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4698 People Died in Revenge Killings Over 10 Years
Al-Shawtabi ( YEMEN POST STAFF)
Article Date: April 28, 2008
Latest field study on revenge killing mention that 4698 people have been killed during the last ten years due to revenge killing. This number comes a shock to most Yemenis, as they used to consider weapons part of culture and not a weapon to kill. “When we heard that almost 5000 died due to revenge killings, I did not believe and surely thought that the number was exaggerated by officials,” said tribal shiekh Saleh Al-Absi, who claims that revenge in the region of Abs has declined greatly over the same period of the study.
Families consider revenge a ghost that threatens them, as any family member could be killed in the name of revenge even if he was not directly involved in any crime.
Such revenge killings rise in eastern governorates including Mareb, Al-Jawf, Shabwa, Sa'ada, Dhamar and Amaran.
In revenge cases, if the wanted person is not found, then the killer's son or relative is the first target for any revenge attempt. Tribal people consider it to be a long-lasting shame if they do not take revenge from the enemy's family.
Earlier official reports estimate victims of revenge killing (Thaar) to be about 10,000 over the last two decades; let alone the other effects left behind revenge killing. “The government only brings a number up and wants us to believe. I can’t believe the government until i see what sources they have. I am sure that they estimated the number and it was not a field study,” added Al-Absi.
Among the shocking stories circulated on revenge killing is the story of killing a foreign teacher. Nearly five years ago, a tribe in Mareb killed a foreign teacher in another tribe's school, and this caused the latter tribe to kill a foreign teacher in the former tribe's school. Locals did not believe what they heard, but were surprised when media sources covered the incident of the death of both foreign teachers.
In another case, driver from Al-Abaser village in Dhamar governorate, Ahmed Mohamed Al-Abseri says that his tribe has been fighting with Al-Subar tribe over revenge issues for two years, noting that Subar tribe are seeking the revenge of six people killed in clashes with Al-Abaser tribe.
Al-Abseri adds that the incident started when a man from his village went to Al-Subar village demanding their help against his rivals in his village. Consequently, Al-Subar tribe invaded his village killing six people in their clashes.
Culturally, the victim's family will not build stones around the grave of the dead until they avenge from their enemies. Sometimes, they will not bury the killed victim until they manage to avenge his killing from enemies; as corpse are usually kept in the morgue even for years.
Hassen Al Shahabi, 25 years of age, fled his village Shehab in Al-Baidha province 18 years ago seeking shelter from revenge between his family and Ma'udah family. He further narrates that one day he was returning home with his father from Rada'a few days before Eid Al-Adha – some 17 years from now – when a 14-year boy asked them to take him to a nearby area.
After sometime, the boy told my father to stop and immediately fired the gun at him causing his death. He then handed me a small piece of paper telling me that this was in revenge of his killed father.
Member of Parliament Sakhr Al-Wajeeh believes the absence of law and order together with bad inherited culture, are key elements behind the spread of revenge killing in Yemen. He points out that if there was awareness and guidance by government and scholars, the phenomenon is certain to disappear.
Al-Wajeeh highly praised Sheikh Hamid Al-Ahmar’s initiative aiming to introduce peace among the conflicting tribes in the country. “If the government or those assuming higher positions do the same as Sheikh Al-Ahmar did in tribal areas, the problem will not be aggravated and will surely be solved in no time,” remarked Al-Wajeeh.
Al-Wajeeh added that Parliament is paralyzed and cannot implement its control role over state institutions, let alone addressing an issue like revenge killing.
Islamic Relief Organization launched a two-year program on December 2007 aimed to reduce violent conflicts and revenge killing through what it calls "the Mainstreaming of Conflict Transformation and Promotion of Responsible Citizenship". The program involved the participation of 665 citizens from Sa'ada, Lahj, Aden and Sana'a provinces in a workshop.
Sana'a University student Ahmed Al-Magrahi, who also lived in rural areas for most of his life, states that the lack of proper awareness together with weak role played by judicial authorities are to be blamed for the increased number of revenge killings.
"Such issues can’t end at the present time because there are many factors that keep revenge killing continuous. These factors include the weak role of judiciary, absence of awareness by religious scholars," said Al-Magrahi.
Meanwhile, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) launched a program to address revenge killing issues in three different Yemeni governorates including Mareb, Shabwa and Al-Jawf. The program was designed following a field research, and it seeks the cooperation of tribal sheikhs, dignitaries and the Ministry of Interior’s National Committee to address revenge killing issues.
In March 2008, the institute will run a training program to train 16 facilitators from NGOs on conflict management and analysis. Likewise, a campaign on tribal conflict awareness will be launched on April and involves the three governorates.
According to campaign director Nadwa Al-Dawsari, the campaign will target students, mosque preachers, women and tribal leaders.
Yemeni security authorities launched a wide campaign to ban arms bearing in capital cities, and the campaign has resulted in decreasing revenge killings according to a report released recently by Interior Ministry.
Capital cities have been for long a suitable place for tribesmen to settle their accounts and tribal revenge issues.
The government has failed neither to put a solution for this chronic crisis nor to control guns bearing. "The best place for taking revenge are cities, as people gather to buy their needs, and one can find his rival and escape easily", said Sana'a University graduate Amar Al Eryani.
Revenge killings will always involve innocent people especially if markets are a scene for taking revenges. Hundreds have been killed or injured in such issues without having any link with the killer. Their only mistake was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tribal conflicts have prevented government institutions from functioning effectively in certain provinces, and further disallowed thousands of citizens from participation in elections or development projects. “It will take time for the government to end revenge killing in Yemen, but the question is, when will they start,” concluded Al-Wajeeh.