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In a shocking revelation, a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses Saudi border guards of engaging in mass killings of migrants along the Yemeni border. The report, titled “They Fired On Us Like Rain,” presents harrowing testimony from migrants who claim to have been shot and targeted with explosive weapons by Saudi police and soldiers as they attempted to cross the rugged northern border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The allegations are deeply troubling and shed light on a dire humanitarian crisis occurring on the margins of the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
The migrants involved, many of whom are Ethiopians seeking work in Saudi Arabia, recounted their terrifying experiences to both HRW and the BBC. Their testimonies reveal a grim reality of indiscriminate violence and brutality at the hands of Saudi security forces. The migrants describe night-time crossings where groups of men, women, and children were subjected to gunfire as they sought a better life in the oil-rich kingdom.
One survivor, 21-year-old Mustafa Soufia Mohammed, recalled the chaos of a border crossing attempt in July of the previous year. “The shooting went on and on,” he recounted, explaining that members of his group were killed as they tried to evade the border guards. Mustafa himself was shot and subsequently lost part of his leg. He underwent an amputation below the knee and returned to Ethiopia with the devastating effects of the violence he encountered.
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Another survivor, referred to as Ibsaa for safety reasons, described being shot at the border by individuals in Saudi military uniforms. He mentioned witnessing beatings, deaths, and the horrific sight of bodies left scattered on the ground. The trauma left him with paralyzed legs, rendering him unable to walk.
The report reveals deeply disturbing trends, including the extensive use of explosive weapons and close-range shootings. The findings suggest that these incidents amount to what can only be described as mass killings, invoking comparisons to killing fields. The atrocities detailed in the report occurred between March 2022 and June of this year, painting a grim picture of ongoing violence against vulnerable migrants.
Nadia Hardman, the lead author of the HRW report, expressed the gravity of the situation, stating, “What we documented are essentially mass killings.” The report provides a distressing account of multiple incidents involving explosive weapons and close-range shootings, each contributing to the mounting evidence of gross human rights violations along the Saudi-Yemen border.
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The migrants’ perilous journeys are part of a larger pattern, with over 200,000 people attempting to navigate the treacherous route from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and then onward to Saudi Arabia each year. The journey is fraught with danger, from imprisonment and beatings to the grave risks of the sea crossing itself. Asylum seekers often face physical and emotional trauma, with some paying ransoms and bribes to navigate through a landscape filled with exploitation and violence.
The revelations in the HRW report highlight the urgent need for international attention and action to address the ongoing abuses faced by migrants attempting to cross the Saudi-Yemen border. The allegations of mass killings underscore the severity of the situation and the need for accountability for those responsible for these atrocities. It is a stark reminder of the plight faced by vulnerable migrants and the imperative to address their rights and safety in a region marred by conflict and crisis.