|By: Saddam Al-Ashmouri For the Yemen Times||
SANAA, MAY 28- Local rights groups organized a campaign to show solidarity with 18 Yemeni citizens who were allegedly burnt by Saudi authorities while they were trying to hide themselves from security authorities in Khamis Bani Mushait, a town on the Saudi side of the Yemen- Saudi border.
The campaign was organized on May 26 in Sana’a city with participating rights groups, who said the Yemeni migrants have authorized them to defend their case in court, which will be filed against the responsible Saudi authorities.
Member of Parliament Hashid Saif, who is also the head of Al-Tagheer Legal Organization, said evidence and data are being gathered by a legal team within his organization, and a file copy will be sent to the attorney general and the ministries of the interior and human rights. He said the legal team will contact international organizations to start filing a case against the Saudi authorities sometime in the near future.
During the campaign, the 18 citizens recalled their ordeal.
“We were 25 men in Khamis Bani Mushait area,” said Mohammed Yahya Mawdah, one of the 18 burn victims. “At 5 p.m., we entered a big hole, which we dug to hide ourselves from police. The hole was [located] seven kilometers outside of Khamis Bani Mushait.” The young man said four police vehicles carrying a total of 12 policemen chased them. “We thought we had managed to escape them and we remained in the hole. Seven of us ran away and another 18 remained in the hole,” Mawdah added. “We didn’t expect the policemen would pour diesel into the hole and set it on fire. We left the fiery hole after our bodies were burnt.”
Another victim, Ali Hussein Bukari, said the police brought them despite their bad burns to the police station instead of the hospital. “We were crying out for help. But the police questioned us,” said Bukari. “They called us dogs – garbage – while we were crying out in pain,” he added.
A man identifying himself only as “Darweesh,”who was also in the group of burn victims, said he wished to die at that moment. “We were like dogs in front of the Saudi policemen. How cheap a Yemeni citizen is!”
Following the police investigations, the group was moved to a nearby hospital. According to Darweesh, doctors treated them only every four days, which worsened their health conditions. “We remained in the hospital for nine days and then were brought again to the police. A police officer said to us, ‘either you go back to Yemen or stay here until you recover and write waivers’,” he added.
According to him, the young men wrote waivers and then they deported them- in groups- into Al-Twal, another border v
illage. “There we saw Yemeni border soldiers. When we told them we were burnt by Saudi policemen, they replied, ‘May Allah help you to recover’,” said Darweesh.
The group returned to their area, Bajel, in the western province of Al-Hodeidah, one of the poorest provinces in Yemen. The men said they were in a very miserable condition when they got there. They received medical assistance in a local hospital at the expense of a local non-governmental organization (NGO).
Saudi authorities denied such allegations as reported by local media in Yemen.
Brigadier Abdullah Al-Qarni, a senior Saudi security official, said the incident was groundless, adding Yemeni illegal migrants are treated kindly by the authorities. He said a fire broke out in a garbage collection area where the Yemenis were hiding and that the fire was not caused by the police.
Al-Qarni expressed his surprise at the news that the young men said that they were treated badly, adding they were deported to Yemen only after receiving medical care.
A number of Yemeni local organizations condemned the incident and showed solidarity with the burn victims.
Human Rights Watch, an international organization dedicated to eradicating human rights abuses, has asked the Saudi authorities to investigate the policemen who burned the Yemeni migrants. “The allegations that the Saudi police had intentionally set fire to the hole in which the Yemeni migrants hid were horrible and reveal complete underrating of human beings,” said Sarah Watson, the executive manager of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and Northern Africa. “It looks like the Saudi officials are interested in protecting the police officers more than revealing the truth.”