The Yemeni government has labeled the youth of its 2011 revolution ‘heroes,’ but it has provided little by means of financial and medical support for those wounded during that period. A recent hunger strike drew attention to the issue only to be crushed by Yemeni Central Security Forces, leaving more injured revolutionaries.
On 12 February 2013, Abdullah Mohammed Suroory, 23, and his colleagues woke up to find themselves surrounded by Yemeni Central Security Forces and riot police. Suroory and company had camped in front of the cabinet office in Sanaa, engaged in a hunger strike since the end of January 2013.
“When I saw the amount of security forces, I started taking pictures to document and then the security began cursing at me and saying why are you taking pictures you animals, we will crush you. We have orders from the Ministry of Interior,” Suroory said.
According to witnesses, security forces were attempting to provoke the protesters. At one point, security stepped on some of the protesters’ feet and verbal arguments escalated.
Although a law was decreed to provide healthcare to all those wounded in the revolution, many injured revolutionaries have not received any of it.MP Ahmed Saif Hashid, an independent with close links to the Yemeni left, was camping with the group and tried to intervene. A security official quickly hit the MP over the head with a baton, causing Hashid to fall to the ground. Security forces continued their beating of Hashid, then other demonstrators, ultimately using teargas at close proximity.
At least four protesters, including the MP, were hospitalized. According to writer Arwa Othman, security forces briefly obstructed the departure of the ambulance.
The events led some to believe it was an assassination attempt on Hashid. Abdul-Rashid al-Faqih, head of al-Hewar organization, echoed their concerns. “What Hashid faced was not an accident, it was a premeditated and planned murder attempt,” he said.
Some members of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) believe this was a direct attack on them. “First, it was an assassination attempt against Yasine Said Noman [YSP secretary general], now MP Hashid,” said Haroon Abdul-Rahman, a YSP member. “This is similar to what happened to Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid .”
The surprising attack on the hunger strikers demands a serious investigation. Local media reported that Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa apologized to Hashid, and ordered the interior minister to form an investigative panel.
The night of 12 February, following the attack on the hunger strikers, a caravan of supporters from the city of Taiz arrived in solidarity with the wounded protesters, chanting slogans against the interior minister and calling for regime change.
Origins of the Hunger Strike
The sit-in at the cabinet office increased in size on 2 February after the death of Mohammed al-Ariqi. During the 2011 revolution, Ariqi was injured when he was run over by a military vehicle in front of al-Shab School in Taiz.
Like so many of the wounded, Ariqi was neither medically treated nor compensated financially by the government. Two years later, when Ariqi died from complications, protesters were furious.
After his death, a group of injured revolutionaries camped in front of the cabinet office, calling on the government to provide them with their rights for financial compensation or treatment abroad. On 5 February, protester Muneef al-Zubairi set himself on fire in protest of the lack of care by the Yemeni government for wounded revolutionaries.
Although a law was decreed to provide healthcare to all those wounded in the revolution, along with $152,000 allocated from the state budget for “compensation for martyrs and wounded,” many injured revolutionaries have not received any of it.
“We didn’t believe the words of the previous government and we don’t believe the words of this government. They make promises, but do not implement them,” said Samir, a 17-year-old who was promised medical treatment abroad.
“We are not affiliated to any party. This is why they are ignoring us,” said wounded protester Jameela.
We didn’t believe the words of the previous government and we don’t believe the words of this government.
Local newspaper al-Oula reported that although there is a committee tasked with treating wounded revolutionaries, the Ministry of Finance paid 2 billion Yemeni Riyals to al-Wafa Foundation, an organization that is affiliated to the Islah Party, to provide medical aid.
The foundation denies these claims. Shawqi Mamoun, head of the Martyrs’ Families Administration Council at al-Wafa, told the Yemen Times that the foundation has not received any money from the finance ministry. The role of the foundation, according to Mamoun, is to coordinate between martyrs’ families and the ministry.
On the second anniversary of the revolution, government officials lauded the bravery of the “youth” during the revolution. They described the “martyrs and wounded protesters” as heroes in their speeches, yet they have done nothing for them.
*First published in Al-Akhbar