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Saudi allies intentionally target Yemen fishermen

Fishermen rest on their boats in Hodeida, Yemen before going out to sea, September 2018. © 2018 Hani Mohammed/AP Photo

Close your eyes and imagine you are a fisherman; you have a boat and a sea full of fish in front of you, and a family who depends on you. Imagine fish is the only means of sustenance available, you go to sea in the hope of feeding your family; you get arrested.

The enemy puts you in a secret prison while your family looks everywhere for you.

This is the fate of many Yemeni fishermen arrested by the Saudi led coalition.

One day in May 2020, a group of Yemeni fishermen who were working with a “Golden Star” company were arrested by Saudi Coast Guard Forces in the Red Sea near a Yemeni island.

They were accused of being in a “closed area” despite all the official permits they had obtained from the Coalition.

In the words of the captain of the boat, “When we were on the return trip, our boat had stopped near a Yemeni island, having run out of fuel in the wake of very high winds.” “After the distress call was made, a force from the Saudi Coast Guard came, not to rescue, but to arrest us. They took us to the Farzan Prison in Jizan on charges of reconnaissance.”

In fact, since the onset of the war in 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has been patrolling the length and breadth of the Yemeni coasts.

Yemeni fishermen have been targeted by the Saudi-US coalition for arrest, detention and torture in Saudi prisons since 2015.

In many instances their fishing boats are attacked by Saudi coalition vessels and aircraft, and have been burnt, damaged, and even sunk, and a number of Yemeni fishermen have been injured, shot, burned, killed, and left to drown in the sea.

As a result, many Yemeni fishers, actually most Yemeni fishers, have stopped going fishing because they find it too dangerous to be out on the sea, with the Saudi coalition roaming and being very belligerent.

So they remain in port and as a consequence, they are unemployed, and unable to feed their families. They're also unable to feed the Yemeni people.

 And so, this becomes, not only a crisis for the fisher people, but also for the Yemeni people in general.

Ken Stone, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War

In early May this year, Saudi Arabia released 11 Yemeni fishermen after having detained them for more than 40 days.

Saudi forces had kidnapped 24 fishermen in mid-July while they were fishing in Yemeni territorial waters.

By many accounts, these unfortunate people are but a few out of thousands of Yemenis arrested in Yemeni waters under various pretexts. But they are also among the luckiest.

In August 2019, Human Rights Watch had published a disturbing report on the circumstances the Yemeni fishermen were faced with but it fell on deaf ears. 

According to a report by a Geneva based group SAM, S A M, there are hundreds of Yemeni fishermen who have been illegally arrested, illegally detained, in Saudi prisons, in a number of Saudi prisons, and they have, in these prisons, they have not been represented by legal counsel, they are not allowed to contact their families, they are not given access to representatives of the Yemeni government.

And furthermore, they're tortured, and they were the types of torture that they are forced to endure include beatings with clubs, and cables, being suspended by ropes, being crucified, being electrocuted, being put into solitary confinement.

And in many cases, they are not given proper medical attention, many die and or have disappeared into the Saudi prisons never to emerge again.

Ken Stone, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War

In their all-out war, the Saudis and their allies have brutally tried to deprive the Yemeni nation of everything including basic foodstuffs. 

Before the war, the fishing sector in Yemen was the country’s second-largest economic sector after oil, producing about 450,000 tons of seafood annually.

It provided a livelihood for over 2.5 million Yemenis living along the Red Sea coast and the Gulf of Aden according to Yemeni Studies

So, by targeting the fishermen, and the fishing industry, the Saudi coalition is targeting, as well, the entire Yemeni people in that it's trying to destroy the resistance of the Yemeni people to the illegal Saudi, US, UK, Israeli war on them, and the occupation of their country.

It's like a siege, a medieval siege of a city. What the Saudi coalition is trying to do is starve the Yemeni people into submission through hunger and misery, and of course their indiscriminate attacks on civilians in order that the Yemeni people will give up, and surrender, and endure the permanent Saudi occupation. So that's the, that's the purpose behind the attacks on the fishermen.

Ken Stone, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War

Today, being a fisherman in Yemen is among the most dangerous jobs and many times an impossible one, as many of the country’s coastal waters and islands have been restricted areas for Yemeni fishermen since 2015.

Fishing boats, ports and processing sites have been systematically destroyed or damaged, and many fishermen have lost their lives.

 Suleiman, 45, is a fisherman from Hodeidah. He says, "I know many fishermen who have been killed at sea and in the fish market. They were without sin and had no connection to politics or the state."

The current statistics depict clearly the gravity of the situation. Nearly 1/3 of agricultural production and fishing has disappeared since the start of the war.  It has also inflicted up to 6.9 billion dollars damage to the fishery sector including harbors, landing centers and boats.

At least 334 fishermen have been reported killed or injured since 2015, according to Yemen’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority.

The Yemeni fishermen report that they have been harassed and attacked while they have gotten too close for the comfort of the Saudi coalition to two islands in particular… One sits at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden and the other one sits at the mouth of the Red Sea, and most of the shipping of the world passes daily, pass these two islands, and what the hidden agenda is here, is that the Saudi coalition is acting on the, on the, in, in support of the US government, US Empire, which is seeking to undermine and prevent the People's Republic of China from accomplishing its Belt and Road Initiative, its New Silk Road, which is a trade route that it's trying to establish to expand its trade across South Asia into Africa and into Europe.

Ken Stone, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War

At a time when 80% of Yemen's 30-million population is in need of humanitarian aid, working for Saudi forces sometimes becomes the only means of securing a livelihood. Those fishermen, who refuse to join the enemy's camp, or collaborate in any way, are always subject to arrest, torture, and death for fishing in Yemen's territorial waters. 


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