Shadows of War Misleading Coverage of Women and Children in Yemen



In June 2021, a fuel station in Ma'rib Governorate, northeastern Yemen, was attacked by a missile, which resulted in many civilian casualties, including a 5-years-old girl named "Layan", according to the official news agency "Saba" affiliated with the recognized Yemeni government. (1)

The Ministers for Health and for Media in this government, Qassem Baheibah (2) and Muammar Al-Eryani (3) circulated, with activists, a photo of the girl who died charred as a result of the fire, the photo sparked wide responses on the social media pages, between accusation against Ansar Allah Al-Houthi group and the denial from this group which is backed by Iran. (4)

Following the incident, Hussein Al-Ezzi, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Governing Council in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, which is controlled by the Shiite group, posted a tweet to him on his Twitter account, saying that the image had been fabricated even against the Syrian regime since 2018, as he put it, (5) which led to the response by activists loyal to the government side by publishing pictures and videos of the same girl, confirming her death in the deadly bombing of the gas station, in a series of accelerating refutation of the allegations of the deputy foreign minister of the unrecognized government in Sana’a. (6)

The investigation team followed the developments of the story, highlighted by tweeter users who were able to uncover a misleading case carried out by the Houthis who carved out part of a translated article published by the “Orient” platform, quoting from “Tablet” magazine, about the tragedies of the war in Syria, before attaching it to a picture of “Layan” and attributing it to the “Syrian Sham Network” platform. “, as a kind of fixing the source that can be referred to and thus denying the link of this image to what happened in the ancient governorate, west of Sana’a. (7)

"Sadaq" platform specialized in verifying information, misleading news and rumors, from its side, indicated that Al-Ezzi had fallen into the trap of fabrication, while confirming that the tragic picture was in fact from Ma'rib,(8) which led a Houthi official to tweet admitting that the image was falsified and apologized for publishing it, while reiterating that "this does not necessarily mean that it was the result of a missile, as there is no valid evidence of that," as part of an ongoing attempt to deny the responsibility of the group that has controlled the Yemeni capital since September 2014 (9), which it also said that it targeted a military headquarters near the gas station. (10)

The team follows up on these stories in the context of scrutinizing misleading news related to women, children and the elderly victims of war and mines in Yemen during the period (2015 - 2021), covering eight governorates: “Aden, Abyan, Al Dhale’e and Lahj” as well as “Hodeidah, Taiz, Marib and Al Jawf.” 

Civilians under attack

On a similar note, a women’s prison in Taiz Governorate, in the southwest of the country, was subjected to a deadly bombardment, on April 5, 2020, which led to the killing of 5 female prisoners, two girls and a policewoman, and the injury of 9 others, including six women, two girls and one civilian, according to a report issued by Mwatana Organization for Human Rights in the same month. (12)

Media affiliated with the Houthi group published a categorical denial by their military spokesman that they were behind the bombing (13). However, the eighth annual report of the “National Committee to investigate allegations of human rights violations in Yemen”, July 2020, included the designation of the Houthis “the party responsible for the bombing the prison”, (14), which is identical in the report of Mwatana Organization. (15)

Indiscriminate targeting and shelling are on top of the list of types of violations that have disabled most victims of women, children and the elderly civilians, in addition to the recruitment of children, mines and explosive devices in the eight targeted governorates, whose statistics of war-wounded disabled people amounted to more than 9,000 people. (16)

Shock to wake up!!!

On July 5th, 2016, Ammar Yasser Al-Sabri left his home in the village of Al-Ayani in Ibb Governorate, central Yemen, to bring supplies for his mother from a nearby place. As he stopped for a few minutes to watch friends he found playing in the street, a loud explosion banged from a rocket-propelled grenade, “Eight of my friends were killed and I got shot in the legs,” Ammar says.

"It was one day before Eid," he recalls. "My friend Selim was seriously injured. The accident prevented us from living our lives like other children in the world."

