Enjoy our faster App experience

KT Exclusive: Yemeni journalist loses pregnant wife in Houthi assassination attempt; recovered in UAE hospital

Wife, unborn child were killed instantly when the explosive-laden vehicle they were travelling in exploded



Mahmoud Alotmi with his wife Rasha Al-Harazi and their firstborn, Jawad. Photo: Supplied
Mahmoud Alotmi with his wife Rasha Al-Harazi and their firstborn, Jawad. Photo: Supplied
by

Rasha Abu Baker

Published: Tue 8 Feb 2022, 4:24 PM

Last updated: Tue 8 Feb 2022, 10:42 PM

It was 4pm on November 9, 2021, when Mahmoud Alotmi, 25, and his heavily pregnant wife Rasha Al-Harazi, also 25, were on their way home from an appointment with her obstetrician in Aden, Yemen, to confirm her delivery date. She was due to give birth that day, but the couple was asked to return the next day for the imminent delivery.

Al-Harazi was pregnant with their second child, a boy they hoped to name Karam.

While sitting in the driver's seat, Mahmoud shared a moment with his wife that he described as the "happiest moment in our lives" before tragedy struck.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

Speaking to Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview, Alotmi recounted the final minutes he spent with his wife. "I will never forget that moment of pure joy as if it was the happiest in our lives. We were talking about something that wasn't very significant, but we were laughing about it; we were happy and joking together."

But moments later, he heard a loud bang and struggled to understand what had happened. "It's hard to describe. It took me some time to realise what was going on. It felt like something had crashed into the car. I initially thought it was a car accident. There was also a truck driving next to us, and I thought perhaps one of its tyres had exploded. When I managed to raise my head and saw the aftermath, I knew it was a bomb. I turned to my side and saw my wife's body shredded into pieces."

Photo: Rasha Abu Baker
Photo: Rasha Abu Baker

Alotmi was rushed to a local hospital. He was severely injured, but thankfully they were not life-threatening and drifted in and out of consciousness. His arms and legs were injured by shrapnel, and he suffered a broken arm and bone fragmentation. "My arm was cut open, I had a big gaping hole on the left side of my body."

Their firstborn, a two-year-old boy named Jawad, had a lucky escape as he was left home that day with Mahmoud's mother-in-law, who had come to help with the birth. "I thank God that he wasn't with us that day. I always take him out with me. Whenever I go out, he is always with me. But it wasn't his fate that day."

Photo: Rasha Abu Baker
Photo: Rasha Abu Baker

The horrific incident is just one example of the atrocities and terrorism committed by the Houthi rebels against anyone who opposes their opinions or views.

"If you are unable to tolerate the ugliness of the Houthis, their domination and tyranny, this is what happens," says Alotmi, a photojournalist who worked for various international media organisations, including Sky News, Al Arabiya and Al Hadath.

"If you go against them or leave the territories under their control, they will target you, whether you are a journalist, a fighter, or a civilian, man or a woman. It has happened to many people I know."

Photo: Rasha Abu Baker
Photo: Rasha Abu Baker

Alotmi said he was targeted due to his work as a journalist, where he uncovered much of the terror group's human rights violations, lies, and crimes.

The Houthis systematically attack and arrest journalists in Yemen, and many of Mahmoud's friends and colleagues have been thrown in jail.

"My colleagues and I were highlighting Houthi crimes and the violations they are carrying out against citizens. They included kidnappings, arrests, displacement of citizens from their homes, and targeting them with explosives."

Photo: Rasha Abu Baker
Photo: Rasha Abu Baker

The last case he reported on before the assassination attempt exposed a massive cover-up by the Houthis, who fabricated and forged court paperwork to bring false charges concocted to carry out the execution of 10 innocent men, one of whom died while in custody.

He explained, "It was when we reached the case of the execution of the ten men from Tihamah accused of killing Saleh Al Samad [a senior Houthi official] that things became more serious, more dangerous. I was following the case closely with the lawyers and the families of the accused. It became clear that the allegations were fabricated. I discovered how they were being used as scapegoats. They were innocent civilians, including an 18-year-old."

In the horrific aftermath of the explosion that killed his wife and unborn son, Alotmi, injured, shocked and vulnerable, found himself turned away from the local hospital due to mounting expenses.

"The hospital didn't take me; they questioned how the bill would be paid."

This is when the Southern Transitional Council, supported by forces of the Arab Coalition, tried to help. Alotmi still didn't receive the appropriate medical treatment until the UAE stepped in, and he received the medical care he needed after being airlifted to Abu Dhabi, where he spent two months recovering in hospital.

"It's a brotherly stance that I will never forget. The position the UAE takes, not just with me but with all Yemenis, everyone who gets injured, like land-mine victims, both soldiers and civilians, anyone with a condition which requires medical help overseas, they evacuate them right away."

He pointed out that UAE hospitals have welcomed thousands of injured Yemenis, as well as helping countless others who were sent onwards to Egypt and India for treatment at the UAE's expense.

Today, things are looking up for Alotmi, who has made a full physical recovery.

He is in the process of moving to Dubai after accepting a job with a regional news organisation.

ALSO READ:

He vows to continue working along his path, with stronger resolve than ever before, rigorously following his guiding morals and principles until his country is "cleansed".

Until that day, he says he will keep working in his adoptive country, where he feels safe in the hope of being reunited with his son, who is being looked after in Yemen by his wife's family.

He is vocal in his praise of the UAE, saying, "My trust in the UAE leadership as a Yemeni is just like any Emirati citizen who trusts his leadership.

"For Yemenis, we believe our salvation is in the hands of the Emiratis because they have really proved their honesty. This is not to undermine the role of others in the coalition, but the UAE has always been serious in their dealings and quick in their decision making. All the successes against the Houthis have been achieved by the UAE through its participation in the coalition. I accompanied Emiratis in the Red Sea Coast campaign and the battle to liberate the south was led by Emiratis. Now, in Shabwah, who is victorious? It's the UAE and the forces it supports."

Alotmi concludes with a poignant statement about his late wife, Rasha Al-Harazi. "She was a great woman, made of steel. We faced great difficulties, and she was a great supporter: she had great ambition and this is what gives me stronger determination to achieve her ambitions on her and our unborn son's behalf so that they didn't die in vain."


More news from UAE