SANA’A, Mar. 9 — Doctors from the medical committee of the anti-government protests at Sana’a University confirmed that the gas used on Tuesday night to disperse anti-government protesters was of unknown composition. Doctors from the Science and Technology Hospital who received the injured on that same night confirmed that it was not tear gas and that they still didn’t know what kind of gas it was.“We received different kinds of injuries last night. Some people were shot by bullets, some suffered from suffocation. The gas used yesterday can’t be tear gas, as the symptoms are not the same at all,” said Dr. Mohammad Al-Sheikh, a pathologist. A second doctor who treated the injured said, “This gas is unknown to us and it might be a gas that is internationally forbidden. We have never seen tear gas cause these symptoms.”
One of the nine seriously wounded protesters who were transferred to the Science and Technology Hospital for treatment contacted the Yemen Times at 7am on Wednesday, breathlessly saying that his collogue had passed away 30 minutes before.
Rabie’ Al-Zuraiqi, 23, who was at the hospital and gasping in pain, told the Yemen Times that this was the third time he had been injured by security forces since the anti-government protests began. Al-Zuraiqi was hit by rocks during clashes on Rubbat Street and shocked by a taser in Change Square. On Tuesday night he was exposed to gas and struck by a rubber bullet.
He told the doctor that he could hardly breathe and that his chest felt “strangled.”
“I am the coordinator of the organizing committee at the protest. I was the one who told the media committee to call people in to support Sheikh Khalid Al-Qairi from Khawlan, so as to help get his tents on to the campus,” said Al-Zuraiqi. “When I went with other people to protest, they had already started shooting. I immediately started carrying one of the injured to the medical tent. When I returned, I was shot by a rubber bullet at the base of my spine and was exposed to the gas. They say it’s tear gas, though it’s not. I can’t move my body. I went into a coma for more than four hours and I can’t see well now. I also have internal bleeding after being exposed to the gas,” Al- Zuraiqi explained.
At the medical committee tent and at the field hospital, people were exhausted from the previous night. Some had not yet slept because they were still treating people. Dr. Amaar Nujaim, one of the field doctors, confirmed that the gas used against the protesters was unknown. “The material in this gas makes people convulse for hours. It paralyzes them. They couldn’t move at all. We tried to give them oxygen but it didn’t work,” he said.
One of the paramedics told the Yemen Times that they had set up a medical tent on Freedom Street – the thoroughfare where the shooting started – to provide emergency first aid to injured people. “When we put up the tent, security targeted us. They even stunned a paramedic with a taser,” he said.
|Protesters run from soldiers firing gas into crowds.
Majid Al-Awaj, a protester from Nihm, was also exposed to the gas. He said that this attack will increase the demands of the revolution. “We demand that Saleh be tried by the International Criminal Court,” said Al-Awaj.
When the attack began, a Facebook campaign was initiated so as to keep people informed of the latest injuries coming from Change Square. It relayed what surgery equipment was required at the field hospital and called for donations from certain blood groups. On Wednesday, the doctors from the field hospital confirmed that they had only managed to deal with the situation because of the help they received from the community.
At Change Square on Wednesday morning, groups of protesters were cleaning up the mess from the previous night. Others were looking tired and sad in their tents. A women was crying, looking for her son that she had sent to take food to the protesters and had never returned. By the media center tent, many tribesmen were checking the list of wounded to see if it included any members of their tribe. Two men from the Hamadan tribe left the tent with sad faces after it was confirmed that the only person who was killed, Ali Mohammad Mutliq, was from their tribe.
Abdu Al-Salam Al-Zubairy, an anti-government protester who left his business in Qatar to join the demonstrations on the first day, told the Yemen Times that he had been told by a well-informed source on Monday that security forces would attack the protesters. “I wasn’t at the protest when the attack began, as I had been personally informed,” said Al-Zubairy. “I had to take my children home at 8pm. But I did inform the protesters’ security committee,” he said.
Dr.Abdallah Dahan, head of the field hospital at the anti-government protest said that the gas used may have been a combination of nerve and tear gas. “It’s definitely not tear gas, I had some suspicion that its nerve gas based on the symptoms but we need a blood test to know for sure,”
Sami Zaid, a doctor at the Science and Technology hospital in Sana’a said, “This gas, for sure, is some kind of nerve gas. It’s not tear gas because all the symptoms are seen on nerves only but not on the respiratory system. I’m 90% sure its nerve gas.