Torture and Suicide: The testimony of a Houthi captive

Junaid was abducted and thrown into the Houthi prisons for more than 300 days after he was kidnapped from his home in the city of Taiz. (Supplied)

“The memories of the time I spent in prison and the torture nightmares still haunt my imagination; the sight of the prisoners blindfolded and tied, bound by their hands, led by a screaming jailer, is still clear to me.” This is what Dr. Abdul Qadir al-Junaid told Al Arabiya while recalling the details of his time in the Houthi militia’s prisons.

Junaid was abducted and thrown into the Houthi prisons for more than 300 days after he was kidnapped from his home in the city of Taiz as a result of his writings condemning the militia and their crimes.

In his interview with Al Arabiya, Junaid retold the details of his time at the prison: “We were taken to the National Security Prison in the area of Bani Hashish near the al-Kharafi camp in Sanaa. The prison conditions were terrifying. It consisted of a dark room with no ventilation, no sunshine, and even the ability to move was very difficult, while in its corner there is a small hole covered with a one-meter curtain which was supposed to be a toilet.”

“The food consisted of three meals a day: Beans for breakfast and dinner, and potatoes with rice for lunch, served through a small opening in the door through which the cook throws the meals in a humiliating manner. That hole was the only way to see the outside world,” he added.

Gloating, hatred and suicide

Junaid added that the militia dealt with detainees in a “despicable gloating manner”, with a strong desire to conflict pain and torture on them.

He revealed that many detainees could not handle the torture saying: “I saw people who commited suicide by hanging themselves in prison. During my time, three people committed suicide, and one time they brought me from my cell so I could examine a person who tried to commit suicide at 3 am.”

“Those who fail to commit suicide suffer from greater punishments. Most of the detainees suffer from nervous breakdowns, and some have lost their minds because of torture. The echoes of crying and screaming pass through to other cells, where some beat their heads severely against the wall,” he added.

Prized possessions

On how he was able to survive under these conditions, the Yemeni doctor who left Yemen after his release said: “For me, I decided to walk out of prison with three things: First to be physically healthy, the second to be mentally healthy and the third to be spiritually healthy. Since I was abducted from my home in August 2015, I came to the conclusion that I was up against something horrifying, and it was then that I realized that I lost a lot, and perhaps the most important loss is that I was disconnected from the world.”

As for the former detainee Jamal al-Ma'amari, the doctor said: “When I was in prison, the Houthis brought al-Ma’amari; he was my cellmate for three months. The last time I checked on him, they brought me to him from another cell, he was just a human mass, crying and in pain, he needed at least two detainees to help him, they would usually become physically and psychologically exhausted during a short period of time because it was difficult to care for him.”

Jamal al-Ma'amari before being imprisoned.

“Members of the militia tortured al-Ma’amari by burning him with cigarettes and electrocuting him; they cut off the nerves of his upper and lower left limb and ended up paralyzing him in his left side. That wasn’t enough for them; they tortured him by destroying his left testicle.”

American detainees abducted by the Houthis

Junaid also spoke about American detainee, John Hamen, who was kidnapped along with his friend from the airport after they flew on a UN flight from Djibouti. He said Hamen used to work at the Sheraton hotel where all the Americans working in Yemen stayed. When the Yemeni crisis started, the Americans handed over the building to the United Nations and made it their based.

John Hamen and Marc McCarthy.

The Yemeni doctor also explained that John Hamen was a security officer, while Marc McCarthy, who was kidnapped with him, was a labor supervisor.

“John completely broke down because of torture and we heard that they walked out of his cell with his body covered in a blanket where he was killed during the first week of his arrest, but unfortunately I did not meet him personally.”

As for Marc McCarthy, he said: “The Houthis took me to his cell, and when I walked in, he was praying for God to end his torment.”

Hamen and his family.

“He was on a hunger strike. I convinced him to stop the strike and helped him overcome his psychological condition. We spent about three months in a dark cell that had no sunlight and no ventilation,” he added.

Junaid said McCarthy was released after about six months after the Houthis struck a deal with the Americans, while he spent 300 days without being charged with anything.

More torture

Junaid said that as a doctor, the Houthis made him visit patients to monitor their conditions.

“Most of them were in an awful state. The Houthis refused my request to take some of them to the hospital. Some of them had strokes in the leg with strong chances of spreading to the lungs, which is terrifying for us as doctors because all of these critical cases require intensive care, but all my requests were denied.”

McCarthy and his family.

He also confirmed that many people tried to commit suicide as a result of ill-treatment, and those who failed to commit suicide were subjected to more torture.

“I witnessed horrible things, including screaming, crying, nervous breakdowns; some prisoners hit their heads against the wall hysterically,” he said.

Junaid gave his testimony at the United Nations building and is currently seeking to publish a book to tell his story.

The family of John Hamen, a father of 7 children, have filed a lawsuit with Marc McCarthy’s family for damages amounting to $660 million. The complaint lodged in Washington accuses the Syrian regime and the Iranian government of sponsoring terrorism and providing substantial support to the Houthis.

Last Update: Wednesday, 11 April 2018 KSA 16:26 - GMT 13:26

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Torture and Suicide: The testimony of a Houthi captive
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