Hopes of Women Behind Bars

National YEMEN

Amal al-Sadah

By Saddam Abu Asam for NY

Terror and the war on it have grimly changed world relations, interests and populations world-wide. Such operations against al-Qaeda have concealed humanitarian tragedies and are embodied by the Yemeni detainee Amal who has now been jailed for months in Pakistan.  

Like most of Yemeni women, Amal has experienced depressing economic and social restrictions. However, the  real ordeal of the  18 year old Amal began when she was forced  to marry a religious man  only knowing his age was double than hers, and that he was waiting for her in a cave in the country of Afghanistan.

She didn’t know that she would be in the company of  a husband who was a globally wanted figure and that her life with him would be full of risk as she tragically ended up in a country with more challenges than the one she was born in.

Attempts of the 50 Year old Amal’s divorced  mother had failed to stop wedding of her young daughter to Osama Bin Laden in 2000. The religious customs as well as the mediators’ temptations prevailed. Ever since, Amal’s mother shed tears for the fate of her daughter until the killing of her husband in Pakistan in May2011.  

Rashad Mohammed Saeed, also known as Abu al-fida, is an ex-al-Qaeda member who was close to Bin Laden remembered when Bin Laden asked him to look for a Yemeni lady who would agree to share his living conditions in Afghanistan.

He recalled that bin Laden’s terms for the Yemeni wife were  that she should be of religion, morality and connected to the Prophet’s lineage. He further noted that her family was reluctant at first in marrying their daughter to Bin Laden but they accepted it after the girl had agreed.

A dowry of $ 5000 was agreed upon in Yemen thus sending the fiancé to Afghanistan in the company of her sister, her sister’s husband and Abu al-Fida to be married in a wedding that took place in Kandahar, a southern province of Afghanistan.

Official say that many Yemeni girls find themselves to be victims of this type of marriage and is known as the “the tourist marriage.”  Official records detected 333 cases of Yemeni girls who were married to foreigners in the first half of 2007. Another 849 cases were recorded in 2005 and 785 cases in 2006. Such marriages often include another problem of early marriage. A  study prepared by Professor of Sociology Adel al- Sharjabi in 2009, says that 75% of the Yemeni women are married at ages of 10 – 19   and 13% of them re- marry twice.

Fertile ground

Yemeni expert in al-Qaeda affairs Ahmed al-Zurka, says that al-Qaeda has significantly benefited the traditional social thinking of Yemen regarding of the marriage of Yemen girls to foreigners from conservative Islamic backgrounds. Mr. Al-Zurka raises Amal as a model of such marriages and blames the Interior Ministry for failing to verify the applicants that may be involved in such activities and not taking preventative measures to safeguard their protection.

Mr. Al-Zurka says that despite organized involvement of women in al-Qaeda activities globally, this phenomenon has largely remained absent in Yemen. However, he said such practices can’t be ruled out in the future due to the secrecy of Al-Qaeda’s operations.

Relatives’ suffering

The suffering of Amal and her children have also impacted her mother’s health by causing mental anguish and, according to  her younger  brother  Zakria in the Ibb Governorate , has yet to improve.  Her pain is compounded by the unknown fate  of Asma and her five daughters despite attempts to contact the Yemeni and Pakistani authorities.

Amal’s family is worried over their daughter’s fate because of the media reports reported she was injured during the raid on Bin Laden’s residence in Abbottabad. Even though it was reported that Amal’s transfer back to Yemen is eminent, it hs been continually delayed pending multiple investigations. Zakaria, who spoke on behalf of his sister’s family, said that their efforts to learn more about Amal’s status have been stalled by Yemeni institutions which are paralyzed due to the recent political unrest. They have also petitioned the Pakistani government but have only received empty promises.

Zakaria considers hiding Amal and her children is in violation of human rights given that they are not blamed for their situation and has called on multiple human rights organizations to protect Amal and her children

Similar tragedy

Another similar tragedy that should be recognized is that of another victim of social traditions, Hasna. Charged with covering for her husband, Hasna is now serving a 16 year sentence in an Iraqi prison. According to tribal customs, Hasna accepted to marry an Egyptian teacher who was working in her area in Amran in northern Yemen. She accompanied him to several countries only to discover that her husband used an alias and was in fact, Abu Ayub Al-Masri, a military commander of Al-Qaeda after he was killed by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2004. Following his death, she was taken with her three children into U.S. custody.

Security authorities consider any of Al-Qaeda’s relatives as collaborators even though jurists believe that this is an unjust idea.  According to the Yemeni Constitution, the penal responsibility stipulates that accountability is a personal issue and others should be only accountable for the punishable faults they commit.  But lawyer Abdul-Rahman Berman, chairman of al-Sajeen, a non-governmental organization, believes that such texts have been disrupted under the domination of security authorities over the judiciary.

The war on terror has resulted in many victims who have been jailed and tortured . Lawyer Berman says that according to article 246 issued in 1994, the arrest  and torture of innocent people is a crime  punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, with no prejudice of the victim’s right  to compensation and retribution if necessary, in addition to firing those who issued their arrest warrants. This he said, is a crime and not a statute of limitations.

The Hood Organization has detected 150 illegal detention cases in 2005 and 50 in 2006 as a result of security actions. More than likely, these numbers are likely to greatly underestimate such known detentions in the war on terror.

Right activists and journalists are still exposed to assaults as it was only recently that the offices of the Hood Organization were subject to arson. Journalist Abdul-Elah Shaie, also a part of the Hood Organization, is still imprisoned by the Political security under accusations of belonging to an organization.

According to activist Mohammed al-Ahmadi, coordinator of the al-Krama Organization,  the war on terror has contributed to concealing other tragedies  due to  social and economic situations, level of education, lack of awareness, fear of accountability, arrests and a fear of  shame by the families of those  who are affected.


The study of al-Shrabi has divided the procedures on victims of war on terror into three categories the first category that includes the accused, the suspects, the hunted, the detainees, the planners and perpetrators of terrorist operations, including those which are carried out or those which are still being planned.

The second category includes the relatives of the suspects who hundreds of them are still exposed to years of psychological, health and social damages, night raids, victims of hostage taking, wire tapping and enforced disappearances as well as denying their relatives visits.

The third category included persons who have no relation, travel, ideology, conspiring or planning links to the first category.

A report submitted by the Al-Krama Organization to the Geneva-based UN Torture Committee warned that Yemen is a victim of being between the hammer and anvil of internal conflicts and external pressure.

In a working paper introduced by al-Shrabi at a symposium in late 2010, it describes what happens to some of these victims. It described that some have taken suspects in their cars without knowing it. Others lost their identities which fell in the hands of terrorists who used them in purchasing telephone cards.  Names and numbers of others were found in diaries and telephones of terrorist suspects. They also include renters for apartments, car sellers and other things that lead security teams to them.