The Unending Journey of Qasim

Wednesday, August 30, 2023
The Unending Journey of Qasim

As usual, every morning Qasim Yahya (a pseudonym- 42 years old), would leave his house located in one of the streets of Ibb city at 6:30 a.m. He heads towards his private school, which he co-founded with a friend in 2012.

After the morning assembly and making sure all the teachers and students are present, he returns home to have breakfast with his wife. Then, he goes back to the school, where he stays until the end of official working hours, and both teachers and students leave before he does.

Qasim has three children. The oldest is 17 years old, and the youngest is 9 years old. 

On Saturday, March 19th, 2016, after the morning assembly, Qasim left school, had breakfast with his wife, and then left for his school again. However, no students or staff saw him after that.

His brother Aiban (a pseudonym), who also worked at the school, became concerned. He went to their home and asked Yasmin and her mother about him. His wife replied that he went to school. Aiban told her that he had just come from the school, and Qasim wasn't there.

Aiban felt puzzled, afraid, and anxious for his older brother. Questions swirled in his mind. Where did he go? Is he alright? Why didn't he contact us as he usually does when he has work outside the school? Could he have gone to the village to visit their mother?

With no answers to these questions, Aiban decided to start searching for his brother. He contacted Qasim's close friends and his mother, who told him that he hadn't visited her. She hadn't seen him since Friday evening when they both left their father's house in the village, where Qasim usually visits his mother every Thursday morning and stays until Friday evening before returning home.

Worry and fear consumed Aiban even more. He contacted all of Qasim's friends, but they confirmed not having seen him for days. Grief overcame Aiban, especially because Qasim had raised him and taken care of him, being four years his senior, along with looking after his sisters. He struggled to overcome the idea that his brother would return soon.

Two weeks after Qasim's disappearance and after exhausting all nearby possibilities to find out his fate, Aiban decided to expand the search. He contacted some relatives affiliated with the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group in the Ibb governorate office, asking for their help.

After a month of Qasim’s disappearance, a relative informed the family that Qasim was held in the Political Security Prison in Ibb, and he was in good condition. He assured them not to worry. However, Qasim’s siblings were not allowed to visit him except for his mother and wife, who were granted three visits during his first three months of detention.

Afterward, his siblings and children were allowed to visit him once every two weeks. Five months later, the family was permitted to visit him once a week. This pattern continued for over two years, during which his siblings would visit him to inquire about his health and daily needs.

Despite all this, the worried family could not find a single justification for the detention of their provider or the complete circumstances of his detention. They sought his release by reaching out to relatives associated with the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group, but they were only reassured that he would be released soon, that it was just a matter of time, and he would be among them.

The grieving family waited until they were informed by one of their friends, who had a connection with the political security in Ibb, that Qasim was transferred to a prison belonging to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group in Dhamar governorate in July 2019.

Days later, Qasim called one of his relatives from an unknown number, asking for financial support and confirming that he was imprisoned in Dhamar. When asked about his exact location in Dhamar, Qasim replied 'Dhamar and that’s it.'

In August 2019, Qasim made another call to one of his relative, requesting money and clothes. Qasim told his relative that they should deliver the items to him in Taiz. The Ansar Allah (Houthi) group had moved him from Dhamar to the Al-Saleh prison in northern Taiz.

His relative went to Taiz on the day of the call. He requested permission to visit Qasim from the prison guards but was told to wait until the next day for an authorized visit. He handed over the clothes to the prison administration while keeping the money with him. As he was leaving, he managed to catch a glimpse of Qasim in one of the rooms on the fourth floor. Qasim waved at him.

Qasim's relative decided to stay in Taiz until the next morning to visit him. However, at 10:00 p.m., he received a call from the same number Qasim had called from before, informing him that he had been moved again to an undisclosed detention facility.

Another week passed of this new enforced disappearance of Qasim. He called his relative again and told him that he had been transferred to another prison of Ansar Allah (Houthi) group in Dhamar. He asked for financial support through Kurami money exchange company under an unknown person's name. The money was sent as requested. After another seven days, Qasim called again, requesting funds using the same method. After that, there were no more updates from him.

On the first Sunday of September 2019, Qasim's family was shocked to find his name listed among the deceased victims of an airstrike carried out by the Saudi/UAE-led coalition. The attack targeted the community college building in Dhamar governorate on Saturday, August 31st. The building was being used by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group as a detention center.

Although the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group did not officially inform them of this devastating news, the family visited hospitals in Dhamar to verify the information. However, they found no trace of Qasim's body or any information confirming the news they had received. After twenty days of continuous useless searching, they returned empty-handed.

As of writing this blog post, Qasim's family is still awaiting any news about their provider. They hope for the day he returns and knocks on their door, welcomed by his daughter.