Family of abducted soldier appeal for help

Published on 19 February 2012 in News
Shatha Al-Harazi (author)

Shatha Al-Harazi

Yahia al-Dheeb, first soldier to join the revolution who was kidnapped on Feb.11

Yahia al-Dheeb, first soldier to join the revolution who was kidnapped on Feb.11

SANA’A — The family of Yahia Al-Dheeb, the first soldier to defect from President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s army last year and who was kidnapped on Saturday, has appealed to the US ambassador in Sana’a as their final hope.

“We have been contacting the Yemeni government to find my brother, but with no progress, we know the American ambassador is our last hope,” said Adel Al-Dheeb, Yahia’s older brother. According to eyewitnesses, Yahia Al-Dheeb was abducted from Al-Mesbahi roundabout in Sana’a on February 11. 

Yahia Al-Dheeb had been receiving threats since he defected in late Feb. 2011. He had been a a member of the Private Guards, headed by Saleh’s nephew Tareq Mohamed Saleh. Al-Dheeb was also one of Saleh’s personal bodyguards before his defection. 

The presidential palace repeatedly tried to bring him back but Al-Dheeb stayed at Change Square for two months for his own safety and protection.

In a show of support, the Ministry of Human Rights promised it would contact Ahmed Ali, president Saleh’s oldest son and head of the Republican Guards on behalf of Al-Dheeb family, requesting that the kidnapped soldier’s location be revealed and his family allowed to visit him, or that he be released and referred to the judiciary.

"An activist promised that she will make Tareq meet us, we have been trying hard to meet him with no hope," said Al-Dheeb's brother. 

According to eyewitnesses, Al-Dheeb was working in his taxi when soldiers of the Private Guards stopped him and forced him into their armored vehicle, while one took Al-Dheeb’s taxi. His family tried to contact him but 24 hours after his disappearance his phone was off. However, some of his former colleagues contacted his brother to inform him he had been taken by the Republican Guards.

As Al-Dheeb joined the revolution early on he came to be seen as a leader by other defected soldiers prior to the mass defection led by Major General Ali Mohsen on March 21 – after which point Al-Dheeb became less of a focus for the government.

He believed and practiced the peaceful struggle, refusing to use guns even to protect protesters. “We said we will not face weapons with weapons; we will face fire with our bare chests,” Al-dheeb told the Yemeni Times in an interview in October.

In his Yemen Times “Faces of the Revolution” interview, Al-Dheeb criticized Mohsen's control on Change Square, claiming that Mohsen was an obstacle in the protesters’ bid to topple the regime. He accused Mohsen of serving the regime in the squares and preventing the youth from progressing.

"Ali Mohsen serves Ali Saleh: they both think of benefits for themselves, they have always deceived the Yemeni people. Why would they stop now?” said Al-Dheeb in October. “We [the revolutionaries] achieved a lot in our efforts to topple Ali Saleh before Ali Mohsen joined us, and today we hardly move forwards.”

After the article was published, Al-Dheeb again began to receive death threats – this time from the First Armored Division, headed by Mohsen.  

His family had warned him against speaking out many times, so when he disappeared, they knew that something was seriously wrong.

The timing of the kidnapping complicates the cause as well, as the authorities are busy with the upcoming election, which has slowed down any progress in locating Al-Dheeb. But after his colleagues protested in front of the cabinet, Prime Minister Mohammed Basundwa on Sunday promised to meet with the family.

In addition to Al-Dheeb, three other protesters disappeared from Change Square last week, according to Radwan Al-Haimi, a fellow anti-regime protester.