Yemen in Focus: Sudan troops exit deadly war

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - The Sudanese Elite Brigades relinquished control to Yemen’s Joint Forces and left via the port of Mokha, Almasdar Online reported, quoting an anonymous military official from Yemen’s ministry of defence.

The Sudanese Elite Brigades is the last battalion to leave Yemen, where it has bolstered a Saudi-led military coalition supporting the government against rebels.

Earlier this month, Hamdok announced that the number of troops in Yemen had decreased from 15,000 to 5,000.

His announcement was the first time an official had provided figures on the number of Sudanese soldiers involved in Yemen's civil war.

"We believe that the solution in Yemen is a political solution," he added.

Hamdok assumed his role in a transition government in September, following the April ouster of president Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir, who led the country with an iron-fist after taking power in a 1989 coup, made the decision to send soldiers to Yemen to help fight the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Subsequent Sudanese casualties – images of whom circulated online – prompted calls for their withdrawal.

Both Abu Dhabi and Khartoum have pulled out troops in recent months but neither have committed to quitting the war.

At home, however, the involvement of Sudanese troops in Yemen is deeply unpopular, with protesters having demanded the withdrawal of soldiers during mass demonstrations earlier this year.

8e322f2dd1.jpg It is estimated that hundreds or even thousands of Sudanese have been killed in fighting in Yemen... children may even be among the dead 32ad151612.jpg

It is estimated that hundreds or even thousands of Sudanese have been killed in fighting in Yemen. According to a report by The New York Times last year, children may even be among the dead.

Riyadh allegedly offered impoverished Sudanese families up to $10,000 to send their children to fight in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has officially denied the reports.

Many had been brought in from the Darfur region of the west of Sudan, where some 300,000 people were killed and 1.2 million displaced during years of conflict.

The report said that children made up at least 20 percent, and sometimes 40 percent, of the Sudanese battalion in Yemen.

Houthi siege

Meanwhile, Houthi rebels imposed a deadly siege on a village in the eastern Dhamar governorate on Wednesday, killing an elderly man and injuring others in the raid.

The rebels launched the offensive on the Al-Masaqara village in a bid to capture a senior tribal figure, local reports confirmed.

More than 140 civilians, including children, were detained in the assault, which saw the rebels unleash machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades, Yemen’s ministry of human rights said.

The civilians were transferred to the Al-Marada’a prison in the Al-Hada district, the ministry added. 

A similar attack was launched by the rebels in the neighbouring Dhamar city in September, which prompted a Saudi-led coalition strike on the detention centre, killing at least 60 people and injuring 50 others.

The location of the detention centre in Dhamar was known to the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the coalition, Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi spokesman said in the aftermath of the strike.

Elsewhere in Houthi-controlled areas, the rebels imposed a new income tax on doctors working in private hospitals, local media reported.

leftQuots.png The rebels imposed a new income tax on doctors working in private hospitals rightQuots.png

The Tax Authority in the rebel-held capital announced the move this week, which stipulates mandatory tax for all doctors conducting surgeries on patients in private hospitals.

A four percent discount is awarded to doctors with a registered tax number, Al-Masdar Online reported, quoting an unnamed source.

The source also revealed a campaign of harassment by the Houthi authority targeting specialist doctors in government and private hospitals with the aim of forcing the medics to treat wounded rebel militia free of charge.

The source also added that doctors not employed by the government sector are obligated to work in government hospitals. Those who refuse risk losing their licence to practice the profession, the source added.

The rebel-held ministry of health also ordered private hospitals to suspend doctors who are not showing up for work at their government jobs and warned a 500,000 Yemeni rial fine for ignoring directives.

Doctors working in the government sector have been forced to search for private jobs elsewhere amid a salary crisis which saw millions of public servant employees fail to receive regular wages since the start of the conflict.

Pay to pray?

Last week, Yemeni worshippers attending a mosque in Sanaa were ordered by Houthi rebels to pay to use the premises, according to a notice pinned to the gate of the religious institution that has since gone viral online.

Mosque-goers wishing to pray the early morning dawn prayer must pay 100 Yemeni rials ($0.40), while those attending all other prayers during the week, including Friday prayers, have been told to pay 50 Yemeni rials ($0.20).