When Al-Sabri, 10-years-old, was taken to the hospital, he was unconscious before he woke up and asked everyone near him: “Where is my leg?”, after one of his legs was amputated, and no one answered him! "I was shocked when I found my friends injured, they were covered in blood," he says.

He reports about his treatment trip to the city of Aden, the temporary capital of the Yemeni government: “I went to the King Salman Center. They gave me a prosthetic limb, but it did not match me. My father sent me to the Arab Center for Prosthetics in Oman. I was able to use a good limb, thank God. I walked by it."

In a sad voice, he went on to say: "The war took everything from us. It destroyed our country. It continues to kill children and women. It caused the death and displacement of many." Today, he hopes that "the war will stop so that the pain will end and people's lives will be restored and become better than it was before."

Ammar is no longer able to play after the injury, but he aspires “to complete my studies until I become a doctor in the future, even with one foot.” (17)

Director of the Human Rights Office in the capital, Sana’a, who resides in Marib, Fahmi Al-Zubayri, said that “the situation is catastrophic because of the armed Houthi group, and the biggest crime is the targeting of civilians,” noting that “more than 350 ballistic missiles were fired at Marib during the war, in addition to Katyushas and various projectiles that were fired upon.” It targets civilians and results in the killing of women and children.”(18)

For its part, UNICEF says in a briefing note on the situation of children in Yemen, October 2021: “The conflict in Yemen has just reached another shameful milestone: 10,000 children have been killed or maimed since the start of the fighting in March 2015; which is a rate of four children every day.”(19)

The number of children injured in the eight governorates during the period since September 2014, when the Houthi group seized power in the Yemeni capital, until December in 2018, is up to 3,373 children, the bombing caused 2,221 cases, and bullets 663, while the rest of the injuries were divided between sniping, mines and confrontations. The Houthi group was held responsible for 3,262 injuries, the Yemeni government and the Arab coalition led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were held responsible for 215 injuries since starting supporting the government in March 2015, according to the report "The Assassination of Innocence", which covers the six violations committed by parties to the conflict against children in Yemen, issued by the Yemeni Coalition for Human Rights Monitoring, established in January 2015 by several civil society organizations. (20)

The Careless Katyusha!!

The 15-years-old child, Muhammad Yahya Ibrahim, was displaced with his family from the "Area of Ozla" in Amran governorate to Al-Jawf governorate, northern Yemen, before losing his right hand and left eye on December 14, 2019 due to shrapnel from a Katyusha missile that fell in the backyard of his house in the Al-Ghait area to where they were displaced in the border governorate with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Complaining about negligence, “I did not receive support from any governmental or non-governmental entity during the period of the injury,” he says. Now he is unable to hold the pen in his left hand while he loves to draw and writes well, and he still suffers even when eating.( 21)

The number of people disabled as a result of war and mines in Al-Jawf until 2021 is 670, according to the head of the Association of the Disabled in the governorate, Youssef Nabhan Al-Hajouri.(22)

He Fell into His Father's Arms!!

Since the outbreak of the war in 2015, children all over the country have been in danger, targeted by a sniper or on the trap of a mine. A loss of a whole life or half a life during which they suffer, as happened to the two children, Zayed and Mansour, who were separated by the place before the injury brought them together.

Zayed Khaled Salem, 9 years old, was unaware that a mine had been planted near his home in Lahj governorate, southern Yemen. He lost his left foot on June 9, 2015, while the injury left him disabled.

"I traveled at the expense of the Emirates Red Crescent to India to receive treatment. I underwent a number of surgeries, and I currently need to return again to complete the treatment there according to the doctors' decision," he says, "but my family's capabilities do not allow that."

Mansour Marwan, about ten years old now, was shot by a sniper in his second year, in 2015, when his family was displaced from Al Mualla district to Dar Saad district in Aden governorate, the temporary capital of the country, according to his father, who accused the Houthi group of being behind the incident.

