3 years on, injured revolutionaries still seek treatment

Published on 11 February 2014 in Report
Ali Ibrahim Al-Moshki (author)

Ali Ibrahim Al-Moshki

Saleem Al-Harazi in Change Sq. on July 20, 2011 with placard, “You deprived me of seeing the colors of flowers, but you can't deprive me of seeing the light of freedom.

Saleem Al-Harazi in Change Sq. on July 20, 2011 with placard, “You deprived me of seeing the colors of flowers, but you can't deprive me of seeing the light of freedom." A bullet took out both of his eyes on the Friday of Dignity. (Photo: Nadia Abdullah)

February 11 marks the third anniversary of Yemen’s 2011 uprising. The uprising removed former president Ali Abdulla Saleh from office, but left the country with more than a thousand dead and thousands more injured. Many of those injured say they were not been given adequate, timely treatment, despite a presidential decree ordering their treatment.

A youth demonstrator who was shot in 2011 died on Sunday after his treatment abroad had been delayed. Abdul Jabbar Al-Namer was shot in the stomach during the uprising and had been sent to Egypt and Turkey for care and was waiting to receive further treatment, according to the Shawqi Al-Maimoni, head of the Wafa Foundation for the Care of Injured Revolutionaries.

In 2013, a total of four youth who were injured in the uprising died after not receiving adequate and timely treatment, according to Al-Maimoni.

According to official statistics provided to the Yemen Times by the head of the finance subcommittee of the ministerial committee overseeing the fund for the wounded, Ali Al-Naeemi, the total number of protesters who died during the revolution was 1,444. Roughly 29,000 demonstrators were reportedly injured. Of those, around 2,000 have needed medical care abroad, but only 450 have been sent out of the country for treatment. There are 250 people with permanent disabilities, and 2,300 have disabilities that may respond to appropriate treatment.

Protestor Mukhtar Mohammed Mahyoub sustained a serious eye injury on May 29, 2011 in Taiz.

“I did not expect the government to reward our efforts with neglect,”  he said. “We, the youth, risked our lives, and we do not regret that. However, we deserve to be taken care of. I was injured three years ago and although I was taken to Egypt for treatment last year, I lost one of my eyes because [the government] did not pay for my continued medical care on my return.”

Al-Maimoni said that not all issues related to the injured have been dealt with and that the situation is very complicated. He said that the foundation handed over the files of those injured to the committee of ministers that was established in 2012. In his opinion, the committee was not fair in its dealings, saying that the injured who were selected for treatment abroad were often chosen based on personal influence and favoritism.

Four lawsuits have been filed so far by injured revolutionaries and their families.

On Nov. 14, 2012, the court issued a verdict in the first lawsuit to send 11 injured revolutionaries abroad for treatment. The government did not implement the verdict until February of 2013.

A second lawsuit was filed by 98 injured revolutionaries in early 2013. Forty people were sent to India for treatment. Only eight of the 98 who participated in the lawsuit were among the forty. Their attorney, Najeeb Sharaf, told the Yemen Times that they all returned to Yemen without having received any treatment. The Yemeni government had set aside tens of millions of riyals but, according to Sharaf, the Yemeni embassy in New Delhi had failed to make proper arrangements for the treatment of the patients.

The third lawsuit was filed by 52 injured revolutionaries, and the fourth was filed by the families of 11 victims. Both cases were delayed until  Feb. 11, 2014.

According to Nadeer Al-Qadasi, the general manager of the youth office in the Cabinet, there have been delays in the committee’s work because all of the members of the committee are ministers and are reportedly busy with their other ministerial obligations.

Unhappy with this situation, the youth have staged protests and demonstrations in support of their injured colleagues. Despite promises to address the situation, no serious action has yet been taken, according to Al-Maimoni.

The Wafa fund has stopped operating because it has run out of money and has not received additional funding from the government or civil institutions, said Al-Maimoni.

The families of those who died are entitled to receive YR1 million (about $4,600) apiece. The injured are also entitled to monthly disability payments, though many report that those payments have not come through.

“The committee has stopped working because it is transferring responsibility for the injured to the Injured Revolutionaries Care Fund,” Al-Naeemi said. “The fund will be responsible for [arranging] treatment for the injured either in Yemen or abroad.”

Al-Qadasi said, “The government took about 450 youth for treatment abroad in cooperation with local and civil institutions. They were treated in Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, India, China, Germany and Cuba.”  He added that about 750 of the most seriously injured have received one-time compensation payments ranging from YR360,000 (almost $1,700) to YR1 million (about $4,600).

Al-Qadasi said that 2,500 soldiers, non-military supporters of the former regime, and regular citizens —not protesters—who were injured were also treated for injuries.

Sara Abdulla Hassan, head of the fund that the government will be contributing to, told the Yemen Times that she met with the Finance Minister in late January and discussed the difficulties the fund has encountered.

“I informed him that several injured revolutionaries are still awaiting treatment,” she said.

The fund, an independent body associated with the Cabinet, was established in September 2013 under a presidential decree to provide YR35,000 ($163) monthly disability payments and health care to the injured, and to meet other needs such as clothing and education. The state is the main sponsor of the fund along with local and international organizations, as well as donor countries.

“The fund hasn’t received any money [from the government] so far, just the $500,000 in Nobel Prize money that was donated by Tawakkol Karman in October of 2013,” Hassan said. “However, I couldn’t touch any of this money because the ministry hadn’t appointed a finance manager who would be authorized to disburse the funds.”

“Al-Wajeeh gave orders to quickly settle the issues that have been pending since February 2013, and we expect the fund to start operating again soon,” she added, saying that the finance ministry has just appointed a financial manager to oversee disbursement of the funds.

The fund will follow up on the injured revolutionaries who have been sent abroad, rather than having Yemen’s respective embassies handle their cases as has been the situation to date, she said.

 There are currently three patients being treated in Turkey, one in Germany and one in Cuba, Hassan said.

The fund is preparing to send another group abroad soon.

The Finance Ministry promised to provide the fund with YR100 million ($465,000) in addition to Karman’s donation, and another YR100 million to pay for foreign medical treatment, Hassan said.

Injured revolutionaries held a press conference on Jan. 18 to make their frustrations public. They announced that they would organize a protest to revive the values of the revolution, calling on Yemenis to join them.

They demanded quick and appropriate medical treatment, care for the families of victims, and disability payments for all injured people as well as the arrest and prosecution of those who attacked and injured unarmed demonstrators in front of the Cabinet in February 2013.