AL-MUKALLA: A Yemeni model who was abducted by the Houthis is going to be subjected to a virginity test, Amnesty International said on Friday.
The rights group urged the militia to immediately halt its plans.
“Yemen’s Houthi de facto authorities must immediately halt all plans to subject Entesar Al-Hammadi to forced virginity testing,” Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said. “She is being punished by the authorities for challenging the social norms of Yemen’s deeply patriarchal society which entrench discrimination against women.”
The Houthis have banned media outlets in areas under their control and social media users from publishing or sharing information related to Al-Hammadi’s case.
They have also banned her lawyers from speaking to international news outlets.
“The Houthi de facto authorities have a deplorable track record of arbitrarily detaining people on baseless charges – to silence or punish critics, activists, journalists and members of religious minorities – as well as subjecting them to torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” Maalouf added.
Khaled Mohammed Al-Kamal, the model’s lawyer, said a Houthi prosecutor had ordered the ban on media coverage and banned him or any other person from speaking to the media.
“This is against the law,” he told Arab News. “But there is no problem if this will lead to her release.”
The 20-year old model and actress and two other actresses were on their way to a movie shoot on Feb. 20 when armed rebels abducted them and imprisoned them in Sanaa.
Their abduction provoked condemnation and drew media attention, with rights activists demanding that the militia be designated a terrorist organization.
Irritated by media coverage of the case, the Houthis dismissed a prosecutor who had ordered the model’s release, put Al-Hammadi into solitary confinement and pressured Al-Kamal into dropping the case.
But he vowed to keep defending her and called for her release, even on bail, saying she was always crying and had threatened a hunger strike to force the Houthis into freeing her.
“I am her lawyer and will keep defending her until the last moment,” he added. He said that other local lawyers had agreed to join him in defending the model.
The Houthis have not presented clear charges against Al-Hammadi, but locals said the abduction was part of a moral crackdown on artists and actresses as well as spaces where there was mixing between women and men.
Meanwhile, fighting intensified in the provinces of Marib, Jouf, Hodeidah and Taiz, days after the UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths announced that peace efforts to end the war were crumbling.
In Hodeidah, government forces clashed with the Houthis in Hays and in contested areas inside the city of Hodeidah, local media said on Friday.
The Joint Forces, three major military units on the country’s west coast, said that 68 Houthis were killed and 176 were wounded.
A truce under the Stockholm Agreement, signed in late 2018, has largely failed to stop hostilities in Hodeidah. Local rights groups that document war casualties said that hundreds of civilians have been killed due to landmines and shelling.
In Marib, Yemen’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that troops had clashed with the Houthis in Mashjah and Al-Kasara as the rebels advanced toward Marib city.
State media showed dozens of military vehicles and fighters heading to the battlefield to push back the Houthis.
Thousands of combatants have been killed since early February, when the Houthis resumed an offensive to seize control of Marib.