On April 16th, the whole world was talking about Yemen. That day saw a landmark event: a prisoner exchange between the Huti movement and the Yemeni government recognized by the UN. It is part of ongoing negotiations between Huti and Saudi Arabia – a country that supports the official authorities and is forming a coalition against the rebels. Both sides released nearly 900 captives in April. Today, more than a week after the landmark event, prisoners held by Huti militants are beginning to tell their stories
Officials detained Majid Albazili on his way to the university. In an interview with al-Jazeera, he talks about physical and psychological violence, electrocution, solitary confinement, and torture. Albazili recalls that visits from loved ones were severely limited, and parcels were given to him by his family rarely arrived. He adds that, even in prison, he was very keen to be able to read. Unfortunately, all the attempts failed.
The man did not see the sun for eight years. “I can’t describe my happiness. I can see the sky and breathe fresh air again,” is how Majid Albazili talks about his release.
The scale of suffering
Jamal Buhaibeh, who was detained during the fight for his province, confirms that the lack of light intensified the suffering. He recalls that diseases began to spread in prison due to miserable conditions and poor nutrition, including tuberculosis, anemia, and skin diseases. However, today, after being released, his happiness “has no limits.”
The prisoners detained by pro-government forces also report on torture. Fighting on the Huti side, Zijad Aldaeri speaks of being constantly transported to other prisons, blindfolded, his arms and legs cuffed, and being beaten and insulted. He recalls that even in situations of great pain and high fever, he was not given medical attention. Co-prisoners insisting on medication for the beaten man.
The Huti movement denies accusations of torture, insisting that all detainees were detained because of their ties to Saudi Arabia, which supports the government and has been carrying out raids since 2015. The government side also denies the allegations.
Geopolitical game or humanitarian disaster?
The prisoner exchange is a glimmer of hope in conflict-ridden Yemen. The civil war there has been ongoing since 2014 and is part of a geopolitical game between, among others, hostile to each other Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Yemen is in a humanitarian crisis. Almost everything from the health care system to the economy and education is on the verge of collapse, according to UNHCR. Many Yemenis and Yemeni women have lost their homes and loved ones. Tens of thousands have died. According to the UN, by 2023, more than 21 million people in Yemen will need humanitarian assistance.
Translated by Anna Trela.