ICC Note: A Yemeni woman who was a Christian convert received fatal burns at the hands of family members. Nazeera’s husband recounted the story of the sabotage that led to his wife’s death just days before they were to leave their homeland. Family members had pressured her for years to abandon her faith and choose to punish her rather than see her escape. This story demonstrates the daily struggles that thousands of believers across the Middle East face as a result of their faith.
08/29/2014 Yemen (Morning Star News) – On the morning of June 9 in southern Yemen, Saeed woke to the sound of screaming. He shot out of bed, pushed panicked family members aside and saw his wife stumbling out of their kitchen, engulfed in flames.
His wife, Nazeera, had been preparing breakfast at about 9 a.m. when she poured liquid from a cooking oil bottle into a hot pan. The liquid flashed, and the bottle exploded. While her four children watched, screaming, Nazeera was being burned alive.
“I rushed out of the room,” Saeed (full name undisclosed for security reasons) told Morning Star News, weeping. “I couldn’t even speak to ask her what happened. All I could think about was putting the fire out and then getting her to the hospital. But my 16-year-old son, he couldn’t stop himself and held on to her, hugging her while she was burning. He got hurt, and I had to pull him away from her.”
About two weeks later, Nazeera, 33, died as a result of her burns. When Saeed returned to his home in a village (undisclosed for security reasons) after her death, a relative told him the unthinkable – members of both his family and hers had taken the vegetable oil out of the bottle and replaced it with gasoline. Saeed knew the reason – many years ago, the two had become Christians and refused to return to Islam.
After living in hiding in Yemen for several months, Saeed was able to flee to the relative safety of another country, he told Morning Star News.
Before the attack, Saeed and his wife had already decided to flee their families and the 99 percent Muslim country on the Arabian Peninsula. They got their travel papers two days before the sabotaged bottle exploded.
After doctors said there was nothing more they could do for Nazeera, friends of the couple were able to secure a room in a hospital in Egypt for further treatment. Nazeera died that day, before they could go.
Saeed was with her when she died. Among her last words to him was not to worry and to take care of their children. Saeed left the hospital and took the two-hour trip back home. There a relative told him that one of his brothers and one of her brothers had conspired against them to punish them.
“I was told by one of our relatives that it was a set-up, and they replaced the cooking oil with petrol, which caught flames as soon as she poured it out,” he said.