Yemeni government resumes airlifts from Sudan

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A Yemenia Airways plane carrying 192 Yemeni evacuees landed at Sanaa airport on Saturday as the Yemeni government resumed emergency flights to evacuate more than 1,200 Yemenis stuck in war-torn Sudan.

The Yemen embassy in Sudan said that the plane carrying 192 people, including 14 newborns, departed Port Sudan at 8:38 a.m., bound for Houthi-held Sanaa. Another plane carrying roughly the same number of people was scheduled to travel to government-controlled Aden later on Saturday.

Thousands of Yemenis, including students, have been stuck in Sudan since April 15, when violence erupted between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

The first set of stranded Yemenis were evacuated by the Saudi navy and transferred to Jeddah, where they were provided with free lodging for two nights before being transported to Yemen by bus.

Yemen’s Foreign Ministry said that seven Yemenia planes would transport 1,250 stranded Yemenis from Sudan to Yemen between Friday and Monday, adding that 750 Yemenis had already been airlifted from Sudan, while 800 were transported from Port Sudan to Saudi Arabia on Saudi ships. The Yemeni government said it would cover all flight costs and assist citizens in extending their passports, obtaining birth certificates for their children, and having their university and high-school certificates authorized.

Thrilled Yemenis published photos on social media as they exited Port Sudan airport.

“After one month and one day of exhaustion in Port Sudan, we are eventually evacuated from Sudan to Sanaa airport,” Fawzy Jamoom wrote on his Facebook page while boarding the plane to Sanaa on Saturday.

Separately, Yemeni government officials and human rights activists criticized a Houthi attack on a gathering of Bahais — a Yemeni religious minority — in Sanaa on Friday and urged the militia to immediately release them and end their persecution of religious minorities and opponents.

Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said in a tweet that the Houthis attacked a Bahai sect’s annual gathering in Sanaa, arresting 17 people, including five women, and raiding Bahai homes.

“This heinous crime verifies that the Houthi militia, under Iranian direction, continues its escalation, targeting, and systematic terrorism of religious minorities, particularly the Bahai community, and persecution of its adherents on the basis of their faith,” the minister said.

Since late 2014, he added, the Houthis have arbitrarily abducted Bahais, tortured them, ransacked their homes, seized their offices and other properties, and incited the public against them.

A video that circulated online showed armed and masked Houthis storming a gathering. Women’s screams can be heard in the video.

The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Human Rights and Liberties also condemned the Houthis’ “barbaric and brutal” assault on a group of Bahais, as well as the militia’s other violations of human rights in Sanaa and other areas of Yemen under their control.

“The Houthi group’s daily violations, the most recent of which was the assault on the Bahai community meeting, are merely a microcosm of the deteriorating human rights situation in the areas it controls,” the organization said.

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