According to Marwan, the father, the bullet hit the right thigh of his one-and-a-half-years-old son Mansour while he was on his lap as he was passing the street next to the family home. The father was also injured when the bullet hit his stomach.

Mansour's leg was amputated at the time, and after seven years of injury, he received three prosthetic limbs from different parties during his growth period. His father says that he needs a prosthetic limb every six months as a result of his growth. “We are having difficulty obtaining that,” he adds, “The photographer, Nabil Al-Qaiti (killed by unknown individual in the temporary capital, Aden, June 2020) was the one who cared the most about Mansour and supported him in reporting his suffering, while no one reached us after his assassination.” (24)

Saleh Ali al-Muntaser, director of planning and training at the Executive Center for Mine Action in the temporary capital, Aden, explained to the investigation team that the total casualties monitored by the center during the period from 2016 to 2021 amounted to 3,296 disabled people of both sexes in the governorates of (Aden, Lahj, Abyan), in addition to nine disabled people from Al-Dhalea governorate living in Aden, adding, “The number of disabled children and adults of both sexes reached 1036 in Aden during the war, and 1322 in Lahj.”(25)

May the sun never rise again!!

In Ma’rib Governorate, northeast of Yemen, we met Rawya Hussein al-Khuraisi, 30 years old, who was displaced in 2015 from the area of Al Omar Saad in Nihm district, east of the capital, Sana’a, before returning to her home following the withdrawal of Ansar Allah fighters at the time in 2016, who re-captured the area later.

As the sun approached, she went to bring her sheep back to the barn, which is about a hundred and twenty meters from the door of the house. "I felt like something had thrown me up, and I screamed. The village was empty of people except for a few of the returnees, who were among the first." When her eldest son, Mohammed, 21, ran to her, she cried, "Before he reached me, another mine exploded and he died instantly. It was a moment, the cruelty of which cannot be described in words."

The lady supports four sons, including two girls, and she is a widow. Women from the village took her to the hospital, before the body of her son was recovered. Her right leg was amputated above the knee, and she underwent three operations on her left leg due to the horrific injury.

"Before the accident, I could walk, work and graze sheep. I used to fetch water from a distance because our area had no water supplies. I also fetched firewood from far places," she says, "After the injury, I couldn't even bring myself water for drinking."

Suffocated by memory, she adds: “The explosion of the mine and the martyrdom of my son before my eyes was the most difficult situation in my life that did not leave my imagination and will not leave as long as I live.” (26)

The data entry for the Prosthetic Limbs and Rehabilitation Center in Ma’rib Gulbuddin Saleh Moheeb confirmed that the center received many cases of disability, while the percentage of disability varied from one category to another, “children 5%, women 10% and men 50% of the total disabled,” noting that the number of disabled people is increasing. About 1500 cases, of whom 15% are from Ma’rib governorate, and 85% are displaced to it. (27)

Abd al-Alim Baabad, PhD in public international law, says that the children and women victims are the weakest party in every conflict.

To Bridle the Joy by an Old Bullet!

While Najat Muhammad, 27 years old, was helping her family to prepare the feast at her young brother's wedding, she was hit by a Dushka shot due to clashes near them in a village in Taiz Governorate, south west the country, the wedding turned into a tragedy.

"I heard a loud bang and then I fainted. Later I knew it was a Dushka shot," she says. Najat had arrived with her husband and two daughters from the neighboring province of Al-Hodeidah, by the Red Sea coast, while confrontations were raging in large parts of Taiz province between government forces and Ansar Allah Houthi fighters.

As a practice of nostalgia for a recent memory, "I was married, I lived my life well with my husband and my children," before her voice mixed with sorrow, "After my injury, the closest people to me abandoned me."

An old Soviet 12.7 mm machine gun bullet penetrated her right thigh and parts of the other thigh, severing veins, arteries and nerves. Her hand movement was disturbed between the place of her injury and her mouth, crying, recounting how she had been bleeding “for a while and none of my family dared to rescue me, as a result of sniping. ".

