In recognition to his faithful efforts saving the life of the Japanese Ambassador to South Yemen in 1986, Kiyoshi Ito, the government of Japan honored on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014, Captain Saeed Yafai at the Residence of the Japanese Ambassador in Sana’a Katsuyoshi Hayashi.
Captain Yafai was very astonished to be remembered by the Government of Japan after three decades. The incident occurred during the 1986 civil war in Aden. Yafai contributed to the safe evacuation of all Japanese nationals including the Ambassador who was evacuated from his room in the Crescent Hotel in al-Tawahi.
Hayashi handed over an appreciation letter to Captain Yafai on behalf of the Japanese Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida. Hayashi stated, “I am so pleased to convey my government’s message for the courageous act of Captain Yafai toward the Japanese diplomats during the political uprising in Aden. The Japanese people do not forget those who hand over their hands to them,“ said the Ambassador. “For this, we would like to express our appreciation message politely and proudly. The recognition today comes from the philosophy of what if that happened to me or to hundreds of Japanese diplomats.”
“Captain Yafai had no interest in the Japanese government in the past or now,” said the Ambassador. In 1986, he received an urgent message asking him to help save the life of the Japanese Charges d’Affaires. “We were not anticipating that quick reaction and the immediate evacuation of our people during the shelling and killing which was happening in Aden day and night in every party of the city at that period of time.”
“He was not obliged to sacrifice his life for the life of others. What pushed him to do so?” asked the Ambassador. “We should not give up human values, whatever happens, because we are humans and we live on this planet. Captain Yafai made a bridge by his decision and noble work,” said the Ambassador. “This will remain in the heart of the Japanese community. Thank you Captain Yafai.”
Captain Saeed Yafai, the former Transport Minister and the current member of the Shura Council, said, “what I have done and what I do today is part of my human duty toward besieged humans who have nothing to do with the clashes around them. This story goes back more than 27 years to January 1986. At that time, I was serving at Ras Marbad (Aden) in the biggest military marine camp. Luckily, I was not associated with any political or tribal fighting group,” said Yafai. “For that, I lived my life peacefully, despite the strong shelling at our camp.”
Narrating the story, Yafai said, “I was sneaking from time to time to the monitoring marine tour to check the VHF communication machine operating via batteries. At that time, I was communicating with the marine ships on the name of the government while there was no government. Luckily, I used to have regular contact with the Royal Britain Yacht Britania, which was available in regional water. Out of that communication, they informed me that the British Government received a request from the Japanese Government to secure the Japanese Ambassador who was stuck in al-Tawahi. My answer to them was if I got chance to go to al-Tawahi, I will do,” said Yafai. “Fighting was very extensive from the mountains around Aden and the streets too. In the experience of four days of the war, I was able to identify the little time of fighting ceasefire. I had the opportunity to reach the Ambassador at his residence in the Crescent Hotel. When I knocked the door, I was in a miserable case. The Ambassador was repeating one phrase to me saying this is Japanese territory, ‘no entry for you’. He was repeating it in both the Japanese and English languages.”
“I told him, there is not time! I have a message from your government to take you to the Britania ship. We have no time and fighting may erupt any moment. You do not have to carry any heavy items, only diplomatic papers if there are any. His answer was shocking to me. He said ‘I will come with you but if there is one remaining Japanese person left, I will return.’ We agreed that even if it cost me my life I would bring him back.”
“Moments after we left the hotel, deadly shelling began targeting the same area. He had no food or water and he was asking me to bring him back in case if he found a missing fellow. Honestly speaking, the honoring of today is not for me. It is also for him, may he rest in peace, ” said Yafai. “He belongs to a great nation (the Japanese Umah).”
Finally, he reached the Yacht safely. He checked all missions on board, and with a happy face and a win-win gesture, he waved his hand for thanks and good bye. “I faced some difficulty on my way back. This was the story in brief,” said Yafi.
He was a great man from a great nation, and they recalled the story after more than 27 years and decided to honor me for doing my duty. “My request to your excellency,” said Yafai, “is to pass my thanks to the government of your country and mainly the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to tell him I am proud of this honor.”
At the end of the speech the Japanese Ambassador handed over the appreciation message of his government to Captain Yafai. The Minister of the Local Authority, the Minister of Human Rights, and other political Yemeni fellows including the embassy staff attended the honoring ceremony.