Kidnapped NDC member and political activist tells his story

News article, posted 11.03.2013, from Yemen, in:
Kidnapped NDC member and political activist tells his story

‘I kept telling them that they would never break me and that the change we demanded in 2011 would come whether they wanted it or not’

Hamza Al-Kamali, a National Dialogue Conference (NDC) representative and prominent participant in Yemen’s 2011 uprising, was abducted near his home in Sana’a on the morning of Oct. 27. He was released on the evening of Oct. 28 in the outskirts of the city.

Al-Kamali sat down with the Yemen Times to describe his nearly two-day-long abduction, which included physical and emotional abuse.

The following is an account of his time in captivity.

 I [needed] to take a taxi to the National Dialogue Conference at around 8:00 a.m. While I was trying to find a taxi near my home in Sunaina, a huge man came out of a bus [that had] no [license] plate and no windows. [It] was parked near the street and [he] called me over, extending his hand to shake mine. In our culture, it is not unusual to talk to strangers or shake hands with them, so I approached the man extending my hand, [but] he violently grabbed me and pulled me into the bus.

Along with the huge man [who pulled me in] I counted two other men [both armed], the driver and a woman. The armed men pointed their weapons at me and said that if I resisted they would kill me. I was then swiftly handcuffed with my arms behind my back and a piece of cloth was put in my mouth, which was then covered with tape.

The bus sped off and then I felt we were approaching a security checkpoint. I started groaning and struggling [and managed to draw the] attention of the security person, who saw me and asked what was wrong. The men said that I was epileptic and was going through a fit. The woman started crying and pleading with the officer, [telling him] that I was her son, and they needed a hospital urgently, so security let [us] pass.

They seemed to be more at ease after a while. They tied my arms to my knees and blindfolded me. I saw nothing from that moment on until my release late at night the following day.

We [eventually] stopped and the men led me into a building. One was dragging me and another was pushing me. I could feel we were going into a narrow place and then down some stairs. I counted 25 steps and then found myself pushed into a very small space which had a Turkish toilet. I could neither stand up straight nor lie down entirely. They left me tied and blindfolded for a few minutes [and] then I was dragged into another room by different men.

The other men started questioning me and beating me endlessly. They asked me about my family, my friends, the revolution and the National Dialogue. They mocked me and said that everything we are doing is in vein—that there will be no change, and we would lose everything we fought for.

They told me that no one was looking for me and that I would be killed there.

Then they started asking me about specific people in the National Dialogue and their daily routine, including whether they have bodyguards or not and what cars they drove and so on. They accused me of plotting the attempted assassination against former President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh.

I had been told before about such tactics from friends who were detained in the past by counter-revolution bodies. The advice they gave me was not to show them that you were afraid because then you are a goner. So I started talking to them about the revolution and how, [in] a new Yemen—instead of being hired criminals working in the dark—they could become respected policemen, maintaining peace. This only made them angrier, they beat me more.

They injected me with something, and I felt strange after that. They took turns torturing me and sending me back to the small cell where I was kept. At one point, a man came and acted sympathetically towards me, asking me if I wanted to eat.  He then brought some food and before giving it to me, I heard some water running. When he placed the food in my hands, I smelled urine. When I rejected the food, the man laughed and said that it was the only food I would get.

At one point they took me out to some sort of yard, and I realized that it had been more than 24 hours since I had felt the sun on my face. I was still blindfolded, they tied my hands behind my back as though I were about to be executed. They said they were going to play “shoot the target” with me. I heard them shooting randomly around me and at one point, one man emptied an entire barrel on the ground where I was standing. I kept thinking of my mother and how I never even said goodbye.

After some time passed—it felt like an eternity, I realized they were not going to kill me. I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. I started to scream at them, telling them they were cowards and that they couldn’t kill me. I kept telling them that they would never break me and that the change we demanded in 2011 would come whether they wanted it or not.

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