SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties issued today, January 7, 2020, a report on the violations committed by Houthi militia and ISIS in Qayfah area of the aal-Salouh area, where the organization confirmed that Yemen is still witnessing the most horrific human rights violations that humanity has witnessed, including that amount to war crimes, throughout the country. It is estimated that more than 233,000 Yemenis have been killed as a result of the fighting and the humanitarian crisis. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented the killing and wounding of more than 200,000 civilians in the fighting since March 2015.
In its report, SAM sheds light on the gross violations in the Qayfah area, which - according to the testimony of witnesses – committed in coordination between the Houthi militia and ISIS, which took turns to carry out grave violations against the families living in Qayfah villages, especially the “Salouh” family, which lost many of its members, in addition to the many wounded and the heavy material losses that the residents of those areas have sustained
SAM confirms that the names mentioned and the events that they documented came based on the testimony of witnesses collected by the organization’s research team, stressing that SAM do not have sufficient evidence to prove that this joint cooperation between the Houthi forces and ISIS did occur. By doing so, SAM exerted all effort to convey the truth of what happened in the Qayfah area through the people who lived through these violations.
SAM concluded its report by stressing that the continuation of the war in Yemen and the intervention of many regional and international parties, in addition to the continuous international silence, formed a cover and a catalyst for the parties to the conflict in Yemen to continue on their violations and practices, stressing that the first victim is the Yemeni citizen whose ways of life were disrupted as a result of the continuing war and its effects. The economic and social situation that made the individual's enjoyment of his basic rights unfulfilled in light of these facts.
SAM also stressed the need to adopt a clear international vision about the war in Yemen whose main goal is to stop the fighting immediately and provide real mechanisms and guarantees for the Yemeni citizens to enjoy their basic rights guaranteed by the of international agreements ad instruments, in addition to the need to bring the perpetrators of these violations to fair trials and relevant deterring penalties for the crimes they have committed throughout the previous years.
Beginning of the incidents
At the outset, we will review the events that caused the violations in Qayfah, and we will talk about the individuals who contributed to the violation and who are originally "loyal to the Houthi group" from Qayfah area; who the Houthis have controlled their villages in Qayfah, namely: the villages of Silat al-Jarrah and Hamat Sarar in the district of Walad Rabie`. The Houthi group recruited these insurgents after controlling their villages at the beginning of the year 2015 through the Houthi leader, Sheikh Ahmed Seif Al-Dhahab, who joined the Houthi militia early before the incidents began and the Houthi militia’s coup.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Dhahab is responsible for major role in supporting the Houthi group that enabled it to make a breakthrough in the tribal milieu in Qayfah area, especially the areas of aal Mahdi and aal Abu Saleh, tribes in the Wald Rabie district, which considers al-Dahab the sheikh for these tribes. The names mentioned in the report were recruited by Sheikh Al Dhahab to the Houthis militia as well as others who were called "the Houthinized."
The village of Humaidhah Shutair, which is inhabited by the “aal Salouh” family, belongs to the Wald Rabie district, whose Sheikh is sheikh, “Ahmed Al Dhahab,” who invaded this village with the support of the Houthi militia and some members of the tribe who joined the Houthis, the attempt of Sheikh Al-Dhahabi was met with rejection by “aal Salouh” family, along with some people from other families. When Sheikh Al-Dhahab insisted on entering the village it by force, they confronted him and forced him to retreat.
Sheikh Al-Dhahab and his Houthis elements decided to attack again and launched a military campaign consisting of a number of military and armored vehicles belonging to the Central Security Forces, and on top of that campaign these Houthi elements, but aal-Salouh family, supported by other tribesmen from other villages, confronted them and forced them to retreat again. This increased Sheikh Al-Dhahab and his followers’ animosity against aal-Salouh family who refused to submit to them.
In 2016, the Islamic State, ISIS, appeared suddenly in some of Qayfah areas, and established training camps, in “ad-Dhahra” area of al-Quraishiya district in Qayfah, and military sites in Hamat Lakah and Hamat Awajah, and near Humiadhah Shutair village, in Wald Rabie’ district in Qayfah. These elements used to move freely in the area, with easy access to food, ammunition and weapons which reach them via the Houthi-controlled roads.
Those aforementioned elements and forces suddenly joined the ISIS camps, where they assumed the task of transporting and delivering foodstuffs, money transfers, weapons and ammunition from the city of Rada and Dhamar to the ISIS camps without any objection from the Houthi checkpoints located along the road.
