Prison Is My Only Home

Prison Is My Only Home

Amat Al-Salam

President of the Abducted Mothers Association

 

On my visit to one of the women's prisons in Yemen to follow up on some cases of female prisoners, we spoke to a woman who lives in the prison because there is no place to go after her husband was imprisoned on a criminal act. She is not a Yemeni citizen and therefore she could not live or travel alone. So, her husband asked the prison administration to accommodate her in the women's prison until he completes his sentence!

This complex and tragic situation in Yemen under the conflict has affected the lives of men and women citizens in every detail of life. They lost their safety and peace. Such suffering extends to the poor provision of social services required by all women, especially those who are victims of different forms of discrimination and violence. Therefore, we need to deeply to address the most miserable women, namely the detained and kidnapped ones.

Imprisonment of and assaulting women in any way is a black shame in the inherent Yemeni custom, an unforgivable sin. Abusing women by arrest is a harm and an insult to them and society, because women in Yemen enjoy a high position in terms of tribal and customary norms. Moreover, the Yemeni Constitution stipulated in Article (48\A) that “he state shall guarantee to its citizens their personal freedom, preserve their dignity and their security. The law shall define the cases in which citizens freedom may be restricted. Personal freedom cannot be restricted without a decision of a competent court of law.).
Since the beginning of the conflict, we have been living with direct violations and grave crimes against Yemeni women, the most prominent of which is that 157 women have been subjected to arbitrary detention by the parties to the conflict, foremost among which is Ansar Allah [Houthi group], according to Abductees’ Mothers Association. Some of these women were subjected to psychological and physical torture.

Many women kidnapped by Ansar Allah [Houthi group] have walked out of prison reporting some violations. We have heard of the violence that was used against them, such as beatings, tying up, hair shaving, solitary confinement, deprivation of food, being held in secret prisons, deprivation of communication with the outside world, seizing their money, and preventing them from traveling, and they still suffer until this day from the effects of this violence.

Mrs. Fatem, 70 years old, is one of the travelers who was detained at a checkpoint with her young granddaughters and was blackmailed to pay a ransom for the release of the granddaughters while she was still detained. She announced her hunger strike and later was released by a local mediation in which the Association contributed. Another prisoner is Ms. Dhekra Saeed who was released by UN mediation in Hodeida after she was taken by the Ansar Allah [Houthis] gunmen from a street in Hodeida while she was heading to her work. She was taken to the Central Prison in Hodeida from the Criminal Investigation Prison where she was detained for a while, during which she was interrogated and psychological and physical abused. In the past weeks, three female inmates in the Central Prison in Sana'a were severely beaten by guards of the prison administration, placed in solitary confinement, and prevented from communication or visits for three weeks.

The Abductees’ Mothers Association contributes to rescue the kidnapped or detained women reported to the Association by their relatives by all possible means, socially and officially, legally or through media outlets, and has remained close to their needs.
We, as a women-led human rights organization, hope that the Yemeni female kidnapped or prisoners will find, in all circumstances and levels, someone who supports them and holds their hands to survival. Efforts must be intensified to enable female prisoners to enjoy their rights, preserve their dignity, grant consideration to every woman kidnapped and every prisoner abused, help them to live in peace and safety, and rehabilitate them psychologically and professionally through an effective and realistic struggle against discrimination and violence against women.