AL-MUKALLA: Armed men associated with the Iran-backed Houthi militia on Sunday abducted a former Yemeni culture minister from his home in Sanaa, his son said.
Whadhah Al-Ruwaishan wrote on Facebook: “(A) Houthi group abducted my father half an hour ago.” No further details were given and the Houthis have not commented on the abduction allegation.
Khaled Al-Ruwaishan, who is a well-respected writer and poet, has criticized the Houthis’ power grab, its crackdown on dissidents and its military expansion across Yemen.
He has more than 93,000 followers on Twitter, 400,000 followers on Facebook and is seen as one of the most respected Yemeni intellectuals who is equally critical of Houthis and their opponents.
Activists have linked the abduction to his most recent Facebook post about a Yemeni poet who praised the courage of fighters in Marib who foiled a Houthi military offensive.
“These verses should become the morning anthem in every Yemeni school,” Al-Ruwaishan told fellow poet Amer Al-Souaidi in a Facebook post on Saturday.
In another post, on April 15, Al-Ruwaishan criticized Yemeni traders inside Houthi-held Sanaa and the rebel government for not giving financial assistance to thousands of laborers who lost their jobs in the aftermath of flash floods that had hit Sanaa.
“In Houthis’ time, people’s hearts died and were petrified,” he said in the post, which attracted thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.
His abduction caused an outcry on social media where dozens of current and former ministers, journalists, writers, and Al-Ruwaishan’s admirers condemned the Houthis and demanded his immediate release.
Mohammed Askar, the Yemeni human rights minister, urged the UN to intervene.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the Houthi militia’s arbitrary detention of Khaled Al-Ruwaishan. I call upon human rights organizations and the UN Yemen envoy to pressure the militia to unconditionally release him,” he tweeted.
Ahmed ben Daghar, a former prime minister and an adviser to Yemen’s president, said that the Houthis had committed a “folly” by detaining an outspoken Yemeni writer, predicting that the rebels’ suppression of opposition voices would trigger a revolution against their rule.
Mohammed Al-Maswari, a lawyer and activist who escaped Houthi arrest and assassination when he was in Sanaa, said he had predicted the militia would throw Al-Ruwaishan behind bars sooner or later.
“I said Al-Ruwaishan would not be safe from them,” Al Maswari said on Twitter.
Anonymous Twitter accounts describe Al-Ruwaishan as a “traitor” who collaborated with the group’s enemies.
The Houthis have escalated their crackdown against opponents since the beginning of the year by sentencing to death dozens of lawmakers, government ministers, and army commanders.
Earlier this month, a court run by the Houthis sentenced four journalists to death after accusing them of espionage, a move that provoked national and international uproar.