My name is Amiruddin Jahaf. I am 26 years old, currently studying medicine at the University in Sana’a.
My story is a peculiar one, and one that has received little to no coverage in the western mainstream press, despite my many attempts to publish my story.
I was born in Hajjah Province to a Yemeni father and a Ukrainian mother originally from Luhansk. Both my mother and my father were academics, and at one point in time they both moved to Ukraine with most of the family, so that my father could pursue his doctoral degree and submit his thesis. I did well in school too. I graduated top of my class in elementary school, proceeded in the Yemeni American Language Institute where I graduated with an advanced level of English comprehension in my baggage. I did very well. I loved to learn and pursue education, so that I eventually get the chance to help rebuild and contribute to my homeland.
Fast forward to 2013, and I received a scholarship from the Yemeni Government to study at the Faculty of Medicine in Cairo University. We were around 39 young Yemeni students who’ve all received a scholarship, and were about to board a plane directly to Cairo to pursue our degrees. Delightful times I remember.
I initially promised to visit my family in Yemen around a year and a half after, but then the Saudi war against Yemen broke out and I was unable to return back home. It was only until the Kuwait negotiations in 2016, that I was able to return home to my Fatherland.
So alas, I returned back home. Off I went, from Cairo Airport to Sana’a International Airport with one stopover in Bisha Regional Airport, Saudi Arabia. We waited for hours in Bisha to get clearance from the Saudi Coalition to proceed with our travel. The horrors only began from here.
I spent a good few months in Sana’a with my family. It was a longer vacation than expected, but that was alright. I didn’t see them for a long time afterall, so it was worth it.
We were 7 students in Yemen that decided to return back to Cairo by September of 2016. A short while before that, the Sana’a International Airport was closed and besieged by the Saudi Coalition. We were not able to travel from Sana’a, so we had to rent a tourist bus and set course through the lush, powerful landscapes of the Yemeni countryside until we eventually reached Seiyoun, one of the largest cities in Hadhramout Governorate with a functioning airport.
” We waited for hours in Bisha to get clearance from the Saudi Coalition to proceed with our travel. The horrors only began from here. ”
When we arrived to the western outskirts of Ma’rib city on our trip to Seiyoun, our car was pulled over by armed gangs at a checkpoint named “Al-Falaj”. Masked men with kalashnikov rifles blindfolded us, beat us multiple times and took us to an undisclosed location somewhere in Ma’rib city.
We arrived to what looked like a court hall. How delighted we were, despite the circumstances. We thought we were about to go through judicial procedures as with any arrest. Unfortunately, we soon realized the court room was turned into a make-shift prison by our hostage-takers.
We also realized the masked gangs weren’t Yemeni security personnel, but rather rag-tag militias from the sectarian, extremist Islah party led by notorious warlord Abdulghani Sha’lan. One of the notorious leaders overseeing the torture was “Abu Al-Qassam”, also affiliated with the Islah militia.
After five days at the make-shift court prison, we were thus again blindfolded, beaten and taken to the Saleh Institutional Detention Facility – a notorious, dystopian prison located inside Ma’rib city. We were trampled on and beaten with the stocks of their kalashnikov rifles multiple times. I suffered severe bruises all over my face and body.
The Saleh Detention Facility is renowned amongst people as a torture dungeon. Throughout Saleh’s regime, the prison halls were filled up with political dissidents, academics, writers and journalists. Most of them never returned home. They were all tortured to death.
“I committed no crime.”
So this was my life now. I was tortured three times a week, followed by a shady interrogation process. I committed no crime. I missed my family and returned back home to see them again. It never crossed my mind that I would be spending exactly two years years and two months in this dungeon, but that was my reality.
The masked Islah gangs only allowed us to eat very little, unhealthy food. Not enough, to say the least. We were also denied access to water or any fluids at all, and were only allowed to shave and shower once or twice a month.
Amongst the many horrendous methods of torture I witnessed and was subjected to, a few stood out to me. For my book I released a few months ago, I made a few sketches that would visualize what me and the other inmates went through.
As an example, the masked gangs would enter our prison cells, push their boots onto our bruised faces while continously beating us with metal chains. They would also install these wooden clamps around our ankles filled with puncturing needles and a handle at the end, which they would use to drag us across the blood-soaked floor of our prison cell.
Other forms of torture included pulling off our finger nails with pliers, wrapping strings around our testicles and electrocution with automobile start cables.
We were not allowed to make any outside communication at all. It would only amount to once every year. I called my mother exactly a year after I was abducted. And then a year after that. Hearing her cry through the phone tore my heart apart.
The purpose of these calls was to pressure the Sana’a authorities to release convicted terrorists, criminals and Coalition-loyalists from the Yemeni prisons in a prisoner-swap deal. Of course they wouldn’t let us call our families for the sake of mere correspondence. They had ulterior motives.
I never hurt anyone. My father never hurt anyone. As a doctor, my father would continue to experience one sleepless night after the other as he treated his fellow countrymen. My parents raised me to serve my people and those I loved. I suffered immense physical and mental torture during my time in prison. When I was released, I had a strong feeling of revenge inside me. A feeling I have been able to tame for the time being. I am a person of morals, or so I would describe myself.
What I did learn however, was to not let any kind of pain keep me down. I learned to keep my head high despite the immense pain, pressure and torture I was facing and when I look back at it, I think that mentality saved my life.
When I was released from prison, I was notified that the Hadi government – the exiled “Yemeni” government based in the hotels of Riyadh – had cancelled by scholarship, and I was unfortunately unable to continue my studies in Cairo.
Fortunately, the story ends on a positive note. A few days ago, February 27th 2020, I was married to the love of my life. I attended a huge wedding party with all of my best friends, and we had a wonderful time. I am a happy man today. I do still think of the horrors I went through as hostage in the worst prison you could ever imagine. But I keep my head high and my spirit even higher.
To those who read this, please do not forget my story and the stories of thousands of innocent Yemenis currently unfolding. The Saudi-American war on my country is unlawful, illegal and has killed many of my closest friends.
Thank you for reading my story. May God preserve and protect all illegally-detained prisoners, and may he shower my homeland with prosperity and victory.
Editor’s note: A previous edition of the article suggested that 39 Yemenis were travelling back home in 2016. That is not correct. The number was 7 people out of the 39 people in Cairo, and it has since been corrected.
This article was updated 01/03/2020 3:48 pm UTC+1, with extra information.