Saudi border guards have been accused of killing hundreds of migrants, mostly Ethiopians, who tried to cross from Yemen to Saudi Arabia, foreign media reported on Monday, citing a report by the human rights organization Human Rights Watch. The report documented survivors’ testimonies of shelling, including the use of mortars. Some of them have suffered injuries that prevent them from functioning independently.
The data, which covers the period from March 2022 to June this year, was presented after dozens of interviews with Ethiopians trying to make their way through war-torn Yemen to Saudi Arabia. Witness testimonies describe mass killings, including many women and children. Human Rights Watch believes there may have been crimes against humanity.
The killings reported by HRW took place along the main migration transit route between Al Jauf in Saudi Arabia and Sada in northwestern Yemen.
Violence on the Saudi border
“I saw people killed in ways I never imagined,” said Hamdiya, 14, a girl who crossed the border in a group of 60 in February 2023. “I saw at least 30 people killed there,” she added. Other escapees who managed to survive told the BBC that after the shelling they saw people with their limbs cut off and lots of bodies lying on the roads near the Saudi-Yemen border.
Mustafa’s leg was severed below the knee. The 21-year-old returned to Ethiopia with his parents, where he uses crutches and an ill-fitting prosthesis. “I went to Saudi Arabia to improve my family’s standard of living, but what I was hoping for didn’t come true,” the man said. “Now my parents have to do everything for me,” he added.
– They beat us, killed some of us. The survivors were taken to the hospital. The bodies of the dead were left scattered on the ground, the Ethiopian migrant, who wished to remain anonymous, reported. – I was shot between the thighs, in the groin area. My legs are now paralyzed. I can not walk. I thought I was going to die,” he described.
Munira, one of the survivors, said that she and 19 others were shot with mortars by the Saudi Arabian border guards. “They shot at us like ducks,” she added.
The report also accused border guards of forcing young men, on pain of death, to rape women accompanying them.
“Women and children were shot from cannons”
“I deal with border violence, but I’ve never come across anything like this. Women and children were shot at with cannons, said Nadia Hardman, the lead researcher of the HRW report. She added that what had been documented was “essentially mass murder.”
“People have described places that seem like killing fields – bodies strewn across the slope,” she said. “We’re saying a minimum of 655 casualties, but there are likely to be thousands dead,” Hardman said. She added that “the violence was widespread and systematic and may amount to crimes against humanity.”
BBC: Saudi government takes allegations seriously
The BBC reported that the Saudi government takes the allegations seriously but strongly rejects suggestions that the killings were systematic or carried out on a large scale.
According to the UN’s International Organization for Migration, more than 200,000 people each year make the perilous journey by sea from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and then through that country to Saudi Arabia.
Main photo source: YAHYA ARHAB/EPA/PAP