In the last nine months, Houthi rebels have killed 194 children in the Yemeni city of Taiz, according to a human rights report issued by the Council of Civil and Social Union in Yemen. The report, which was released at the opening of a new exhibit at Gateway Center in New York, also said that more than 60 children were killed by Arab-led Coalition airstrikes targeting gatherings of Iranian-backed Houthis rebels there.
The gallery featured more than 50 photos of purported crimes and violations against children and civilians committed by the Houthi rebels and former President Ali Saleh’s forces in Taiz. The show was held on Saturday and organized by the Yemeni American Coalition.
The exhibit was named after words spoken by a 6-year-old boy, Fareed Shawky. He died last month from injuries sustained from Houthi and Saleh militia shelling. “Please don’t bury me,” Shawky said to the doctors and family members in the emergency room in Taiz before he died. His words were painted in red at the entrance of the gallery.
Taiz, which is located in the southwestern region of Yemen, is the third largest city in the country. It is considered the cultural capital of Yemen. As part of the current conflict in Yemen, the city is enduring ongoing clashes between Houthis and Saleh rebels versus the government forces and the Arab-led coalition, which is carrying out airstrikes in Yemen in response to requests for assistance from the Yemeni president.
The photo show organizers decided to focus on Houthi crimes in the country, as they believe that the media is not aware of them. “Search ‘Crimes in Yemen’ in Google, you will find 98 percent of the results about Saudi crimes,” said Summer Nasser, an event organizer. “People should know about Houthi crimes as well.”
The gallery had pictures of severely wounded children, abandoned demolished buildings, mothers hugging their dead children, bodies being buried in a mass grave and many more haunting images of the current war in Yemen.
One powerful image was of a mother embracing a little shoe, which was all that remained of her son who was killed by a Houthi sniper in Taiz on Sept. 26. Another one was of a child who lost a foot when Houthi mortar shells fell on his neighborhood in the Yemeni highlands. “We decided to make this art gallery in a special place in Manhattan to show the world Houthi crimes in Taiz,” said Abdulslam Almubarez, president of the Yemeni American Association.
Khalid Al Yamani, the Yemeni ambassador to the United Nations, said in a press conference at the gallery that Houthis and Saleh are punishing and attacking Taiz because of its important role in the 2011 revolution. “It is a revenge,” said Al Yamani.
In February 2011, after the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, thousands of Yemenis gathered in the capital of Yemen, protesting against corruption and demanding that Saleh resign. By the end of the year, Gulf countries proposed an initiative to solve the conflict with a smooth transition of power. Based on the initiative, all factions of Yemen agreed upon a national dialogue to draft a new constitution.
In September 2014, Houthis interrupted the transition by starting a coup against the legitimate government and took over the capital Sana’a with the help of the ousted president, Saleh. As a result, 10 Arab countries launched an air campaign last March targeting Houthis and aiming to restore the legitimate government to Yemen.
Ibraham Al Qatabi, a legal advocate at the Center for Constitutional Rights, asked the Yemeni UN ambassador about the government efforts to prosecute the former president at the International Court of Justice in Hague. Al Yamani said that he is currently working with the human rights minister on this case and urged Al Qatabi to contribute. He also asked those gathered at the press conference, about 50 Yemeni activists, to donate to the people in Yemen. “Any tiny effort is very positive, and it sends a good message to our families in Taiz,” said Al Yamani.