UAE-backed militants demolish ancient shrine, dome in oil-rich Shabwa amid UN silence
Yemen is witnessing one of the greatest systematic destruction of Islamic shrines and domes in modern history at the hands of UAE-Saudi-backed militants.
UAE-backed secessionist militants have reportedly placed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the shrine of Abdul Rahman bin Omar Badas and the dome of Ibn Abdul Samad in the Radhum District, south of Shabwa Governorate, and flattening them to the ground after taking over the provincial capital, Attaq.
A citizen from Shabwa Governorate, who asked not to have his name published for security reasons, told Al Mayadeen English via Facebook Messenger that "it is said that those responsible for the demolition was a military force affiliated with the so-called Giants Brigades [backed by UAE]."
"There were no clashes in the Radhum district between the forces that fought recently in Shabwa's Attaq," the citizen told Al Mayadeen English.
In a statement published by state-run Saba News Agency on August 19, General Authority for Awqaf condemned this action and considered it a "crime added to the criminal record of the coalition of aggression and mercenaries."
The authority's statement stressed this "systematic destruction of historical monuments, archaeological sites, shrines, and domes... aims to eliminate Yemen's historical cultural heritage and everything related to historical evidence of the Yemeni civilization."
The authority called on international organizations concerned with preserving human heritage to play their role in protecting Yemeni heritage and historical monuments, cities, and shrines that are subject to obliteration and distortion by the forces of aggression and mercenaries.
This latest demolition is not the first by the Saudi-UAE-backed militants against shrines and domes, as there were several similar events by airstrikes, including targeting the shrine of Ansar Allah founder Sayyed Hussein Al-Houthi during the early days of the US-backed Saudi war on Yemen in 2015.
The Ministry of Endowments and Guidance in 2020 accused the Saudi coalition of destroying 1,052 mosques and religious schools across Yemen, including 88 in Al-Hudaydah Governorate.
On July 8, 2022, the UAE-backed militants demolished a 700-year-old mosque in Al-Hudaydah Governorate causing anger among Yemenis but to no avail, as the demolition of Islamic heritage continued.
"I think that the main motive behind their demolition is a doctrinal and ideological motive," said the Shabwa citizen who asked to be anonymous.
"As we all know that Wahhabi Salafism is fighting the polytheistic manifestations of domes, shrines, and graves of the righteous."
"This military force called the Giants includes in its ranks some adherents of the Wahhabi Salafi sect, and at the head of its leadership are some ideological figures of this sect," he explained.
"Although these domes, mausoleums, and tombs no longer retain their old status in terms of belief in them and being visited [usually as in Iraq] by the local community in Shabwa, and their heritage and historical presence may be mere doctrinal, but they see that it is their task to eliminate any of these manifestations," the citizen added.
The demolition of shrines and domes in Yemen by Saudi-UAE-backed militants is similar to ISIS' perpetrations in Iraq against shrines and domes, which drew international condemnation including by the United Nations, but that was not the case for Yemen.
The UN has been silent over the demolition of Yemeni shrines and domes either by Saudi-UAE airstrikes or Saudi-UAE-backed local militants.
The citizen of Shabwa who asked to be anonymous said he has no interpretation as to why the UN is silent about this, stressing that it is better to ask UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to get the correct answer.
However, he gave his personal view on this. "I can say - according to my opinion, which is sometimes influenced by conspiracy theory - that the Gulf funds that finance these military forces in the Shabwa governorate have a major role in this silence by the United Nations."
Abdullah Al-Qudami, deputy of the General Authority for Awqaf, said that "the silence of the United Nations is well known and justified by the fact that the United Nations is mostly dependent on Saudi support."
"That is why Saudi Arabia was removed from the list of shame or the blacklist it was on because of the inhuman and immoral crimes it has committed and is committing against the Yemeni people," Al-Qudami told Al Mayadeen English in a written interview sent via Whats App.
Ending this demolition
Al-Qudami said targeting "historical shrines and domes of the saints and the righteous is not new," accusing the Saudi-UAE-backed militants of targeting about "fifty shrines and domes" during the last 8 years in the occupied provinces of Al-Hudaydah, Lahj, Aden, Abyan, Hadramawt and Shabwa.
He stressed that the authority "has a complete list" of the names of the shrines and domes.
"The motive is that they attempt to obliterate the faith identity of the Yemeni people and destroy their ancient civilizational heritage," Al-Qudami explained.
"We hold Saudi Arabia fully responsible [for these demolitions], as it is the one who adopts the misguided Wahhabi ideology that bears the destructive doctrine of the historical shrines and domes of the saints and the righteous."
"Bin Salman recently admitted that they adopted the Wahhabi ideology based on orders and directives from America for primarily colonial goals and objectives," added Al-Qudami.
Asked what can be done besides issuing statements of condemnation to stop the demolition of our Islamic heritage, he said, "What must be done is what the leader of the Revolution, Abd Al-Malik Al-Houthi, has upheld and renewed in his speech [on August 23] on the occasion of the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Zaid, 'we will not hesitate to confront the coalition of aggression...'"