#21. The Scourge of Human Trafficking in Yemen

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Owing to the war launched in 2015 by a US-backed coalition of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen now suffers from “a complete absence” of law and order, which has given rise to what Ahmed Abdulkareem described for MintPress News as “a black Suq (market) of human trafficking on a scale never before seen in Yemen.” Abdulkareem’s report is partly based on the accounts of seventeen Yemeni victims of human trafficking who agreed to speak to MintPress News about their ordeals.

Due to lack of educational opportunities and economic collapse, Yemeni people are literally sacrificing their bodies to provide for their families. Between 2015 and 2017, more than ten thousand cases of organ sales have been documented by the Yemen Organization for Combating Human Trafficking, a Sana’a-based NGO. Actual figures are almost certainly higher, because many cases go unreported owing to the practice being illegal, religious concerns, and the stigma of the practice in a conservative society.

In one interview, a 35-year-old man named Tawfiq described selling one of his kidneys to sustain his family. He was relatively fortunate, because many Yemenis die in the process due to illegal, unprofessional procedures. Another Yemeni, named Aisha, who was forced to sell one of her kidneys, told MintPress News that she was paid $5000, though her kidney was sold for $30,000 on the black market.

A Yemeni named Maha told MintPress News that Yemeni brokers help secure passports by contacting staff members from the Yemeni Consulate in Saudi Arabia, who work together with a dealer from the organ black market. They produce a formal medical report to make it appear that the organ is from a legal donor. This clears the way for the sale of kidneys and other organs to neighboring countries.

A Yemeni family, who asked to remain anonymous, told MintPress News how their son was kidnapped. After the body was found, an autopsy showed that the boy’s heart had been removed, presumably to be sold on the black market.

Trafficking involves not only human organs but also sexual exploitation. As Abdulkareem reported, trafficked Yemeni women are subjected to rape, violence, extreme cruelty, and other forms of coercion. Female trafficking victims who spoke to MintPress News reported being forced into prostitution networks in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. From a rehabilitation center in Sana’a, one trafficking victim said that she was now afraid to return home for fear of being killed for violating her family’s honor.

As Abdulkareem reported, the blockade levied against Yemen by the Saudi Coalition since 2015 has helped human trafficking flourish. Under blockade, Yemenis are no longer able to flee violence there or able to travel to neighboring wealthy Gulf countries for work. Furthermore, although Yemen’s laws prohibit trafficking and those who are found guilty are sentenced to ten years in prison, these laws go unenforced, in part because government officials themselves appear to be directly involved in the trafficking and illegal organ sales.

Although US corporate news media have reported on forced labor, sexual exploitation, and the organ trade elsewhere in the Middle East, they appear to have devoted no specific coverage to the unprecedented scale of human trafficking taking place in Yemen.

Ahmed Abdulkareem, “Human Trafficking is Booming in Yemen as the War Enters Its Fifth Year,” MintPress News, September 13, 2019, https://www.mintpressnews.com/human-trafficking-booming-yemen-war/261818/.

Student Researcher: Carlos Alfonso Gutierrez (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Amal Munayer (Sonoma State University)