Falling into the Surname Trap

Yasin Al-Mutawakel... Another Victim of Government Forces

Monday, September 4, 2023
Falling into the Surname Trap

In a heart-wrenching narrative, Ishraq Muhammad Al-Mutawakel recounts the ordeal of her brother, Yassin Al-Mutawakel, aged 48, who suffered enforced disappearance at the hands of forces associated with the internationally recognized government in Marib Governorate. Yassin's only "crime" was his surname. 

Ishraq vividly remembers Yassin expressing his intention to journey to the Oman border to purchase a car. She was filled with trepidation upon learning of his decision. She warned him of the dangers of this journey, fearing he might fall victim to his own surname, "Al- Mutawakel." However, Yassin responded with unwavering confidence, saying, "I have not partaken in the conflict, nor do I have any affiliations with the Houthis. Why should I fear?"

On the fateful day of May 6, 2021, which coincided with the 23rd of Ramadan, Yassin embarked on his journey through Dhamar, Al-Bayda, and Marib. Ishraq kept in constant contact with him throughout his travels, but she had an ominous feeling descended upon her. When Yassin reached the border of the Radaa area in Al Bayda, his phone had been switched off. Ten agonizing minutes turned into ten harrowing days, leaving Ishraq in a state of perpetual torment.

Her nights became as restless as her days. Tears flowed ceaselessly as her anguish deepened. The passing of Ramadan and the arrival of Eid brought no respite. Her elder brother, overwhelmed by the psychological anguish of Yassin's disappearance, suffered a debilitating stroke, rendering him unable to move or speak.

Eventually, through a stroke of luck, one of the family's acquaintances was released from government forces' prisons in Marib as part of a prisoner swap deal. Ishraq seized the opportunity and inquired about Yassin. To her relief, she received confirmation that he had been incarcerated in the same ward. The acquaintance advised her to find an exchange for Yassin's release.

Determined, Ishraq sought assistance from the Ministry of Human Rights of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group authority and the ICRC. They pledged their support, but their promises bore no fruit. Ishraq's son, fearful of sharing his uncle's fate due to their shared surname, dared not venture into the complexities of Yassin's case.

Ishraq's health also deteriorated, her blood pressure spiked due to the constant fear and sadness stemming from the plight of her two brothers. She found herself at a loss, abandoned by both sides of the ongoing conflict.

In her desperation, Ishraq turned to prayer as her last refuge. Recently, she received word from undisclosed sources that her brother had contracted pulmonary tuberculosis due to malnutrition in prison. 

Yassin finally contacted his family for the first time on August 17, 2023. He informed them that he was being hospitalized. His voice, though weary, brought immense joy to Ishraq's heart.