OP-ED

When Peace has a Voice

Sorrows Hidden in prisons

Sorrows Hidden in prisons

Sorrows Hidden in prisons

Ms. Asma Al-Raie
Human Rights Activist

The proverb says women are half of society and enjoy the same rights as the other half, and women must obtain their rights and entitlements that have been approved by international instruments and charters. This concept differs from broad-based concepts of human rights by claiming that there is an inherent historical and traditional prejudice against women exercising their rights. This is in the interest of men's practices of their rights. Women have the right to be protected, independent, free of sexual violence, vote, hold public office, conclude legal contracts, equality in family law, fair wages, and equal property rights and education.

Violence against women in prisons is considered one of the most heinous forms of violence practiced against women. Despite the laws regulating prisons, the concerned authorities' monitoring of their implementation and assessment of the performance of the Prison Authority employees is almost non-existent. Not only that, but the weak oversight role of civil society organizations has withdrawn and their advocacy for the issues of female detainees and prisoners became almost rare, as they are absent either due to their weak capabilities or the authorities' refusal to get them involved.

In addition, the inferior view that women find in society suffers double inside prison and under the hearing and sight of the state authorities that must protect and enable them to fulfill their full rights, while constantly being exposed to violations, which leads some of them to feel despair and commit suicide.

In light of the war, the vocational and educational rehabilitation programs that were offered to female prisoners in order to support themselves after their sentences were suspended. As most often the family disavows them, so rehabilitation becomes necessary for female prisoners to complete their lives and at the same time eliminates the bad reputation associated with their names during their imprisonment.

Woman and the man both make mistakes, but society gives the man many opportunities and rejects the woman without giving her another opportunity. The prison sentence aims to discipline so as the female prisoners become active and useful members of a social peace.

Women Prisoners Subjected to Twofold Violence

Women Prisoners Subjected to Twofold Violence

Women Prisoners Subjected to Twofold Violence
Ms. Intisar Saleh
A journalist


Behind the bars, life is extremely brutal and cruel. The value of days is lost there. Everyone is begging for time to pass quickly and asking, “When are we going to get out of here? When will we go out to the horizons of a wide space away from torture and violations that are practiced against us?”
Even after women prisoners leave their prison and after serving their sentence, they face higher walls than the prison walls, and a darker night than the dark dormitories, which is the society's view of them. Society always views women prisoners with the eyes of suspicion, injustice and oppression, and the shame of crime remains above their heads forever!!

The concerned authorities have the right to make arrests and detention; however, they do not fulfill their duty to study the issues and cut off the roots of the problem, nor does the family seek to embrace these women, forgive them, rebuild them again and integrate them into society. This is not true in most cases. Worse than that is the female prisoners whose crimes involve moral issues. They find their shelter in prison because their release means a death sentence by their families. For all these reasons, women are exposed to imprisonment, and their suffering worsens there. In prison, women cannot find health care, especially when women require special needs such as sanitary napkins, shaving tools, paints, underwear, and medicines, so they live misery of another color in the cells.

The failure of prison administrations is clearly evident, as the defect is not addressed and the needs of female prisoners are not provided as per the laws and treaties guarantee them. Rather, those who claim their rights are subjected to threats of beatings and punishment, which forces female prisoners to remain silent and live with the situation anyway.
As for the educational status and rehabilitation, female prisoners in Yemen are deprived of education. According to prison laws, the laws guarantee the right to education, but Yemeni prisons do not have education and rehabilitation to help them face life conditions inside and outside the prison.
Despite the law articles that chart the course of treatment of pregnant female prisoners, special medical treatment in terms of food, employment, and sleep since pregnancy is proven with a medical report, Yemeni women prisoners do not receive humane treatment by those in charge of prisons.

The laws also stipulated that their children remain with them until they reach the age of four years and then be handed over to a foster parent. However, the reality is that children remain in prison until the mother is released and the family abandon him, just as the mother was abandoned previously. It happens that children receive only the basics of life in the prison environment.
As so, female prisoners are treated as guilty and do not deserve a decent life. It does not matter if they are exposed to diseases. Moreover, they are insulted by the supervisors of prisons or inmates who have control over the vulnerable inmates. Some female prisoners are subjected to robbing by other prisoners to blackmail and intimidate them to carry out washing and cleaning, or they are subjected to physical and psychological harm.

This is for female prisoners against a criminal background or moral issues. As for those who are imprisoned because of political affiliation, no one knows about the existence of their places of detention or the reasons that led to this. The beginning of the series of torture, intimidation and extortion of the female prisoner and her family. After the kidnapping, the family demands their daughter, but the kidnappers first deny her presence with them. Then, the situation develops, and the family obtains a conditional confession by the perpetrator that they have her, but they will not know her whereabouts except for a large sum of money. This happens several times through different people without results while the prisoner is exposed to enforced disappearance, solitary confinement, psychological and physical torture, and threats of rape, which may occur.

