SANA’A, Mar. 16 — The security committee of the pro-democracy demonstration has managed to arrest 30 assailants this week. Protesters were attacked on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon by the state security forces and pro-government thugs. Eyewitnesses also informed the Yemen Times that they were attacked by snipers on rooftops. A video uploaded by protesters to Facebook showed four men firing upon the demonstration from the roof of a nearby apartment building.When the protesters managed to arrest the alleged attackers, they were turned over to the security committee, which in turn checked their IDs and interrogated them. Following an investigation, the security committee turned the accused over to a group of lawyers who have taken up residence at the protest. These lawyers weighed the evidence against the alleged attackers in order to piece together their cases should they ever be taken to court.
“Once we arrested two people who were carrying oil to burn the tents, we interrogated them and then referred them to the lawyers’ tent to complete the procedure,” said Adel Al-Ahjer, a representative from the protest security committee.
Al-Ahjer confirmed that the security committee acts according to the peaceful revolution’s rules and regulations, and that it has never used violence against the arrested attackers. “When we receive them, they have already been beaten by the other protesters. We are usually able to arrest them once they run out of ammunition,” he added.
After taking their statements and interrogating them, Saturday and Sunday’s attackers were released, according to Al-Ahjer. “We aren’t an official body and we aren’t empowered to detain them. We are only a defensive committee that ensures the safety of protesters,” Al-Ahjer explained.
Salim Alaw, a lawyer who is currently based at the Sana’a University demonstration, told the Yemen Times that the protesters have arrested a few local residents who were caught attacking protesters alongside the military. “One of the attackers’ mothers came and begged us to set het young son free. She pointed to another attacker and shouted, ‘He is the one who told my son to attack! My son is young and doesn’t know what he is doing!’,” said Alaw.
Alaw also said that some of the attackers that were sent to the lawyers’ tent were found to have military IDs. This would suggest that they were sent by the state.
One of the arrested assailants who was badly beaten by protesters after having been caught was shouting loudly, cursing his luck for having been involved in the attack. “God take Ali Abdullah Saleh, who got us all involved in this situation. We don’t want to attack our brothers,” he yelled, according to eyewitnesses.
The attackers that are beaten or gassed by mistake also receive treatment at the protest field hospital, which is located within the mosque at Al-Tagheer Square. “We treat everyone, whether they are protesters or attackers. Medicine is a very humane profession and has nothing to do with personal conflicts,” explained Dr. Abd Al-Khalq, the head of the mosque hospital.
According to Dr. Abd Al-Khalq, the security forces surrounding Al-Tagheer Square have their own ambulance vehicles, which transfer injured protesters to the Police Hospital.
“We know they are attackers when protesters bring them in and identify them. Once we finish treating them [as we would anyone else], we deliver them to the security committee which is responsible for investigating them,” added the doctor. “Other times, we suspect that they are attackers on the basis of their attitude. For example, when we tell them to leave, they refuse, saying that they aren’t feeling well, even if we know they are lying. They also complain about everything, while the real protesters don’t.”
Two of the protesters who were severely beaten by security forces and pro-government thugs were transferred by a security ambulance to the Police Hospital, where they were interviewed by the Yemen Times.
Khalid Qadam, 31 years old, was lying at the field hospital. His head, right hand and right leg were bandaged and he said that he was tear gassed on Saturday, while throwing rocks at security vehicles. “The security and the attackers gathered and started beating me. They sprayed me with some kind of poison and then I felt as if my body were burning. They thought I had died and two of them took me to their ambulance. I was about to pass out when I saw them bringing another injured protester inside the vehicle,” said Qadam.
“At the hospital, security personnel brought me a certain kind of drug and I heard the doctor say, ‘This is not the drug I told you to bring. This one will kill him’,” he added.
Allegedly, the security explained away Qadam’s beating by claiming that he had been drunk and uncooperative during an interrogation. “When they interrogated me,” said Qadam, “I didn’t say that security had beaten me. Otherwise, political security would have kidnapped me. When I left the hospital, I managed to hide from them and return to the field hospital. I reported the various violations I’d experienced and I raised a case with a prosecutor, accusing the president and the vice-president of being responsible for what happened to me.”
The second man that was beaten and taken to a security ambulance is 22-year old Ali Al-Sawari. He explained to the Yemen Times that he, “was hidden with another protester behind a wall, but when security forces dragged a body to where we were hiding, they discovered us and started beating us. Many of them gathered to beat me. I was shouting for mercy, as we are all Muslims. Some of them responded and tried to stop their friends, saying ‘Enough, he will die!’ Then they sprayed me with poison that burnt my eyes and face. They took me to an ambulance and three of the security personnel that had beaten me accompanied me to a police station. At the station, the other prisoners helped to wash my face and treat me until an officer came.”
Residents in the area surrounding Sana’a University has begun gathering as well – dividing tasks so as to protect their families and their property from protesters.
On Al-Adl Street, young residents came together to build a security barrier intended to prevent other would-be protesters from joining the demonstrations. They stand by this new wall, criticizing protesters as they go by. “You ruined our lives,” said one resident to a protester. “Get out. We don’t care about the regime. We only care about our lives, which are now in danger because of you.”
Residents around Al-Qadisia, who also feel threatened by the encroaching conflict between the protesters and the state, have taken similar measures. They recently erected two insulating walls so as to protect their neighborhood from the “flu-like” spread of the demonstration.
“This weekend’s attack started when more people joined the protest on Friday,” explained one of the demonstrators. “The security wanted to stop the protest from getting any bigger and to terrify the people. They urged all those who live in the neighborhood to react and to resist the protesters.”
Said one shopkeeper in the area, who preferred to remain anonymous: “The state is encouraging some of the pro-government people living in the neighborhood to say that they are fed up with the anti-government protesters and that they are being forced to defend their own lives. I know the neighborhood very well, as I have lived and worked here for many years. The people who attack the protesters are probably paid by the state. Lots of people saw the snipers and those who used the roofs to pelt protesters below with rocks.”