HODEIDA, YEMEN– The Saudi-led Coalition kidnapped more than 170 Yemeni fishermen and seized their boats while they were fishing near the port city of Hodeida this past week. To demonstrate clearly that they posed no threat, the fishermen hung large white flags on the back of their boats and waved fish in the air as Coalition military vessels approached their boats.
“A gunboat approached and forced us to get off the boat, then a Saudi soldier told us to follow them to the warship. I managed to escape but the others could not,” Salem Arud told MintPress. “We are not Houthis, just poor fishermen who went out to make a living in the sea.”
“All told, 174 fishermen and 10 boats were abducted by Saudi-led forces,” Mohammed al-Hassani, head of the Forum of Tahamah Fishermen, told MintPress. “Despite Sweden’s truce, Coalition forces have continued to prevent Yemeni fishermen from fishing and if the fishermen dare to sail, they will be killed or detained.”
After a ceasefire agreement for the port city of Hodeida was reached in Sweden late last year, thousands of fishermen decided to take their small boats into deeper waters off of Hodeida’s coast, but have faced arrest or even been the target of airstrikes by the Saudi-led Coalition.
Meanwhile, the families of the kidnapped fishermen organized a protest asking the Coalition to release their loved ones. “Saudi forces kidnapped my sons. Their fate is still unknown,” a father of two fishermen told MintPress during the protest.
According to the Legal Center for Rights and Development in Yemen, a non-governmental organization monitoring human-rights violations, the destruction of 433 fishing boats by the Saudi-led Coalition has robbed many of Hodeida’s residents of their sole source of income and ability to feed their families.
The four-year war against Yemen has caused the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis, with two-thirds of the population — some 18 million people, including fishermen — relying on humanitarian aid to survive.
Watch | As Yemeni Fishermen Risk Their Lives to Feed Their Nation, Saudis Use Them for Target Practice
Feature photo | Fishing boats docked at the main fishing port, in Hodeida, Yemen, Sept. 29, 2018. Hani Mohammed | AP
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.