Cut piece / 1:24 / MP4 / 60.9 MB

06-05-2023 | Latest News , Europe , MENA

Yemen/Saudi Arabia: Scenes of overwhelming joy as nearly 900 detainees return home in three-day release operation


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) successfully facilitated the simultaneous release of nearly 900 detainees who were held in relation to the conflict in Yemen, marking a moment of joy and hope in a region devasted by violence.

Throughout the three-day release operation, ICRC teams worked to ensure the safe return of the former detainees to their families and loved ones. Operations facilitated by the ICRC were run from 14 April to 16 April 2023.  The ICRC provided logistical support for the transfer and release of the detainees and were deployed in several airports in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Our teams reported remarkable moments of happiness and emotion as they witnessed these reunions. At the airport in Aden, the ICRC’s Fatima Sator described the scene: ‘’The joy and excitement in the room was beyond description. No words can fairly describe the scenes of overwhelming joy of family members seeing or talking to their loved ones for the first time in years.”

One former detainee, Yasser, could barely contain his excitement as he yelled joyfully while talking to his mother over the phone for the first time in over a year: “Mother! I’m at the airport! Boarding on the plane in half an hour. I’m coming to Sanaa!”

As the first flight from Abha, Saudi Arabia to Sanaa, Yemen, took off, former detainees shared a moment of collective happiness, talking about their plans and the family members they were eager to see most. “I can’t wait to kiss the soil of my homeland,” said Husain, who spent the last five years in detention. “Yemen is like my caring mother. I miss everyone in there, it’s my home.”

Sitting next to him, Mohammad spoke about focusing on his health and plans for the future. "I want to heal my body then eventually get married,” he said. “I've been detained for six years.  I can’t wait to arrive to Yemen, my home, and see my family as soon as possible. I miss my mother the most, I can’t wait to see my father and siblings again.”

Medical staff and volunteers from the Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS) and the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) also played a vital role in assisting the detainees during these operations. With teams deployed at six airports, they helped detainees with disabilities on and off the planes and provided first aid and ambulance services. 

For the ICRC’s Regional Director for the Near and Middle East, Fabrizio Carboni, this release represents a spark of hope for millions. “This release doesn’t impact the detainees and their families only,” he said. “It is also a hope for a better future for Yemen, one without a return to violence. Any respite for an exhausted population, including through release operations like these, is something to be supported. But ultimately, only a political solution will end the suffering in Yemen.”

The release operation was the result of talks co-chaired by the ICRC with the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY), which concluded on March 20, 2023 in Bern, Switzerland.

For more information, please contact:

Fatima Sator (French, English) in Sanaa, Yemen,  +967 779 988 584

Fareed Al-Homaid, (Arabic, English) in Sanaa, Yemen,,  +967 739 164 666

Alaa Nayel (Arabic, English) in Abha, Saudi Arabia, , +965 96673614

Imene Trabelsi (Arabic, French, English) in Beirut, Lebanon, , +961 3 13 83 53

Jessica Moussan (Arabic, English, French) in Dubai, UAE, , +971  50 425 4091


Title                         : Yemen/Saudi Arabia: Hope emerges as nearly 900 detainees return home in three-day release operation

Location                  : Yemen / The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Length                                    : 04.21 mns

Producer                 : Wagdi Almaqtari/ICRC

Production languages            : Arabic/ English

Filming dates                         :  14, 15, 16 April 2023

Copyright                                : ICRC access all

Log-List / SCRIPT

Time Code: 00.00/00.15

B Roll:  Preboarding in Aden airport . ICRC staff/ YRCS volunteers with former detainees.

Time Code: 00.15/00.18

Soundbite 1: Yasser, Yemeni former detainee speaking on the phone in Aden airport departure area.

Mom! I‘m at Aden airport and we will board in 30 mins. I'm coming to Sanaa. The airport yes…! I’m coming!

Time Code: 00.18/01.09

Soundbite 2 : Fatima Satour, ICRC staff member, Aden Airport

Behind me detainees have just arrived. ICRC work is beyond the logistic. Not only that it’s a heavy logistic operation but the ICRC has also a protection mandate. They have been welcomed by our teams, received boxes of Iftar meals and were able to call their families if they wish to.

They ICRC teams met all detainees in course of the last few weeks to make sure that detainees are aware of the operation and willing to come back and are granted the possibility to communicate with loved ones ahead of their return.

This operation sends a glimpse of hope in such a humanitarian crisis and we hope this can alleviate people suffering, the ICRC stands ready to support future release operations.

Time Code: 01.10/01.36

B Roll:  Preboarding in Aden airport.

Boarding on the first plane that departed from Aden on 14 April 2023.

Scenes from the first flight that left Abha airport.

Time Code: 01.32/01.44

Soundbite 3 : Mohammad, former detainee on the flight from Abha to Sanaa

I want to heal my body then eventually get married. I’ve been detained for six years.  I can’t wait to arrive to Yemen, my home, and see my family as soon as possible. I miss my mother the most , my father and siblings too.

Time Code: 01.44/01.50

Soundbite 4: Ahmad, former detainee on the flight from Abha to Sanaa

I cant wait to see my parents and children again.

Time Code: 01.51/02.06

Broll: ICRC staff talking to former detainees on the flight from Abha to Sanaa

Time Code: 02.07/02.31

Soundbite 5: Ahmad, Yemeni former detainee from the departure area of Sanaa airport

Words cannot describe my happiness when this was announced.

No one can know how intense the relief when leaving detention, but those who went through that.

Time Code: 02.35/02.39

Soundbite 6 : former detainee on the flight from Abha to Sanaa

I'm delighted to be able to go back to my Yemen. I can’t wait to kiss the soil of my homeland. Yemen is like my caring mother. I miss everyone there, it's my home.

Time Code: 02.40/03.59

Broll: ICRC medical staff doing health check in departure area .         

Detainee with physical disability praying ahead of boarding.

Transfer aircrafts in several airports.

Time Code: 03.59/04.21

Broll : Families reunited, arrival area of Sanaa airport on 14 April 2023




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