On the morning of 18 March 2015, human rights defender Mr Abdul Kareem Al-Khaiwani was shot dead near his home in Hael Street of the capital Sana’a by two unidentified armed men on a motorbike.
Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani was a prominent Yemeni journalist and the former Editor-in-Chief of the pro-democracy online newspaper, Al-Shoura. He advocated for the right to freedom of expression in Yemen and has been vocal against government corruption through his writings. The human rights defender received the Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat by Amnesty International in 2008.
According to the New York Times “Mr. Khaiwani was one of the few journalists in Yemen to shine a light on the government’s brutal war against the Houthis in northern Saada Province, publishing accounts and photographs on his website in defiance of official attempts to hide the fighting from public view”.
Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani had been subjected to harassment due to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work for over ten years. In 2004, he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for allegedly supporting Hussain Badr al-Din al-Huthi, a cleric from the Zaidi community. In August 2007, he was abducted in Sana’a by armed men who subjected him to torture and physical abuse. In June 2008, Abdul-Karim al-Khaiwani was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment by a state security court in Sana’a on charges relating to conspiring with anti-government rebels, insulting the president and “demoralising the military”. The sentence was eventually suspended after a pardon was granted in March 2009http://www.ifj.org/nc/news-single-view/backpid/1/article/ifj-joins-yemenijournalists-syndicate-in-calling-for-independent-investigation-into-murder-of-s/ Since then, the human rights defender had faced regular threats as a result of his writing.
Abdul Karim Al Khawaini speaking to the 2010 Oslo Freedom Forum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK2t6QSYfqE
In a letter to US blogger Jane Novak in 2009 Abdul Karim wrote “Leaders in our region transform into gods,” he wrote. “They even come to believe in their fake holiness, which we aim to shatter, as they know they are humans just like us. Democracy and freedom are not granted by a leader of a regime. It is a worldwide human achievement of all the free people on earth.”
“He was one of the godfathers of Yemen’s tradition of saying no to those in authority,” said his friend, Yemeni writer Farea al-Muslimi….His death is a new wound in an already bloody experience for Yemen. It’s truly depressing and frightening,” he added.
According to Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, “Given the history of intimidation and harassment Abdulkarim alKhaiwani faced for his outspoken journalism and peaceful activism, his despicable killing today smacks of a politically motivated assassination.
Yemen is currently partly controlled by the Houthis, a Shiite insurgent group that seized Sanaa and several northern provinces in 2014. The Houthis then dissolved the Yemeni parliament and created a own presidential council on 6 February 2015. Due to the fragile security situation as well as the political, religious and territorial conflicts, human rights defenders in Yemen have been the victims of harassment, intimidation and violence, including physical attacks and killings.