On September 24, following a weekend of heavy fighting in Sanaa between the government and Houthi forces, the Friends of Yemen meet in New York. This group of 39 countries and 8 international organizations, created in 2010 to help address the political and economic problems that made Yemen fertile ground for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has now to grapple with the implementation of a peace deal, signed September 21, that requires the formation of a new government within a month and a range of other measures, including the restoration of recently cut fuel subsidies and increases in civil service pay.
“They would tie my hands behind my back and lay me down on the ground,” was what “Said” told me, describing the torture camp near Yemen’s coast where he spent seven days before the traffickers holding him sold him to another gang. “Then they would beat me with sticks,” he said as he showed me the scars across his back. “I saw the guards kick the face of one man who was on the floor, breaking his teeth.”
Late one night last fall, I sat on a half-rotten mattress in a desolate square in the northern Yemeni town of Haradh as a 20-year-old high school student from a rural Ethiopian town — let’s call him Shikuri — told me his story. He had left home to find work in Saudi Arabia, but when he landed in Yemen en route, he found himself caught up in unimaginable horror.
Most Yemenis were at home taking their afternoon siesta when Belkis Wille, the Human Rights Watch Yemen researcher, walked into the shop in Haradh for the meeting she had arranged with Nadim. The shop owner, a friend of Nadim’s, took her to the back office to wait. The heat in the dusty desert town was stifling, and the shop was hardly better – Haradh had almost no electricity, and air conditioning wasn’t an option. Shortly after Belkis arrived, a round man in his 40s walked through the door. He stood with his back to her, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He seemed nervous, glancing frequently around the room.
Nadim (not his real name) had reason for both the jangled nerves and the caution. His line of business – human trafficking – meant that meeting with Belkis put him in peril.
America has carried out at least 400 drone strikes since US President Barack Obama took office, reportedly killing upwards of 2,600 people, according to independent research groups – reveals Letta Tayler.