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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Activists urge rescue of abused five-year-old Yemeni girl in Sanaa

Social media campaign calls for international rights groups to intervene

A general view of the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen on March 27, 2018. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
A general view of the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen on March 27, 2018. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

Pictures and footage of a five-year-old Yemeni girl with severe bruises on her face have enraged human rights activists who accuse her parents in rebel-held Sanaa of abuse.

Activists launched a social media campaign on Wednesday morning, urging international rights groups to rescue a girl named Shayma, who lives in the Old City.

“Shayma, only 5 years old, is living in Ghargat Al Kaleis in old Sanaa and appeared in a video complaining of being exposed to brutal beatings by her father and mother,” Nada Al Ahdal, director of the child rights Nada Foundation, told The National.

Activists say that the Iran-backed rebels, who control Sanaa, temporarily arrested the parents and took Shayma into custody. However, the parents were released without charge. Some have accused the pair of bribing officials and using connections to get their daughter back, although The National could not confirm this.

“Shayma appeared in a video recorded by a neighbour showing her with bruises and abrasions,” said Ms Al Ahdal.

“Using innocent words she is describing her father beating her face, pushing her against the walls and cupboards and pulling her hair. She also had burn marks on her arms.”

Mohammed Al Muradi, who shared Shayma’s story on Facebook, blamed authorities in Sanaa for not doing anything to help the girl. He urged them to save Shayma’s life “before her father kills her”.

“I spent more than 70,000 Yemeni rials [Dh1,027] on phone calls to try and reach security in Sanaa and UN human rights organisations but it is of no use and they did not take the matter seriously,” Mr Muradi said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

Shayma was reportedly raised by her grandfather until the age of three. After he died, her parents, who had remarried after divorcing when Shayma was an infant, took her back in.

“Her father is known for his psychological problems, while her mother has criminal records,” said Ms Al Ahdal. “Her mother was recently serving time in the central prison in Sanaa.

“The neighbours near Shayma’s house confirmed that the little girl’s parents beat her every day in an extremely brutal manner.”

Mohammed Al Hakami, a Sanaa-based human rights activist, told The National that Shayma’s story has sparked a wave of anger in the capital, which he said is what prompted the Houthis to initially arrest the parents.

“Her mother was released shortly afterwards because she is pregnant.”