6 July 1966
At about 2 am on 6 July 1966, Hashim Jawee, a 22 year old Yemeni civil servant, was woken to the sound of his door being kicked in. He was taken away by British soldiers to an interrogation centre at Fort Morbut. On arrival his senses would have been overwhelmed by the stench of putrefying excrement as he was led for his initial ‘questioning,’ where he was forcibly stripped of all his clothing and interrogated naked while British military personnel poked his buttocks and genitals, and when he had been finally left in his cell, he was threatened with imminent execution by a soldier who poked a gun through the door hatch. This was then followed by the deliberate deprivation of sleep as the iron door of his cell was beaten loudly every half hour.1
During the following days, he was alternately dragged forcibly by his hair, viciously kicked and forced to run around the fort’s courtyard in the humid summer heat until he begged for water, at which moment a soldier spat on him. He was, however, at least lucky to be released after two weeks without any charge. His had been just a routine investigation. Others, suspected of having direct links with the insurgency, suffered even more excruciating forms of torture, which might be why the facility quickly became known as ‘the fingernail factory.’
Three years earlier journalist Arnold Beichman, writing in The Spectator, had compared Britain’s military foothold in Aden to that maintained by the United States at Guantanamo in south eastern Cuba, although at the time he wrote he had no knowledge of the infamous reputation that the latter location would earn for torture forty years later. Today, over fifty years later, while there are still Yemenis alive who remember the nightmare of British detention, the appalling British record of torture in Aden has otherwise been largely forgotten and seldom mentioned by journalists or commentators.2
- S. Rastgeldi, Amnesty International Aden Report, December 1966 accessed online at https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/204000/mde270021966eng.pdf
- Arnold Beichman, ‘British Guantanamo,’ the Spectator, 26 July 1963, p. 102 cited in Aaron Edwards, Mad Mitch’s Tribal Law: Aden and the End of Empire, Penguin, 2015, p. 120.
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