The families of the missing prisoners say that while the Saudis have treated them with more respect than the Emiratis, neither has found their loves ones
No progress from Saudi-led committee tasked with finding Aden's forcibly disappeared
Nearly 45 days after Saudi forces in Yemen’s southern coastal city of Aden formed a committee to uncover the fate of forcibly disappeared prisoners there, the family members of 57-year-old Zakaria Qassem said they have received no updates about his whereabouts, health condition or the motives for his abduction two years ago.
Four masked gunmen belonging to the counterterrorism forces of the UAE-backed Aden security department abducted Zakaria on Jan. 27, 2018 on his way to perform dawn prayers at a mosque in Aden’s Al-Mu’alla district.
The gunmen assaulted Zakaria and took him to a black vehicle parked nearby, threatening to open fire on passersby if they intervened.
According to Zakaria’s sister Siham, Aden's security chief Maj. Gen. Shalal Shay’a said shortly after Zakaria’s kidnapping that he was being held for interrogations and would later be released. Later on, Shay’a denied Zakaria’s existence.
Siham said the Saudi-led coalition has known about the file of forcibly disappeared people in Aden for the past four years and that the lists of the victims are now present in most government and human rights organizations in the city.
The Association of Mothers of Abductees handed over a statement to the Saudi officers in Aden in early February, detailing the names, information and circumstances under which the men disappeared.
The Saudis, who recently replaced Emirati soldiers stationed in Aden, then held a face-to-face meeting with Yemeni security and military leaders in the city, formed a committee to investigate and assured the mothers they would follow up on the file.
In contrast, the Emiratis refused to meet the mothers in front of the Saudi-led coalition headquarters, where they hold weekly vigils demanding to release information about their sons' whereabouts.
On three occasions, the UAE-backed female police soldiers threatened to beat the mothers if the vigils continued and a number of women were assaulted at one point, Siham said.
There is a difference in the way that the UAE and Saudi Arabia have dealt with the missing persons’ files in Aden, Siham said, noting that the Saudi officers have shown some respect for the mothers of the abductees and listened to their demands. Initially, however, that wasn't the case. The day before the Saudi officer formed the committee to search for the disappeared prisoners, he vowed to crush one of the association's weekly vigils. The Saudis almost immediately apologized and changed their tone.
Nonetheless, the Saudi officials seem to have made no progress in revealing the fate of the forcibly disappeared.
Zakaria was an employee of Al-Mu’alla district’s education office and an elected member of the local council in the district.
When the Houthis attacked Aden and the southern governorates in 2015, Zakaria started working with city activists and charities to provide aid to families in besieged areas, including the sick and injured.