She adds, "I was given first aid during Friday prayer. My mother went to look for someone to help me," while people were confined to their homes to avoid sniping and clashes" and with some effort, one of them came by bus. They helped me get to the hospital," she says.

When she learned that her leg was about to be amputated, she went on a hunger strike and her life became despair with hopelessness. Doubled her grief remembering her two children in need of care.

“The thing that tires me the most and affects me beyond my self-compulsion is that my daughters become in a state of torment without being guilty.” She took a long breath instead of talking. (29)

The Director of the Office of Social Affairs and Labor in Taiz Governorate, Abdo Ali Muhammad, explains, “We have financial obstacles, as support is not enough for all war victims,” with their numbers increasing.

Almost two years have passed since Najat's injury, and until now, she has not been able to control her legs or walk, as she has not received treatment to help her bear part of the disability. She has held the parties to the conflict in Yemen responsible for the suffering of civilians in all governorates.

The National Mine Action Center in Taiz Governorate documented 2473 cases of disability in its statistics regarding mines and explosive materials within the districts under the control of the internationally recognized government, of which 1658 cases were among men and 373 were women, and the second largest disability group was among children with 442 cases, according to Ibrahim Sinan, Deputy Director of the Center. (31)

A million potential mines!!!

Although the Yemeni government signed the Mine Ban Treaty in 1998, the spread of explosive mine's deploying operations, which are exclusively lying on the shoulders of the Houthi rebels, overcome the efforts of demining and mine destruction in the country sinking for the eighth year in a row amid the worst humanitarian disaster in the world in the new millennium due to war.(32)

According to the Transparency Report submitted by Yemen in 2017, which is the last of its kind, “there are 569 mine-contaminated areas covering an area of ​​2,323 square kilometers.”(33)

The numbers did not stop at this level, as the Director of Planning and Training in the Executive Center for Dealing with Mine, Saleh Ali Al-Muntaser, believes that their use will increase in the governorates of Taiz, Al-Hodeidah, Marib and Al-Jawf, where the war fronts are still raging, referring specifically to more than a million mines of different types and forms that are expected to be planted. According to the indicators and practical results of the field excavation teams, he said.

The national program to deal with mines is active in eleven governorates, eight of which are the focus of investigation, in addition to the governorates of Shabwa and Hadramawt to the east of the country, and the governorate of Saada, at the borders of Saudi Arabia and where the main stronghold of the leader of the Ansar Allah group Abdul-Malik al-Houthi is, through more than 60 teams affiliated with the center, including three qualitative teams that has been trained using dogs.

The area cleared by the efforts of the national program is approximately 30 thousand square kilometers. "And it's a huge area," according to al-Muntasir. A total of 638,732 dangerous objects have been recovered, including remnants of war, anti-personnel mines, tanks and IEDs, stressing that "the removal is followed by disposal operations in specific and pre-prepared sites."

In addition to the national program to deal with mines in Yemen, the Saudi project (Masam) has been working since July 2018 to clear mines from areas that the Yemeni government has been able to recover from the Houthis, who are the only accused of lying them throughout the years of war so far. (35)

For its part, the Saudi project (Masam) managed to clear 289,046 mines and explosive devices during the period from mid-July 2018, until November 19, 2021.

Osama Al-Gosaibi, Director of (Masam), confirmed in a press conference held in Aden the temporary capital, November 20, 2021, that "the total area that has been cleared has reached 28 million square meters in the various Yemeni governorates."

He added: The project has fixed engineering teams working in many Yemeni regions, in addition to mobile teams working according to the need in the technical field, survey and direct expropriation. (36)

According to Rassd coalition in its report “The Invisible Killer”, during the period from December 2014 to December 2016, a total of 39,634 mines were removed in the eight governorates, of which 26,755 were anti-personnel and 12,879 were anti-armor. (37)

Other than "Muhammad" this time!!

