ancient Yemeni manuscripts were stolen from the Oud Mountains in Dali from one of the historical caves dated back fifty years after the Prophet's mission and was offered for sale. Also a small Mus'haf in the Mosque of Sana'a. There are countries which recruit gangs to perform searching, buying and selling Yemeni Antiquities, and the last report of the United Nations experts confirmed this.”
He added that the gangs of Houthi focused on the looting of ancient statues, and then other tools of swords or bronze plates inscribed with the line Almstnad as well as archaeological, but the most important of those manuscripts were looted, a marble throne from the district of Reda province white beaded gold and was sold and removed from Sanaa airport with an official memorandum from the Office of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and was smuggled on board on a private presidential plane and was submitted for sale at the auction in 2010.
Al-Samei continued that after the Houthi militias had killed the symbols of Saleh's regime and his relatives, the Houthis inherited the trade and sale of the Yemeni antiquities, and new names emerged as Abu Ali and Muhannad Al-Siyani, the nephew of Abdul Malik Al-Siani Hamour, who was appointed head of the General Authority of Antiquities of Yemen and one of the accused of smuggling and trading Yemeni antiquities.
The governor Abu Alihas has been also accused of looting some of the holdings of the National Museum in Sanaa, indicating that in the Sanaa, there are black markets for trafficking in antiquities, especially in old Sanaa, where there are some shops frequented by traffickers of antiquities, To examine the artifacts and estimate their prices, and connect with customers outside the country who come to buy them, and also use a network of young thieves roaming the provinces of Amran, Mahweet, Sanaa, Marib, Hajjah and Jouf, while many residents in old Sanaa confirm that many traders and smugglers are Lebanese and Jordanians, linked to the various Hesboillah networks who are active in the trade of drugs and weapons, and some of them hold German passports.
“Houthis have smuggled Jewish manuscripts and the oldest version of the Torah to Israel,” said the Yemeni Minister of Culture.
Our conversation with the Yemeni Minister of Culture Dr. Marwan Al-Damaj reveals more surprises about the looting of the monuments of the successive civilizations in Yemen by the Houthi militias.
During the meeting, which took place in the palace of Maasheq, the Minister refered to the efforts exerted to reconstruct the destruction left by the Houthis in this sector.
Here is the text of the interview:
What are the most important archaeological sites that have been subjected to the destruction by the Houthis?
- Yemen is characterized by a great diversity of archaeological sites, and it is difficult to enumerate the archaeological sites, some of them traces of the Bronze Age, and other to Islamic era in Taiz and Sanaa, including manuscripts dating back to the beginning of the Islamic era, which is very important and in large numbers and some of which are newly discovered, and concentrated in the various governorates of Yemen, Aden, Al-Jawf and Lahj. We have an important archaeological site known as a 3,000-year-old chest. It is considered the oldest settlement of Bushra, but it still needs to be explored. There are also traces dating back to the time of the Kingdom of Sheba.
One of the most archaeological sites affected by the sabotage is the Abyan Museum, which includes archaeological artifacts and important jewelry related to the Shokra area, an ancient seaport on the sea. It consisted of 600 pieces and was destroyed by the Al-Qaada in 2014, part of which was transferred to the central bank, another part is with the people and there is a missing part.
There is also the museum of the city of Taiz, which was burned and part of it was looted and now it is under the hands of some parties of the resistance, which helped in the rescue and transfer of the contents of the museum and is under negotiation with them.
A government committee was also formed to limit and evaluate the contents of the museum, Dating back to early Islamic history and Jewish manuscripts Of rare belonging to a famous Jewish character named "Alhbzy", a Jewish rabbi was living in Taiz, and was a poet and a scientist in medicine, and had a great position in the right society.
The museum contained artifacts belonging to the apostolic state. The problem was that the contents had been moved in unscientific way that did not preserve them. Also part of the Yemeni heritage belonged to political figures under the previous regime and was kept inside their homes.
What is the truth about what is reported about the smuggling of monuments and manuscripts to Israel and the role of the Jews of Yemen in this?
Yemen is rich in manuscripts, but many of them were smuggled to Israel in cooperation with the Houthis; and the oldest version of the Torah was smuggled to Israel also nearly a year ago. The Houthis are responsible for the monuments and manuscripts that reached Israelis; they try to put the blame on us, however, no piece left the country with us knowing.
The process of smuggling Jews of Yemen was carried out in the 1940s within the process of Jewish settlement in Palestine, as the British government occupied Yemen at that time, and if part of the monuments was transferred, this was not intended or the goal of Israel, which aimed only to settle them In Palestine, not their exploitation in the smuggling of antiquities.
Those transferred with them the local Yemeni folklore such as songs, music, dances, marriage rituals, death and clothing, which was characterized by Aden, and this is part of the Yemeni heritage.
In general, how do you evaluate the situation of the archaeological sector now?
The archaeological sector is living in difficult conditions of destruction and smuggling monuments and facilities that need restoration and construction.
All this is a result of the Houthi and Saleh alliance. We have information that raises concerns about the presence of large Houthi trade in the Yemen ruins and the excavation of archaeological sites in the areas under their control such as Hajjah.
And the exploitation of the port of Hodeidah and Sanaa airport in the smuggling, and traded artifacts in large markets in Sanaa and international markets, and many fled towards Iran.
What are the methods of antiquities smuggling and what are your efforts to restore them?
Smuggling happens through land or seaports with the Horn of Africa and many of the antiquities are being smuggled through these areas. What raises concern is that they seized the archaeological holdings of Yemeni political figures and no one knows where they are.
We need concerted regional efforts and broad regional cooperation to curb this phenomenon. We need to conclude understandings and agreements with neighboring and surrounding countries regarding the recovery of monuments.
We have continued cooperation and communication with a number of countries such as the Sultanate of Oman, There, they sent us a list of the seized pieces from the province of Shabwa and their receipt procedures are still in process. There are pieces belonging to the old Yemeni state with the Swiss authorities, we asked them on the advice of UNESCO to keep them until the stability of the situation in the sector.
What is your assessment of the role of international organizations in providing assistance in this regard?
We call on the relevant international institutions, especially UNESCO and the United Nations, to have greater cooperation with us in monitoring the circulation of the Yemeni monuments in the international market. We have a problem with the nature of the international institutions. They have not been able to adapt to the circumstances of the war and are still working in a bureaucratic manner.
In general, these organizations have revealed their non-functioning in times of war and their weakness in achieving adaptation to their circumstances, while in other countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, although they provide good services under normal circumstances.
This article is part of a series of articles on Yemen by Eman Hannah. Hannah has taken a 30-day trip to monitor Houthi crimes, the suffering of the people and the role of the coalition forces in restoring the Arab country from the hands of Iran's allies, documents revealing Houthi plan to spread the Shiite ideology, the mandate of the Faqih, and change the curriculum.