Praying the traditional Tarawih night prayers during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan requires 100 Yemeni rials, the notice says. 

A monthly subscription fee of 4,000 Yemeni rials ($16) could be paid for regular attendees of the mosque, the notice adds.

The Houthi supervisor at the mosque has justified the absurd move to pay for the runnings costs of the institution, including the electricity and water bills.

However, not all prayers require a fee.

The notice says all those intending to pay the prayer of the dead as per traditions of Islamic funerals, may do so free of charge, only if the deceased is from the same family.

leftQuots.png These criminal practices that have reached an unprecedented level of recklessness and disregard for the suffering of the people and the deliberate humiliation of people rightQuots.png

Yemen's Minister of Information Muammar Al-Eryani weighed in on the debate with a tweet in which he slams as never having "occurred throughout all stages of history", he added.

"These criminal practices that have reached an unprecedented level of recklessness and disregard for the suffering of the people and the deliberate humiliation of people." 

The minister called on Yemenis in Houthi-controlled areas to "catch up with the Arab uprisings" and "regain their dignity and overthrow this criminal gang", referring to the Houthis.

Read more: Prolonged Yemen war could cost billions in aid as humanitarian crisis charges on

Complicit

Meanwhile, a group of human rights organisations have filed a 300-page document to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing European arms companies – including British giant BAE Systems – of being linked to war crimes in Yemen's brutal war.

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The human-rights groups, including Amnesty International and Campaign Against the Arms Trade, met prosecutors in The Hague on Wednesday to hand over the file.

"An ICC investigation would be an historic step towards holding arms company executives accountable for their business decisions," Patrick Wilcken, Arms Control Researcher at Amnesty International, said on Thursday.

"The reality is that everybody involved in selling weapons to the Saudi Arabia/UAE-led coalition bears some responsibility for how those weapons are used. This includes company executives as well as government officials."

leftQuots.png The reality is that everybody involved in selling weapons to the Saudi Arabia/UAE-led coalition bears some responsibility for how those weapons are used rightQuots.png

The dossier compiled by the rights' groups alleges that missiles, aircraft and other arms made by 10 companies "contributed to the capacity" of the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict.

The groups accused Saudi Arabia of bombing schools, hospitals and civilians in 26 strikes, which killed more than 135 civilians. Remnants of bombs made by companies in Europe were found at each of the sites.

BAE Systems is cited in the document as the principal supplier of Eurofighter Tornado and Typhoon jet aircrafts to the Saudi air force.

The UK arm of Raytheon, which manufactures Paveway IV guided missiles used in the conflict, was also mentioned.

The dossier says that BAE Systems "purposely intended" to supply Riyadh with arms even after company bosses would have been aware of an "abundance of reporting on the violations being committed", according to The Guardian.

France's Dassault and Thales, Italy's Leonardo, and Airbus companies in Spain and Germany were also referenced in the report.

"Any company executive can read a newspaper and understand that the human rights risk assessments of some European governments have failed catastrophically," said Patrick Wilcken.

"Company executives have had ample time and access to plenty of reliable information to reassess their decisions to supply the Coalition in the light of the horrific events in Yemen. Hiding behind flawed government decision-making is not good enough – now they could face criminal charges before an international criminal court."

The UK government has since 2015 doubled the value of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been involved in a five-year bombing campaign in neighbouring Yemen.

Government data showed that London licensed £5.3 million ($6.85 million) worth of arms sales to Riyadh from March 2015 until March 2019, amounting to almost a 50 percent increase on the value of arms licences, which stood at £3.8 million ($4.8 million) prior to the Yemen conflict. 

A UK court ruled in June that it was illegal for the government to licence weapons exports to Saudi Arabia without first assessing whether there was an "historic pattern of breaches of international humanitarian law" by the Saudi-led coalition.

The Yemen conflict was sparked after Houthi rebels overran the capital Sanaa and other major cities in 2014, prompting the military intervention of neighbouring Saudi Arabia just months later, which coordinated a coalition of Arab states to reinstate the internationally-recognised government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The deadly war has killed more than 91,000, according to figures by ACLED, and has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

Sana Uqba is a journalist at The New Arab. 

Follow her on Twitter: @Sanasiino 

Yemen In Focus is a new, regular feature from The New Arab. Read the full archive here:

Yemen in Focus

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