After the family knows where the place of detention is, the violating party begins to spread rumors on the female prisoner and her family, taking advantage of customs and traditions, and accuse the female victim of being part of the networks of prostitution. The parents cannot tolerate this rumor, so they are forced to pay millions to silence this voice despite their knowledge of the integrity and purity of their daughter, and this continues for months or years without any help for this woman or her family from human rights and women's rights organizations. Rather, if the organizations attend, they would act according to the conditions of the violating party.

What the Yemeni women have been exposed to in Yemen, especially for the past six years, is something that cannot be described by letters or comprehended by reason. Domestic violence crimes have increased, women and children have become homeless in the streets, and they are thrown into prisons.

Women Under Suppression

Women Under Suppression

Women Under Suppression

Ms. Shomokh Al-Ward
Human rights activist

Yemeni women were known for their wisdom and courage throughout the ages and times. Women had a social status in the Yemeni tradition, which preserved their rights and dignity. However, when wars and conflicts broke out, they had the largest share in persecuting their rights and violating their dignity. As a result, women were subjected to many violations that amounted to murder, kidnapping, and enforced disappearance in light of the suppression of her right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The parties to the conflict have adopted a methodology of suppression against women, and with all aggression and injustice they have practiced brutal methods against them that were condemned by Yemeni society that deviated from its customs and traditions. Many women were kidnapped and hidden, and were subjected to the worst types of physical and psychological torment and threats to their families and relatives of harm and grief. On September 9, 2020, the group of eminent international experts, which was entitled “Pandemic of Impunity in a Tortured Land”, indicated the existence of a network of a series of secret and official facilities of residential buildings in which women and girls are detained, and subjected to abuse, kidnapping and torture, including violence. Sexual and solitary confinement, as well as physical and psychological ill-treatment. The Group of Experts has received documented reports that 279 women and girls, some of them 14 years old, have been abducted incommunicado.

This is supported by the story of Asma Mater Al-Ameisi, 22 years old, who is in prison and is under sentence of death. Asma is one of the stories of violations and attacks against women in Yemen as a result of wars and conflicts. Asma was kidnapped on October 5, 2016 on her way to Sana'a, with her father and two of her neighbors, and charged with forming a spy and intelligence cell, after she was accused of a dishonorable case for traveling with strangers. Asma was beaten and punched in front of her father by a police woman, and she was forced to watch the two, who were kidnapped with her, being tortured, suspended, and beaten all over their bodies. On January 30, 2018, the court sentenced Asma and the two who were with her to death, her 50-year-old father was sentenced to a decade and a half in prison, and the (indecent act) charge imposed an additional sentence for Asma with 100 lashes. According to the Amnesty International report, those who spoke to Asmaa in Sanaa's Central Prison said that her morale is very low and in very poor health conditions, and that she must pay the costs of food, clothing and health materials, and her family does not visit her for fear of kidnapping.

Kidnapped women in prisons suffered from severe psychological pressure because they were subjected to insults and accusations in their honor and morals. Some of them were raped and caused a great shock to the abductee and her family. So, some of them locked themselves between the walls of brokenness after their release from prison.
The expert team verified six cases of rape, as two of these women were subjected to various forms of sexual violence over a period of time, and three of these women were raped on more than twenty occasions. This made the kidnapped women enter into a bad psychological state as a result of systematic and deliberate torture to humiliate them, abuse their dignity, and destroy their psyche, so that some of them committed suicide. The experts ’report stated that the rape had shattered the will of some survivors, accompanied by isolation and humiliation, and led them to despair and increased their tendency to commit suicide.

All these things make the kidnapped women in a very bad psychological state in a prison that lacks the lowest standards of health and psychological concern. The health and psychological state of the kidnapped prisoner deteriorates, where the rate of depression and other mental illnesses increases, which forces some of them to go to a psychiatrist when they leave, and many of them may miss that the physical and social conditions surrounding them.
This was confirmed by the experts' report, where it described the impact of the violations that the abducted women were subjected to as a long-term trauma for themselves, their families and their societies. They often did not have access to medical treatment or rehabilitation for the abducted women in detention. After they were released, unless they could afford it, some of them had struggled to access services related to gender-based violence due to stigma and the lack of specialists in it.

At the end of the report, the Group of Experts recommended all parties to the conflict to ensure justice for all parties to the conflict, immediately stop all kinds of violence committed in the rights of civilians, take the necessary measures to protect them, ensure the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained persons, respect their rights, and immediately dissolve the network of secret detention facilities, and put an immediate end to all forms of sexual violence against women. The recommendations further include: to end impunity, ensure full accountability for violations of international human rights law, hold perpetrators accountable, provide financial, medical, psychological and social support, and develop more comprehensive programs to support and rehabilitate victims.
In addition, the necessary measures must be taken to preserve the rights of imprisoned women, including preserving their dignity, guaranteeing their rights to defend themselves and their other legal rights, and the exercise of their normal activities of education, health, psychological rehabilitation and skills inside and outside the prison.
Finally, all together, hand in hand towards a better future that preserves the rights and dignity of women in Yemen.

