The Absurd Diplomat That Is Bringing Yemen’s War Dead Home

February 14, 2019

Hadi Juma’aan after walking for 10 hours with a dead body needed some time to rest. He jumped up from his sleep when a dog came to eat the corpse. First he was terrified but later on after calming down he started to walk again. After all, it is his hob to bring back the bodies of the dead fighters to their families is his job.

Juma’aan, in his mid thirties, didn’t start his job as a body collector. In fact before the war broke out, he used to work as a community activist at a government-run organization that advocated sustainable development. However, in September 2015, seven months after the conflict in Yemen started, the job came to him. A relative asked Juma’aan, a former boy scout with wilderness skills, for help in order to locate his two brothers who went missing while fighting in Taiz province. Juma’aan found their bodies. From there on he started his job of a body collector. He even remembered the role His Muslim faith played in order to help him decide whether to take up the job or not. He stated that after seeing the scattered corpse he felt that the fighters were his brothers and they needed to be honored. Juma’aan’s religion tells him that to honor a dead is to give the body a proper burial.

Right away after his first mission to Taiz, Juma’aan formally founded and registered the Coordination Council for Human Rights, with the dream that functioning as a non-governmental organization would help him to increase. He initially inducted 70 volunteers, which included 12 women, and as soon as word spread about his February 2016 evacuation of 11 corpses from a front line in Nehm, east of the capital city of Sana’a, appeal from families started to pour in. The families wanted him to finding their missing fighters, or bringing back home their loved ones for burial.

Juma’aan’s job reuires filling in the gaps and closely coordinating with both sides in the war; ensuring that both sides at a front line agree of how and when he is planning to pick up a body. Sometimes, they must approve to honor a brief truce so that he can enter and do his job. For this, it takes him months of discussions with both parties.

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