The child Muhammad Abd Rabbo Ali, 16 years old, was injured in the city of Al-Houta in Lahj governorate, southern Yemen, May 2015. Shell shrapnel hit him in the neck and feet. He moved between several hospitals in Aden and Sana'a so that the doctors decided to amputate one of his feet, before his mother refused the decision and traveled with him to Egypt, where he stayed for three months for treatment. The mother continued her insistence that her son’s foot should not be amputated, and she traveled with him again to Jordan, before returning to Aden, where he was admitted to a rehabilitation and physiotherapy center. After a year of treatment, he was able to stand on his feet and regain his ability to walk.(39)

Unlike Muhammad, the injury had many women and children subject to amputations of the affected limbs, of which 2,380 cases received treatment at the Prosthetic Limbs and Physiotherapy Center in Mansoura District in Aden during the period from 2015 to 2021, according to Abdullah Al-Qaisi, Director General of the center, which provided multiple treatment services to 24,199 people with disabilities. In general, more than half of them were wounded by war and mines from various Yemeni governorates during 2020/2021. (40)

The Regional Director of the Prosthetic Limbs and Rehabilitation Program in Yemen, Muhammad Deeb Derbaa, confirmed that the International Society for the Care of Victims of War and Disasters, which is the implementing partner of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, has initiated the operation of the Prosthetic Limbs and Rehabilitation Program in the Republic of Yemen to provide free health services in four governorates, three of them are within the scope of our investigation, Marib, Aden and Taiz, as well as Hadramawt.

He explained that the centers of the Prosthetic Limbs and Rehabilitation Program were established in April 2017 in Ma’rib governorate, and in 2020 in the governorates of Aden and Taiz, before it recently reached Hadhramaut, noting that the number of beneficiaries of the program’s phases throughout Yemen until the end of September 2021 reached more than 19,191 beneficiaries received free quality services, which amounted to 55,349 services, while the production capacity reached 3,461 prosthetic limbs and recent orthotics. (41)

Recruitment of more than two thousand children in 4 years!!

Hussein al-Mashdali, deputy head of the National Committee for Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights, explained that the mines reached families' beds, and some of them were placed for children in the form of toys.

While the Houthi group is unique in its use of mines, al-Mashdali said that it participates with other parties in varying degrees in recruiting children. (42)

A report by Rassd Coalition indicated that Ansar Allah Al-Houthi recruited 2,084 children among their fighters, 495 of whom were injured, compared to 146 children recruited among the internationally recognized government forces, 78 of whom were wounded in the confrontations during the period from July 2014 to July 2018. (43)

Victims' Rights .. Information and Violations!!

The investigation team does not have the right to accurately name the perpetrators of the violations that children and women have been subjected to in Yemen during the years of war so far, as the various parties have shared varying responsibilities, but the results of the reports of the National Committee to investigate allegations of human rights violations and other local organizations, carried important indicators in determining the facts about each party.

The United Nations Human Rights Council, at its 48th session, held in October 2021, voted to end the mandate of the international group of experts and give confidence to the “National Commission to Investigate Allegations of Human Rights Violations,” established by Republican Resolution No. 140 of 2012. Based on the texts of the Gulf initiative and its executive mechanism, Security Council Resolutions No. 2051 of 2012 and No. 2140 of 2014, and the relevant Human Rights Council resolutions. (44)

The head of the committee, Judge Ahmed Saeed Al-Muflihi, said that it is an independent national mechanism that works impartially in monitoring and investigating violations committed by all parties, whether the legitimate government, the Arab coalition, the Houthi group, or any forces on the ground, noting that it operates in all Yemeni governorates through a widespread network and collaborators in all areas that observers do not reach.

