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Despite numerous government assurances and presidential instructions to protect and relocate the Jewish minority in Raidah village, 400 Yemeni Jewish citizens are now living in fear.
After the murder of a prominent figure among the Jewish community, Masha Al-Nahari, 30, the remaining members expressed their concern at the fact that the trial of the murderer has stalled – even as his tribe is threatening to eliminate the rest of the Yemeni Jews.
The majority of the Jewish men in Amran work in trade and vocational jobs such as cobblers or silversmiths. However, for the last two months they could not practice their usual routine and their children are no longer going to the community school fearing, as they fear they will be targeted by extremists from the neighboring villages.
Afraim Al-Nahri, a member of the community, explained that they had been living in peace with their Muslim neighbors until the recent event.
The recent war in Gaza increased hatred towards Yemeni Jews to the extent that some adults called them names and threw stones at them, according to a local journalist Mahmoud Taha. Amran security denied this, calling what happened as “children’s mischief.”
One week after the murder, a grenade was thrown at the house of Said Israel, a Yemeni Jew. There were no casualties but some material loss. This attack was also not investigated.
Moreover, former Rabbi Yahia bin Yaish said he received death threats by phone. He gave the numbers to security but identities of the callers were not revealed and no action was taken.
As a response to their demand for protection directly from President Saleh, the president instructed that the Jews relocate to Sana’a governorate. He ordered money for the burial of Masha Al-Nahari and a piece of land in Sana’a (about 222 square meters) for each Jewish family.
The president instructed that they move to apartments in the tourist city in Sana’a while the families manage to sell their old houses in Amran and build new ones on the lands they are supposed to get. However, many Jewish families did not want to move because the apartments in tourist city are quite small compared to the size of their families. Moreover, many did not want to leave their home.
Abraham bin Yahya bin Yusif, a member of the community, explained that local Sheikh Yahya Mujahid Abu Shawarib, who is a deputy at the National Security Apparatus, wants to facilitate the selling of the Jews’ homes and lands as well as their transfer to Sana’a where they can get better protection.
“How are we expected to start all over again?” said one of the Jews in the community about the suggested plan. “Even if they give us the lands, who will build the homes for us? And who will buy our homes and lands in the village at a decent price? It all seems very unreal and highly unpractical. Instead of protecting us in our own village, they are asking us to leave.”
“We want to stay in Yemen because this is our fathers’ land and we love it,” said Moshe’s father Yaish Al-Nahari.
In a press conference organized by the National Organization for Defending Human Rights and Freedoms, also known as HOOD, relatives of Al-Nahari explained their ordeal and how their lives and livelihoods are threatened every day.
HOOD has taken up representation of Masha’s family in court against the killer Abdul-Aziz Al-Abdi, a retired air force pilot with a master’s degree in electrical aviation machinery. Al-Abdi shot Nahari on Dec. 11, 2008 in broad day light while the later was leaving his house to buy some groceries from the market, according to his wife Lawza Al-Sulaimi.
“A few minutes after he left, I heard the shooting. Masha’s mother went out and came back yelling ‘they killed my son,’” she said.
Masha’s three year old son Yusif had followed his father out of the house. Yusif saw his father being shot in the back by a man they never saw before.
Al-Abdi, who was still standing there,
admitted to the murder when people gathereand reminded them that he had warned Masha three days earlier to either “convert to Islam, leave the country, or die.”
Al-Abdi has a criminal record stating that he killed his wife four years ago, but he was pardoned by paying blood money. His lawyers claim that he is schizophrenic according to previous reports in 2004 issued during the case of his wife’s murder by Al-Kholiadi Hospital for Psychological Diseases.
Moreover, the forensic report issued from the prosecution said that Al-Abdi suffers from paranoia with hallucinations. He planned the crime but he has delusional motives, the forensic report says.
According to lawyer Khaled Al-Anesi, executive director of HOOD, Yemeni law acknowledges insanity in the defense of murder only if it is total insanity, when a person “cannot differentiate between day and night.”
“If he is really crazy, why doesn’t he go about shooting everyone else, why only my Jewish son? And how does a mad person obtain a gun?” demanded an anguished Yaish Al-Nahari, Masha’s father.
The forensic report warns the accused is dangerous and may commit another crime. Therefore, he should be kept locked up in a mental sanitarium, the report recommends. Today, Al-Abdi remains in Amran under custody.
Lawyers of Masha’s family demanded the transfer of the trial from the Criminal Specialized Court in Amran to Sana’a on grounds of fear from being attacked by Al-Abdi’s tribe who showed harmful intentions towards the Jewish minority according to both Muslim and Jewish locals.
During court sessions the Jews were advised to hide their plaits so as not to be recognized and attacked. During one aggressive incident against the Jews, the judge imprisoned five of aggressors from Al-Abdi tribe, but they were released after a few hours without bail. Furthermore, according to Al-Anesi, the court did not send soldiers with the Jews to protect them during their journey back and forth to the trial sessions. The lawyers had to escort them to ensure their safety.
No response was received from the general prosecution or the Ministry of Justice concerning the court transfer’s request. Dr. Abdullah Al-Olfi, the general prosecutor, said that the transfer request is pending review by Justice Minister Ghazi Al-Aghbari, who wanted an official letter before responding to the query on the transfer.
People put in charge of managing living places for Jews such as Mohammed Bin Naji al-Shaif, the head of the human rights commission in the Parliament, denied that the places are small for the Jews. “We devoted 54 houses for 42 families, which means that extra housing can be used for the bigger families,” Al-Shaif said.
Al-Shaif said that the Jews did not come because they don’t want to leave their houses. “Four families took their keys and went back,” he said.
Al-Anesi and Taha blamed the public mass media, which generalized what happened in Gaza as being the fault of all Jews. Political parties and religious scholars stood still in this issue Al-Anesi stated, who said that he contacted all of them to help the Yemeni Jews. He added, “This is not a political issue, or international. It is Yemeni.”