ISIS elements - at the behest of the Houthi group - were harassing the villagers of Humaidhah Shutair, specifically members of aal Salouh family, by creating checkpoints at the entrances to the village and targeting farms with missiles, and these harassments increased gradually, which prompted aal Salouh to defend themselves after exhausting all possible means to find peaceful solutions; and aal Salouh family, with the support of tribesmen, expelled the ISIS forces from their areas and the entrance to the village and the checkpoints built around it. This prompted ISIS and the "affiliated" Houthis fighters who joined Sheikh al-Dhahab fighters to impose a suffocating siege on the village and launch attacks and bombing that lasted for more than a year to revenge from aal Salouh family, where the Houthis-backed ISIS fighters stormed the village in 2018, and committed multiple crimes against the residents of that village and aal Salouh family.
Toll of the attack
The joint attack by ISIS and Houthi forces on aal Salouh family resulted in loss of lives and material losses as follows:
First: the dead
- Ali Dhaif Allah Ali Shutair, 41.
- Sadiq Dhaif Allah Ali Shutair, 44.
- Saddam Dhaif Allah Ali Shutair, 30
- Obad Ahmad Obad Salouh Shutair, 71.
- Dhikra Sadiq Dhaif Allah Shutair, 7.
Second: the wounded:
• Ahmed Abdullah Ahmad Shutair, 25
- Sari Daif Allah Ali Shutair, 35
- Abdullah Obad Ahmed Shutair, 25
- Zayed Daif Allah Ali Shutair, 30
- Nasser Obad Ahmed Salouh Shutair, 20
- Fatima Amer Ali Al-Shahry, 45
Third: Blowing up houses
- Sadiq Daif Allah Ali Shutair’s house
- Ali Daif Allah Ali Shutair's house
- Sari Daif Allah Ali Shutair’s house
- Abdullah Ahmad Salouh Shutair’s house
- Obad Ahmed Salouh Shutair’s house
Fourth: destruction of the drinking water well
These elements destroyed and burned the drinking water well and pump that was used to serve the village and irrigate the family's farms.
Fifth: private property
- destruction of eight Qat farms, the major source of livelihood of these families.
- Loot a water tanker.
- A car and three motorcycles were looted
- All valuables belongings were looted from homes before they were detonated; including women’s jewelries, family title documents and personal weapons were looted.
- About 160 heads of cattle and sheep were looted.
Details of the attack
The village of Humaidhah Shutair is a small village in the Wald Rabie district of the Qayfa tribes. With population of 350 people who live in about 30 houses and depend on Qat cultivation as a main source of income.
Aal Salouh family, a family belonging to aal Shutair tribe in Wald Rabie district of the Qayfah tribes, has been subjected to harassment and grave violations committed by ISIS and Houthi militias only because this family refused any presence of such elements in their areas, which made it a target for an attack by those elements.
Five members of aal Salouh family, were killed, including three brothers and a girl who was less than seven years old. That attack also resulted in the wounding of several other members of the family in sniping and shelling operations that targeted their homes and farms. In addition, five houses were bombed and leveled to the ground after dozens of ISIS militants booby-trapped them after they looted those houses, and their property documents and all valuables, including personal weapons, jewelry, cars, etc.
The attack also resulted in the destruction and burning of eight farms used by the family to grow Qat. These armed elements also destroyed the water well for drinking and irrigation of farms, and completely burned the pump and its building. Also, 160 livestock belonging to aal-Salouh family, were looted.
This distressed family of 60 people, most of them women and children, found themselves living in the open, homeless; without; and fled to Wadi Abida in Marib Governorate, in Al-Samda area. To begin a chapter of suffering in order to provide a livelihood and housing in light of the exorbitant high rents of houses in Marib, high commodities prices, low value of the Yemeni riyal and the lack of job opportunities.
Houthi and ISIS .. joint cooperation in violating human rights
As we mentioned earlier about the failure of Houthi militia in 2015 to control the village of Humaidhah Shutair, which prompted it to assign this mission to the elements of ISIS organization; whereas, testimonies collected by the research team in SAM indicated that leaders of Houthi group and ISIS led the attack on the village, confirming that those who succeeded in storming it were the same people who failed to storm the village under the slogan of the Houthi group; After they took off the Houthis' uniform and put on ISIS’s, and they came to the area, raising the logo of the ISIS.
According to the testimonies and accounts of the people in those areas, they all confirmed that Abdullah Musaad Al-Jarrah, Khaled Muhammad Abd Rabbu Al-Sarari, nicknamed “Jahshan”, Jabr Taher Abd Rabbu Al-Sarari, Ali Moqbel Ahmed Al-Sarari, and Ali Ahmed Ali Al-Sarari, who led the Houthi military campaign that failed to storm the village that time; were the same ones who came wearing ISIS uniforms and carrying its emblem, and those who imposed a suffocating siege on this family and launched continuous attacks on its residents that lasted for a whole year; in which the well-known Houthi field leader, Abdullah Musaad Al-Jarrah, who was leading one of the ISIS attacks on the aal-Salouh family in the village of Humaidhah Shutair, was killed, as he was fighting with ISIS.