Gender Discrimination and Societal Injustice against Female Prisoners in Yemen

Gender Discrimination and Societal Injustice against Female Prisoners in Yemen

Gender Discrimination and Societal Injustice against Female Prisoners in Yemen
Mr. Ahmed Abdullah Al-Dhamari
Human Rights Activist


Because of the masculine oppression that women suffer in Yemen and the family domination that is based on societal norm that made women a "shame", the family must hide this shame in the dark. For this reason, women have been given secondary roles in life and make them hostages to ignorance, poverty and material need. This gender discrimination by society, besides other certain conditions for some women, was one of the most important reasons for some women to go to prison.
If a woman was imprisoned in Yemen, she was sentenced to life exile. If she was imprisoned on suspicion, then society looks at her inferiorly and her relatives abandon her and even consider her a shame that must be eliminated, especially if the charge is related to honor. If the female prisoner is married and has children, then she is deprived of her children by preventing them from approaching her even after her release, divorced by her husband, becomes a pariah and is banned from visits. We see that most of the women prisoners stay in prisons for months or years and no one visits them.
There is no repentance and no tolerance for her from society, unlike their imprisoned male peers who find sympathy, support and forgiveness from the community, especially from the family. That is why most female prisoners prefer to stay in prison and not to leave it after the expiration of their imprisonment period. Female prisoners are possessed by fear of the society that incriminated them, refused to accept them after their release, looked upon them with suspicion and apprehension, and rejected them because they are former prisoners. Even the family of the female prisoner and those closest to her disown her and may kill her once they see her. Unfortunately, this murderous view imposes on her isolation and deprives her of Integration with society and returning to normal life, so she finds herself alone, suffering from the rinsing of life, homeless, and without possessing any vocational skills or scientific qualifications. Even employers are keen not to employ a former prisoner and block the doors of a decent life in front of her. As a result, in the face of this rejection and reaction of the society, she is forced to walk the path of delinquency to return to prison.
Gender-based discrimination against women extends to the judicial authority in all its branches. During the initial investigation stages with the security authorities, the accused female is subjected to inhuman and inappropriate treatment, including threats, beatings and torture, and sometimes sexual harassment. In fact, being is a woman, the female prisoner is treated as a criminal in all stages of litigation and even before a court ruling is issued condemning her. The female prisoner sometimes stays for a long time, may be years, in prison without completing the investigation with her and without a court ruling.
In addition to the forms and manifestations of the specific discrimination that the female prisoner suffers from in Yemen, there are particular grievances, some of which are the absence of a special section for childbirth and care for pregnant women. Even after childbirth, the female prisoner and her infant suffer from malnutrition.
With the outbreak of the war in Yemen, the extent of violations committed against women, especially female prisoners, expanded. The expansion of the war and its increasing ferocity accompanied the emergence of crimes that have not existed before in Yemen, such as arresting women from political opponents, fabricating moral charges against them and forcibly hiding them for a period of months. New secret detention facilities were established in which the worst violations were practiced against female prisoners. Under the pretext of disloyalty, the women in charge of women's prisons have been replaced by other loyal to the de facto authority, but they do not have any professional qualifications and do not possess the minimum level of experience in prison supervision and management. Therefore, women guards practice the most horrific violations against women prisoners. Despite the scarcity of basic services that were provided, such as health and social care, because of the war such services stopped completely, which negatively affected female prisoners and prevented civil and human rights organizations from visiting prisons.
Female prisoner in Yemen suffered from multiple forms of gender discrimination, societal injustice, and successive governments ’disregard for the violations committed against them. Moreover, the war came to make matters worse, but with hope, work and honorable solidarity, the agony will unfold, justice and peace will prevail, and we see an era in which women can enjoy their full rights as an integral component of the Yemeni social fabric.

Behind Bars, Life is Extremely Brutal and Cruel

Behind Bars, Life is Extremely Brutal and Cruel

Behind Bars, Life is Extremely Brutal and Cruel
Wafa Al-Qadasi
Female Human Rights Activist

Behind bars, the value of days is lost and everyone is begging for time to pass quickly. She says, “This was not the first time that the miserable face of life darkened, but rather many times, and each time the roughness of misery increased due to the number of unjust violations that pass by us. Moreover, that misery has penetrated our veins, as nothing of contentment has hinted in it any longer, and everything has become out of place.
In women's prisons, conspirators emerged, and immoral behaviors and practices prevailed.
The female prisoners are on the verge of falling, and life is still determined to ravage them to make it difficult for them to return.
Many scars and bumps and many imbalances and pitfalls roaring in the face of these female prisoners.

