Women fight for their husband’s release from jail

3 Jan
Since the arrest of her husband, Waleed Sharaf Al-Deen, who was accused of spying for Iran in 2009, Alia Al-Wazeer (pictured above with her daughter Zainab) has joined the Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights in order to participate and organize protests demanding the release of her husband. Alia will continue working at the organization even if he is released. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

Malak Shaher


Since her husband was arrested in August 2009 and accused of spying for Iran, Alia Al-Wazeer has defended him as she believes he is innocent. The 30-year-old woman and mother of two girls said that her life changed drastically when her husband disappeared for almost four months before she had any news about him.“I was in a frenzy when I found out that my husband had been at the National Security Prison for four months without knowing what he was accused of,” said Alia.Her husband, Waleed Sharaf Al-Deen, was 33 years old and worked in the United Nations office as an accountant when he was arrested. Four months later, in December 2009, he and three others were officially charged with spying for Iran and attempting to promote the Twelver Shiite doctrine.Shiites have come under increasing pressure in Yemen since the Houthis, who follow the Shiite sect of Islam, demanded in 2004 the establishment of a separate state in Sa’ada province in the north of the country. In Yemen it is a widely held belief that Shiites are supported by Iran.

“For nearly seven years, since the war with the Houthis began, the Yemeni government has had a phobia of people following the same religious doctrine as the Houthis,” explained Ali Al-Dailami, head of the Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights.

From the beginning of the war between the Houthis and the government in 2004 until the most recent bout of fighting in 2010, many Shiite supporters were detained in various governorates and accused of supporting the Houthis. In response to these arbitrary arrests, over a hundred women joined Al-Dailami’s organization to defend their husbands.

“Ten of the hundred women are vital members of the organization now,” Al-Dailami told the Yemen Times.

Alia Al-Wazeer is one these women. A few months after the arrest of her husband, she joined the organization, in which she both organizes and participates in protests demanding his release.

Prisoner’s wives protesting for the release of their husbands whose pictures are shown in these posters. These women demand for the release of their husbands who are allegedly unfairly detained by the Yemeni government. Source: Freedom 4 Waleed

Last year while she was participating in a demonstration in front of the Al-Saleh mosque, Alia was beaten by police women. However, her struggle has made her only more persistent. “I will defend him with my life,” she said, adding that even if her husband was released she would continue her work as a human rights activist.

“When I see my two daughters growing up without their father who was arbitrarily arrested, I realize that I have to get my family back together,” said Alia. “The last time I visited my husband in prison with my daughter she cried in such a hysterical way that the guards allowed her to see her father.”

Recently, Alia, her two daughters and other families of Sa’ada prisoners protested in front of the Political Security building. The families sent a letter to the head of Political Security asking him to respect the law. The letter also stated that the children of the detainees often had not been allowed to visit their fathers.

Waleed Sharaf Al-Deen and his three fellow detainees are examples of people who were arrested in relation to the war in Sa’ada. However, none of them has benefited from the amnesty the president decreed for Sa’ada prisoners of war. Waleed and the others remained under arbitrary custody for four months before they were officially charged and the trial began.

Twelve months later the trial is still ongoing. Waleed’s brother Ibrahim, a lawyer in the Yemeni Organization for Defending Human Rights, considers the men’s arrest illegal.

“The police broke the criminal procedures code when they arbitrarily arrested and held the detainees for a long period of time without trial,” Ibrahim Sharaf Al-Din told the Yemen Times. In his view the accusations are false.

His boss Al-Dailami explained that the arbitrary arrests have turned many members of the prisoners’ families into human rights activists. He points to Fatima Al-Ezzi, 28, as another example of a housewife turned activist.

She joined the organization three years ago when her husband Imam Al-Ezzi Saleh Rajeh was arrested. He was arrested because he had been talking about the Sa’ada conflict in his Friday sermons. He was released last Thursday.

“I didn’t know why they were holding my husband. I couldn’t visit him either,” said Fatima.

Even though her husband was released, Fatima said that she would continue working with the organization to support other prisoner’s wives.

As Al-Dailami told the Yemen Times, his organization currently tries to find out where the arrested people have been taken and why it is difficult for their families to visit them. He demanded that the state investigate these arbitrary disappearances.


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