AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen have abducted a young singer from a wedding hall in Sanaa for flouting their ban on singing.
It comes as the militia intensifies its so-called “morality crackdown,” residents and activists have said.
Armed Houthi figures stormed the wedding hall at almost 2 a.m. on Tuesday and abducted singer Aseel Abu Baker. The armed group took him to an unidentified location in the capital after confiscating his oud and other musical equipment.
The same singer narrowly escaped from another Houthi raid in 2019 when he was singing at a wedding in the city of Amran. He fled the event through an emergency exit shortly before the arrival of armed fighters.
Since that day, residents believe that the Houthis have placed Abu Baker on a wanted list and vowed to capture him.
From an unidentified location, the abducted singer posted a short clip on his Facebook page hours after the abduction, assuring his fans that he is in good health, and attributing his capture to “a misunderstanding.”
Dozens of his followers expressed support for him, claiming that the video was recorded at gunpoint. “We all love you … don’t be afraid. You should tell us what happened to you instead of saying there was a misunderstanding,” one said.
The Houthis, who seized power in late 2014, have imposed strict moral codes in their territory: Banning singing at weddings and public places, abducting women and men who socialize together in restaurants and parks, and harassing female artists and actresses.
The arrest of Abu Baker has sparked anger among Yemenis, who condemned the militia’s targeting of musicians in areas under their control.
Activists accused the Houthis of importing “Daesh and Al-Qaeda-like” radicalism to Yemen, and called on local and international rights groups to “name and shame” the Houthis.
“This is terrorism and shows beyond doubt that the Houthis are more extremist and fascist than Daesh and Al-Qaeda,” Sami Noaman, a Yemeni journalist who has documented the group’s morality crackdown, told Arab News.
He said that the militia has raided wedding halls and “stuck their noses into people’s personal lives,” adding: “They blackmail abducted singers into paying money for their fighters or joining the battlefields.”
He criticized the international community for turning a blind eye to the Houthi abuses.
“Yemenis can no longer count on the international community’s pressure to influence the militia. Only an uprising by Yemenis can put an end to that,” Noaman said.
Yemeni singers and vocal critics of the movement who live in Sanaa have denounced the Houthi raids on weddings.
Salah Al-Akhfash, a popular musician, shared an old photo of himself with Abu Baker, followed by a post expressing his support for abducted musicians.
A judge, Abdul Wahab Qatran, said on Twitter: “The arrest of singer Aseel Abu Baker from a wedding hall by Sanaa’s ‘Taliban militia’ is a crime that has no statute of limitations. Singing is not a crime and is permissible.”
Other Yemenis urged the Houthi movement to launch corruption crackdowns and pay public servant salaries instead of abducting and harassing musicians.
“From a wedding party in Sanaa, the Houthi terrorist gang kidnapped the musician Aseel Abu Baker and took him to an unknown destination — because songs are forbidden! The Houthi movement is a curse on the country,” tweeted Samia Al-Aghbari, a Yemeni journalist.
Earlier last month, a Houthi checkpoint in the western province of Hodeidah detained Yemeni singer Fuad Al-Kibsi for eight hours and confiscated his belongings after he violated their ban on music.