Death in Sana’a – a first-hand account

September 21, 2011 7:41 pm0 commentsViews:

The march started from al-Qadisiyya roundabout heading in the direction of al-Qa’ , and passing through Zira’a Street. As we were walking through Zira’a Street we began to notice that Central Security Force (CSF) units were located at every junction and on every side-street. I was walking in a group just behind those at the front of the march, and when those at the front reached Kahraba’a Junction in al-Qa’ (on the way to Kentucky Junction), they clashed with the CSF. The CSF began to use water-cannons to spray the crowd, and also used tear gas. The march was actually able to get through this attack and proceed, but then the gunfire started, and in my opinion this was why so many martyrs fell that day.

The group who were in front of us stopped in horror at what was going on, some began to retreat, but those at the very front continued to press forward, causing the CSF to retreat. The gap that now appeared between the protesters that had carried on forward and those who had stopped gave the CSF their opportunity.

I learned from the Television Street march [12 people died on this march in April] that when we are attacked with bullets we must not retreat, as the disjointedness results in heavier losses. So in this instance, along with a couple of other guys, I quickly shouted at the protesters not to retreat. We shouted ‘don’t turn back’, ‘God is great’ and ‘peaceful, peaceful’, in an attempt to encourage the youth to continue.

Of course, throughout this period the gunfire was continuous, they were hitting us with anti-aircraft guns, and we were responding with rocks and anything we could put our hands on that we could throw, even sticks! A lot of people started getting on their knees and praying quickly as the bombardment carried on around them.

We continued walking forward at the junction, but as I kept moving forward it was noticeable that the number of those with me was becoming less and less, and a lot of people were staying rooted to the spot. I carried on and passed Kahraba’a Junction, and there I saw a number of youth attacking the Electricity building, as some of the gunfire was coming from there, and eventually it was set alight after some of the youths threw Molotovs.

Whilst walking I was continuing to film the scenes with my phone. I attempted to film what was going on, but the constant SMS messages that I was receiving from my friends attempting to check up on me kept on stopping the filming.

After I passed the Electricity building in al-Qa’ I stopped and thought to myself, ‘and now what?’ So we stopped and began randomly chanting, everyone saying whatever came into his head. I was screaming without even thinking what I was saying. When I was looking at the videos I took after I noticed that at one stage I was just shouting ‘death, death’! Of course, at these moments all I could see around me was blood on the ground and in different places, and also the injured being carried away in front of me with all kinds of different bullet wounds.

After this I returned to my previous spot, which wasn’t too far away, about 20 to 25 metres. I thought that I may as well film whilst the remainder of the protesters were blocked from going any further than the junction.

I went back a bit and noticed that one man was putting onion up his nose! This was of course as a result of the tear gas. When I saw him I took out of my pocket a can of Pepsi that I has prepared for this kind of circumstance. It might sound strange, but Pepsi is very useful when confronted with tear gas. I gave this man some Pepsi, he washed his face with it, and thankfully he got better and went on his way.

When I returned to the junction I saw the CSF positioned a short distance away attacking the protesters with tear gas. People were trying to cover the gas canisters with anything they had, even small pieces of cloth, so that the gas would not spread and so that they could remove it away from the protest. At this stage I felt a burning sensation in my eyes and could not understand what was going on at all. I felt as if I were about to faint, swayed slightly, and was about to fall, but I remembered that I had the Pepsi with me so I opened it quickly whilst I had my eyes closed. I washed my face quickly and thankfully after this I was able to open my eyes and quickly moved on. At this stage, many protesters were feeling the effect of the tear gas and anyone who had washed their face with Pepsi or used onions would pass it on to someone who needed help.

After I had passed the Electricity building I was back at the front of the march, and the people there were ready to continue marching to Kentucky Junction. I went right to the front of the march so that I could take some photographs of the start of the march and the CSF who were in front of them at a short distance.

The Organising Committee began to start chants to raise the spirits of those at the front of the protest, such as ‘It’s for God, it’s for God, not for power or prestige’ and ‘God is great, Peaceful!’

At that moment I got a phone call from my uncle who asked me where I was and if the march had continued or not. He then told me that my father had been injured and was at the field hospital. I was shocked and couldn’t speak for a few seconds, I couldn’t even think of anything to say. So I said ‘Thank God’ – people have sacrificed their lives and they now have their reward.

After receiving the phone call it was as if I could not comprehend the situation, so I stayed where I was and started to check if the march had continued on or not. Amazingly, some had managed to carry on and continue.

My uncle called me again to confirm that my father was in the field hospital, he told me to go to the field hospital calmly and to not scare people. After I began to move I noticed that a riot police vehicle that had initially stopped the protest had re-appeared again. This was the same vehicle that had sprayed the protesters with sewage water (everyone present confirmed this, the smell of the water was vile).

The distance between where I was, at Kentucky Junction, to the field hospital was around 2 kilometres. The whole distance all I could hear was the sound of gunfire and the bombardment against the peaceful protesters. I remember that as I walked next to the University of Sana’a’s old campus I saw an tank belonging to the pro-revolution 1st Armoured Brigades sat in its place, not engaging the CSF despite the attacks on the protesters. Eventually those inside the tank decided to fire into the air so as to scare the armed thugs and the CSF.

As I continued I saw two men prostrating themselves on the ground, thanking God for their safety. This encouraged me to do the same so I went forward and joined them, thanking God for my safety, and that my father had survived. I then uttered a prayer that I had often heard my mother say, ‘Oh God, as he has shown his power against us, show us your power against him,’ and I continued on my way.

On the road to the main field hospital I realised that emergency field hospitals had been set up in various different places to deal with the sheer number of injured people. At the field hospital itself they initially refused to let me go inside because of the large number of people already inside. I eventually managed to get inside and started to look for my father from place to place and from ambulance to ambulance.

Thankfully I was able to find him just as he was being taken into an ambulance to go to Azal Hospital. He had been hit by a bullet that had entered the bottom of his left thigh and exited at the other side, and a piece of shrapnel that had become lodged just above his knee. Thankfully he is now feeling better and has left the hospital due to the large number of new cases that they are receiving. He still has to return in three days time so that the piece of shrapnel can be removed.

Me and my father were some of the lucky ones, many of those with us on Sunday’s march have not lived to tell their tale.

Hamza Shiban

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