Statement of Abductees’ Mothers Association on the Locally Mediated Exchange in Taiz

 A continuous struggle carried out by Abductees’ Mothers Association for the sake of releasing the abducted civilians, gaining their freedom, returning them safely to the arms of their families, and reuniting them after years of absence and suffering.
 In the midst of these efforts, the local exchange process took place in Taiz last Wednesday, September 29, 2021, for 134 abductees and prisoners,63 civilian abductees, compared to 70 Houthi prisoners of war who were arrested with the army forces in Taiz.

 Abductees’ Mothers Association in Taiz has followed the exchange process since the beginning of the year 2020. For the request of mediators, Abductees’ Mothers Association in Taiz prepared lists of Taizi abducted civilians who were abducted by Houthi group, as the association is the only party that owns their database and communicates continuously with their families.
 The team of Abductees’ Mothers Association in Taiz prepared the list and put all the abducted civilians in it and updated it with each stage in which the parties disagreed about some names or released some individually.

 On February 13, 2020, the association presented a list of (353) abductees.
 On March 30, 2020, the list was updated and become (363) abductees.
 On June 13, 2020, the list was updated for the third time and become (319) abductees.
 On 16-06-2020, the list was updated for the fourth time and become (320) abductees.
 On October 25, 2020, the list was updated for the fifth time and become (210) abductees.
 On 11-05-2020, the list was updated for the sixth time and become (209) abductees.
 Here, the mediators asked the Association team to delete the names of the disagreed abductees to make the exchange process successful, so the list was updated for the seventh time on 11-06-2020 and become (142) abductees.
 On 28-05-2021, the list was updated for the eighth time and contained (116) abductees.
 In July 2021 the list was updated three times.
 On the night that precedes the exchange process, 28-08-2021, the list was updated for the last time and included (63) abductees before the last signing by the parties.

 During these long months, the Association sought to gather mediators and hold joint and individual meetings to bring their views closer, and overcome challenges. It also provided the data of the abducted civilians with high accuracy, and reminded the mediators of the genuine right of civilians to freedom without any conditions.  The Association had made a seminar titled (Release them to Let peace come) on 21-09-2021 in which the Association gathered most prominent mediators and urged them to intensify their efforts to release the abductees unconditionally.
  At six o’clock in the morning of 29-09-2021, Abductees’ Mothers Association team in Taiz, along with the mediators’ committee, headed to the tops of the Sami’ mountains, passing through six districts through a rugged and dangerous road to receive the released in the exchange process between the parties with local mediation. The Association team was six women among dozens of men. In exceptional moments, the exchange took place in stages and our team moved between the arrivals of the abductees and prisoners. Nizar’s mother embraced her son who was abducted four years ago. Her hands were trembling and words were faltered with her kisses. Fathers, brothers and colleagues crowded at the reception.

 Indeed, 63 abducted civilians were released. Our team was able to confirm their right to the last list signed by the negotiating parties, and ensure their return to their families despite the difficulties that faced the last stages of the exchange, which extended into the evening.
 Through our direct work in the exchange process, we carefully monitored the obstacles that workers faced, including:
•    Excluding the forcibly disappeared and denying their presence completely despite the danger of being their fate unknown. The Association discussed with several parties how to overcome this challenge and put forward a proposal to determine the last place where the disappeared were held before their disappearance, according to the testimony of witnesses, but it was not dealt with.
•    Excluding the people of trials, despite the necessity to make their names in the top of the release lists. We fear that peace agreements are no longer a guarantor of their safety after Houthi group executed nine citizens last month in Sana’a.
•    A number of those released spoke of being subjected to major financial blackmail by some personalities to include their names on the lists signed by the parties. The family of one of those released in this exchange stated that they had been asked for one million riyals two days before the exchange was carried out, or their son would be returned to prison!
 We thank everyone who worked, starting with our team, our female and male monitors in Taiz Governorate, the mediation committees without exception, the active men in the file of prisoners and abductees who strongly supported the presence of women of the Association in this file, as well as the colleagues of the released, media professionals and activists who have always stood beside our just demands.
We recommend the following:
1.    Strengthening the role of women in local and international mediation efforts, as they imposed a remarkable presence on the ground in the file of abductees as the work of the team of Abductees’ Mothers Association in Taiz in the two exchanges 2019 and 2021 as a model.
2.    Strengthening the role of local mediation towards releasing the abducted civilians unconditionally and without exchanging; and providing support for their efforts, and they are able to do so.
3.    That the cases of the sick, young and old abductees should take the lead in the efforts of local mediation and social authorities to rescue them and be returned to their families.
4.    Protecting the families of the abductees and those released in exchanges from financial and psychological extortion to which they are exposed.
5.    Activating the role of youth, especially the released ones, in the efforts of local mediation.
6.    Providing psychological and economic support to the released.
 We in Abductees’ Mothers Association urge the United Nations, its Special Envoy and the countries sponsoring peace to put pressure on Yemeni parties to overcome obstacles to the implementation of Stockholm Agreement relating to the abductees and detainees and to release them in a comprehensive and complete manner.
 We also call on the United Nations to ensure that the perpetrators of abduction, disappearance and torture do not go unpunished by adopting effective accountability mechanisms towards achieving justice and reparation.
 We, Abductees’ Mothers Association, received in our office in Taiz dozens of these released in this exchange over the past days. Our team listened to their testimonies and the violations they were subjected to, appealing to all parties and organizations to work harder to release their colleagues and all the abductees.
Issued by Abductees’ Mothers Association
On 7th October 2021