The testimonies confirm that the Houthi filed leaders were the link between the Houthi group in Rad’a and Al-Baydha and ISIS elements stationed in a number of areas and mountains of Qayfah and they were delivering ammunition and weapons supplies, as well as foodstuffs to ISIS sites and camp in Qayfah, as well as the remittances that they received for the organization from exchange agents in the city of Rad’a, and they deliver them to ISIS members; as these figures were passing through the official Houthi checkpoints smoothly.
After continuous attacks launched by ISIS operatives on the aal Salouh family in the village of Humaidhah Shutair, and a suffocating siege imposed continue for more than a year during which they were prevented from receiving any food or medical supplies except for what was reaching them via bumpy roads in the dark; these extremist elements managed to invade the village and gain access to the homes and properties of aal-Salouh family.
The testimonies collected by SAM showed that the ISIS insurgents have returned to the Baidha Houthi group after they took control of the village. Confirming these testimonies that these people are in command positions in the villages and areas of Qayfah tribes under the banner of the Houthi group, and they move around the villages on Houthis patrol vehicles, and the people of those areas know them very well.
Some stories of the victims
- Abdullah Ahmad Salouh Shutair, stated in his testimony to “SAM” team that Saddam Daif Allah Shutair, went to the water well pump before the evening prayer to operate it and irrigate the qat farm, when one of the ISIS snipers shot and wounded him with two bullets in his neck; Abdullah added, "We hardly managed to reach to him, because ISIS snipers targeted everything moving in the place and carried him to the house in preparation for transporting him to the hospital or health center for treatment." But we could not get him out of the house, as the ISIS operatives became aware of our attempt and imposed a suffocating siege on us from all directions, and they were shooting at us when we tried to get to the car. We were trapped in the house and Saddam was bleeding in front of our eyes until he died late at night.
- Zikra, 7, daughter of Sadiq Dhaif Allah Shutair, was tending sheep near her home, and while she was trying to catch the sheep, an ISIS member shot her directly and hit her in the head and killed her immediately while her mother was watching her daughter bleeding in front of her eyes, without being able to reach her, due to the targeting of ISIS operatives stationed in the surrounding mountains, who were targeting anyone who tried to approach her, and the child remained in her place from afternoon prayer until late at night; where the residents were able to retrieve her body, taking advantage of the darkness to protect them from the fire of ISIS insurgents.
- Sadiq Dhaif Allah Shutair, Zikra’s father, who was injured by shrapnel from a shell fired by ISIS militants near the family’s Qat farm, where a number of people carried him to the house at six in the morning and were unable to treat him due to the siege and fire shots, and continued to bleed till night, when they took him to a neighboring village in which there is a health center for treatment, but he died from a bleeding that lasted for many hours without being able to help him.
- Ali Daif Allah Shutair, while he was leaving his house just before sunset, ISIS snipers were monitoring him, and shot him and killed him in front of his family. When Obad Ahmad Salouh Shutair, tried to reach him to try to save him, they also shot him and killed him next to him, and the family has to wait until the night to sneak into their place to get the bodies out.
Blowing up homes and looting belongings
When ISIS operatives managed to invade the village, dozens of ISIS militants arrived at the homes of Dhaif Allah Shutair family and Ahmad Obad Shutair family (aal Salouh family), where only the women and children left, and forced children and women to leave the homes for looting and detonating them, and did not allow them to take anything out of the house; they robbed the women, even their bags of clothes, no matter how small they were, and then throw those bags and burn them. They also confiscated the children's toys that were in their possession and burned them. The ISIS extremists then broke into homes and looted everything that was valuable and everything that could be used. Before they booby-trapped the houses and completely detonate them.
Urgent appeal for immediate intervention
The members of the afflicted families issued urgent appeals to all local and international donor organizations and the legitimate government; and all concerned parties for immediate intervention to alleviate their suffering, and address their cause, which did not receive any interaction from the media and international organizations, calling upon all of them to carry out their duties towards what they were subjected to and the implications of those violations.
Findings and recommendations
- SAM organization stresses that the events mentioned in the report prove beyond any doubt that many armed elements have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the use of unjustified force to kill and wound dozens of civilians and violate their right to life without any military necessity.
- SAM stresses that the continuation of the war and the use of force by the parties to the conflict will mean more violations against the innocent, stressing that international law prohibits the use of force except in cases of extreme necessity.
- SAM also calls on the government and civil society organizations to provide needed service to the afflicted families that were attacked in the village of Humaidhah Shutair, and to provide all the basic necessities that these families need.
- SAM calls on the international community to take action to stop the violations committed by the parties to the conflict, and to work seriously to provide real guarantees for Yemeni civilians, starting with providing basic requirements such as food, medicine and other materials, and provision of safe areas and developing solution to the ongoing conflict in Yemen by establishing principles of justice, equity and fulfillment of the Yemeni demands for a democratic system that guarantees political pluralism and meets the aspirations of the Yemeni citizen.