They were not subjected to a slap or a whip on a thin body weakened by the sting of a needle, but rather they were subjected to the most horrific types of violations. A number of reports of the Human Rights Organization published that a number of female prisoners and kidnapped women were subjected to grave and non-serious violations in women's prisons, especially in prisons controlled by Ansar Allah [Houthis]. Such violations have been monitored.
Women in prisons were subjected to physical torture, signing false confessions, cruel treatment, exploitation, and rape.
Not only that, there are more rights being taken away and violated, especially during this crisis of Covid-19 which the world is going through, as well as what our country is going through.
There are a number of legal breaches throughout interrogation periods of female prisoners. They are detained without trial and receive negligence in applying the sentences issued against them or grant them their rights. A judgment is ruled to acquit female prisoner or the sentence ends but the female prisoner remains in prison. Such prolonged unjustified detention of female prisoners creates feeling for revenge from the society and the state due to the negligence of law enforcement or the absence of policies and programs for their rehabilitation into private institutions for their reintegration into society.

Female prisoners are deprived of free legal and other protection means. Further, the female prisoners are deprived of simple human rights, such as the health care that they required behind bars, and the lack of social and psychological workers to rehabilitate them in society. The General Authority for Prisons had to pay attention to the educational and professional aspect inside the prison, which would make the female prisoner acquire a number of skills and knowledge that would qualify her to take care of herself and her thoughts in order to emerge into society as a mature person.

The deteriorating situation of Yemeni female prisoners is part of the situation of Yemeni women in general, who suffers from illiteracy, poverty, limited living conditions, and society's view of women who are accused in any case that her family and even society are guilty of before the court ruling is issued on her case. The family rarely assigns a lawyer to defend her. Many families expel the imprisoned woman and consider her a perpetual criminal.

Finally, your mission, jailer, is not to deny rights, but to defend them and apply justice, and to show the truth and return these female prisoners to their homes without loss, oppression, or violations.

Prisoners of Bodies, not Prisoners of Ideas

Prisoners of Bodies, not Prisoners of Ideas

Prisoners of Bodies, not Prisoners of Ideas


Fatima M.
Former Female Prisoner

I was not the only one who was subjected to divorce and family breakdown just because I spent sometimes in prison in a case of fraud for which I was the victim. I found myself in isolation and loneliness occupied with concerns about my children and how their fate will be in my absence. How I will spend these difficult days behind closed walls where the space narrows and time stretches as if it were endless. At the beginning of my detention, I was crying all the time, as it never occurred to me that I would be a prisoner, be divorced and my children feel ashamed of their relation to me. My soul collapsed and I felt lost, especially when the old female inmates bullied me into washing their clothes, forcing me to arrange their beds and covers. I remembered those TV movies that were telling stories about the reality of female prisoners and thought it was only in the world of acting until I saw it by my own eyes and experienced it by myself.

I was wondering would I spend the rest of my life like this, allow the emptiness to ravage me with memories of the past, and feel a sense of despair about the present and the future?

Soon the relief came with a new prison administration. It allowed some activities and sports. How astonished I was to know that the sewing, handicraft factory and the educational classes have been existed for years, but they were controlled the personalities who manage the prison.

I felt that the rehabilitation facility earned its name as the activities have changed the mood of female prisoners, including the bully ones, because their engagement with these activities made them calmer and in tune with the rest of the prisoners.

These activities opened a window of hope for me that when I got out of prison, I would not be the one who did not have any profession, but rather I would acquire a profession that would help me restore my previous life or start a new life. It is well known in our country that female prisoners are rejected by society after their release and are always pursued by suspicious looks wherever they go.
The days were not as heavy and bleak as they used to be; the morning became beautiful waiting my sewing class to start with great passion. I also taught some female inmates the basics of reading and writing. By so, these small details have entered my life with joy and a sense of achievement.
After that, we raised our slogan then, “We are prisoners of bodies ... not prisoners of ideas”. Our minds became open and our ideas touched the horizons of creativity. Our days were colored in prison despite the ordeal we are living in.
We remained in this situation for nearly a year. Then, the prison administration changed and we returned to the first episode. The void episode that preys on us with all its disadvantages, so the door to activities was closed again and the problems of bullying in the prison returned not only to weak female prisoners, but also to some security cadres who did not receive training enough qualified them to work in this facility.

Meanwhile, a release ruling was issued for me, so I left prison feeling very happy for my freedom and innocence from the accusation. That feeling of joy mixed with a feeling of sadness for the rest of the female prisoners whose days and years of life would be lost in a prison surrounded by emptiness and darkness..

 

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