Student journalist Mohammed Bahashwan had a first-hand view of Thursday’s protest at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, using his cell phone to capture video of the chaotic scene.
“The situation escalated little by little,” said Bahashwan, a 24-year-old journalism student who studied at Washington State University this summer. “It started to be very wild, very chaotic and violent.”
Bahashwan’s 90-second video provides one of the only recordings of the protest at the American embassy in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a. The protest started at about 10:45 a.m. and lasted for about 45 minutes, resulting in two fatalities and about 10 injuries, Bahashwan reported. He said he believed it began as a non-violent protest, but that it gradually grew to 200 people. His footage shows protesters breaking windows and striking at a U.S. government vehicle outside the embassy. Bahashwan said the van’s inhabitants were not harmed.
Bahashwan said between 50 to 80 police officers and Yemeni National Guard members surrounded the embassy and began firing shots into the sky. One officer fired shots into the crowd, fatally wounding one of the protesters, he said.
“They weren’t supposed to use any live ammunition,” he said. “It could have been possible to stop the protest without any live bullets.”
Bahashwan said protesters easily passed the outer gate of the embassy. Bahashwan said there were only about six guards in front of the gate. Usually there are about eight to 10, he said.
It was the latest of a series of attacks on American embassies in the Middle East, prompted by an anti-Islam film that mocked the Prophet Muhammad. Bahashwan said the film was disrespectful to the Muslim religion.
“They’re insulting our very core beliefs,” Bahashwan said. “The topic is offensive to all Muslims … They wanted to show the American government that movies like that should not be produced.”
The scene around the embassy has settled since the protesters were dispersed, Bahashwan said. He doesn’t believe there will be more protests at the embassy in Sana’a, but expects more protests at other American embassies throughout the Middle East.
Bahashwan studied at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication this summer through a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. SpokaneFAVS editor Tracy Simmons was one of his instructors.