He added that the cases are considered impartially in order to preserve the rights of the victims and ensure accurate information and violations according to the type and location of the damage and the violator in the records, he said. (45)

The committee’s reports indicate that it works every time to communicate with the leadership of the Houthi group in the capital, Sana’a, by editing a number of memos addressed to the head of the group’s political office, with the aim of responding to its inquiries about the violations it is investigating, in addition to requesting the identification of a liaison officer to respond to those inquiries. , the most recent of which was the memorandum dated July 26, 2021, delivered through the committee’s monitor in Sana’a, but it did not receive any response from the group in this regard, a procedure by which the latter deals with most of the national and international bodies working in the field of human rights. However, this did not deter the commission from continuing its work in monitoring and investigating all kinds of human rights violations in all Yemeni territories, including the areas under the control of this group, as it affirms in all of its reports. (46)

The investigation team obtained special statistics from this committee that includes a breakdown of the cases of injury and responsible parties. The number of injured victims for both groups of women and children out of the total violations attributed to the alliance of Ansar Allah Al-Houthi and the forces of the former president, whose alliance was dissolved in December 2017, during the period from 2016 until 2021 amounted to 1978 cases, most of them as a result of targeting, while the violations attributed to the government forces and the Arab coalition aircraft during the same period were 286 cases, in addition to violations against three women and six children attributed to the Support forces and the Security Belt of the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council, which is militarily in control of the capital interim, Aden since August 2019, before joining a 50-50 government between the north and south in accordance with the Riyadh Agreement sponsored by the Saudi government and the Yemeni government more than two years ago. (47)

"Mwatana" organization, which monitors human rights violations, based in the capital, Sana'a, says that it documented during the year 2021, no less than 18 air attacks, which killed 11 children and 8 women out of a total of 43 civilians, while ground attacks on populated areas caused extreme damage in private property and lives among civilians. Nearly 64 ground attacks wounded at least 173 civilians, including 71 children and 32 women. Mwatana said that the Ansar Allah group (Houthis) bears responsibility in 43 incidents, while the Royal Saudi Border Guard forces are responsible for 12 incidents, and the joint forces are responsible for 6 incidents, while the government forces committed two incidents, and the Transitional Council forces committed one incident.

Regarding mines and explosive objects, the organization, which was officially established in 2013, documented nearly 36 mine explosions within one year, injuring 82 people, including 46 children and 16 women, blaming the Iranian-backed Shiite group for planting all mines, while it documented 47 incidents of explosive objects that injured 124 people, including 49 children and 10 women, without holding parties responsible for the violations this time. (49)

Due to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, 4 out of 5 children, or about 11 million, need humanitarian assistance in Yemen, while about 400,000 suffer from severe malnutrition, and statistics indicates that more than 2 million have left education, along with four million others are at risk of school dropout.

1.7 million children are internally displaced by violence, while 15 million people (nearly 57% of them children) do not have access to safe drinking water, sanitation or hygiene.

8.4 million women, 2.1 million children, 3 million people with disabilities and 1.2 million men need assistance to access medical services according to UNICEF spokesman James Elder, at his press conference in Geneva on October 19, 2021.

According to reports issued by the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the rate of suffering increases every year. By early 2021, WFP reported that "more than 400,000 children are at risk of dying" and 16.2 million people face acute food insecurity.

According to the UNHCR Yemen Operational Update, covering the period from 14 to 24 December 2021, “20.7 million people are in need of assistance, and more than 4 million are internally displaced, 80% of whom have been displaced within one year. Displaced families in 2021 (22,925) families, children and women representing up to 79% of the total IDP population. (50)

The Rassd coalition documented during the period from May 2014 to May 2021 the Houthi group's recruitment of (12,054) children, including (308) children belonging to the age group from 8 to 11 years old, and (4,430) aged 12 to 14 years old, while (7305) belongs to the category from 15 to 17 years old.(51)

Meanwhile, the Yemeni Siaj Organization for the Protection of Children said in its statement issued in June 2021 that at least half a million children were recruited during the past year by the Houthi group through six thousand summer camps, and expected that large numbers would be involved in the fighting fronts, noting that child soldiers vulnerable to sexual exploitation in all its forms.(52)