'AMRAN, YEMEN — The offensive war on Yemen, the most impoverished nation in the Middle East, was launched in 2015 by a U.S.-backed coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, the richest nation in the Middle East. It has plunged a nation already struggling to provide basic services to its citizens into chaos, a nation now ruled by a ragtag consortium of different groups all thirsting for power. The result? A complete absence of law and order that has given rise to a black Suq (market) of human trafficking on a scale never before seen in Yemen.
Thirty-five-year-old Tawfiq hails from Amran, a small city in west-central Yemen famous for its ancient mud-brick high-rises dating back two millennia to the Sabean kingdom. Tawfiq was among 17 Yemeni victims of human trafficking who agreed to speak to MintPress about their harrowing ordeals. In 2016, Tawfiq — desperate to bring money home to his family, as the then-fledgling war decimated the already shaky Yemeni economy — was told by a friend that he could earn as much as $7,000 for one of his kidneys. Days later Tawfiq was on a bus to Saudi Arabia, traveling through al-Wadeeah port on the Yemen-Saudi border.
Today, Tawfiq suffers from complications arising from his kidney extraction and is now unable to carry heavy objects. He told MintPress, “I thought that removing a kidney would be a simple arrangement, but now I live in a hell of pain and suffering.” Tawfiq’s operation was crude and involved no follow-up care.
Ismail, the owner of a small electronics store in Taiz, told MintPress, as he pointed to the place where one of his kidneys use to reside, “I needed money to feed my children.” Ismail hesitated while he recounted his story, worried that the shame of what he had done would reach his family. Yet thousands of Yemeni civilians who are living in abject poverty as a result of the ongoing war are willing to allow a part of themselves to be cut out and sold in order to be able to sustain their families.
Ali al-Jailai, head of the Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking, told MintPress that the wave of famine that hit the country in 2015, when the Saudi-led war began, has augmented Yemen’s human trafficking network and left women and children the most vulnerable.
“A while back there was a case of a man who was traveling to Egypt to sell his kidney,” al-Jailai told MintPress. “We talked to him and tried to persuade him not to go, but he refused; he needed the money.” With an economy now decimated by more than four years of war, many working-class Yemenis have abandoned hopes of working a normal job and instead turn to one of the few options that remain: to sign up for the fight against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or to sell their organs to survive.
Over 20 million Yemenis are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. Salaries for teachers and other public-sector workers have not been paid regularly since the war began and Saudi Arabia seized control of Yemen’s Central Bank, leaving vulnerable populations at increased risk of falling victim to human trafficking.'
Read more: Human Trafficking is Booming in Yemen as the War Enters its Fifth Year
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