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The Scourge of Human Trafficking in Yemen

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Owing to the war launched in 2015 by a US-backed coalition of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen now suffers from “a complete absence” of law and order, which has given rise to what Ahmed Abdulkareem described for MintPress News as “a black Suq (market) of human trafficking on a scale never before seen in Yemen.” Abdulkareem’s report is partly based on accounts of 17 Yemeni victims of human trafficking who agreed to speak to MintPress about their ordeals.

Due to lack of educational opportunities and economic collapse, Yemeni people are literally sacrificing their bodies to provide for their families. Between 2015-2017, more than 10,000 cases of organ sales have been documented by the Yemen Organization for Combating Human Trafficking, a Sana’a-based NGO. Actual figures are almost certainly higher, because many cases go unreported owing to the practice being illegal, religious concerns, and the stigma of the practice in a conservative society.

In one interview, a 35-year-old man named Tawfiq described selling his kidney to sustain his family. He has relatively fortunate, because many Yemenis die in the process due to illegal, unprofessional procedures. Another Yemeni, named Aisha, who was forced to sell her kidney, told MintPress News that she was paid just $5,000 when her kidney would sell for a price of $30,000 on the black market.

A Yemeni named Maha told MintPress News that Yemeni brokers help secure passports by contacting staff members from the Yemeni Consulate in Saudi Arabia, who work together with a dealer from the organ black market. They make a formal medical report to make it appear that the organ is from a legal donor. This allows them to sell kidneys and other organs to neighboring countries.

A Yemeni family, who asked to remain anonymous, told MintPress News how their son was kidnapped. Days later, after the body was found, an autopsy showed that the boy’s heart had been removed, presumably to be sold on the black market.

Trafficking involves not only human organs but also sexual exploitation. As Abdulkareem reported, trafficked Yemeni women are subjected to rape, violence, extreme cruelty, and other forms of coercion. Female trafficking victims who spoke to MintPress reported being forced into prostitution networks in Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis. From a rehabilitation center in Sana`a, one trafficking victim told MintPress that, having been forced into sex work, she was now afraid to return to her home for fear of being killed for violating her family’s honor.

As Abdulkareem reported, the blockade levied against Yemen by the Saudi Coalition since 2015 has helped human trafficking flourish. Under blockade, Yemenis are no longer able to flee violence their or able to travel to neighboring wealthy Gulf countries for stints of work. Furthermore, although Yemen’s laws prohibit trafficking and those who are found guilty are sentenced to ten years in prison, but these laws go unenforced, in part because law enforcement officers, like teachers and other public-sector employees, have not been paid wages consistently since the war started in 2015.

Source: Ahmed Abdulkareem, “Human Trafficking is Booming in Yemen as the War Enters its Fifth Year,” MintPress News, September 13, 2019, https://www.mintpressnews.com/human-trafficking-booming-yemen-war/261818/.

Student Researcher: Carlos Alfonso Gutierrez (Sonoma State University)

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