AL-MUKALLA: The UN has said that the Iran-backed Houthis banned female aid workers with its Yemen-based organizations from traveling without a male escort or mahram, a move that has significantly hindered the distribution of aid in the war-torn country.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its monthly bulletin on the humanitarian situation in Yemen released this week that the Houthis ordered women who work with international organizations not to travel without being escorted by a male relative.
The Houthi’s strict rule has impeded the distribution of aid to needy Yemenis and other humanitarian operations inside the Houthi-controlled areas.
“Significantly, requirements for mahrams — male guardians accompanying female aid workers when traveling on missions — have reportedly increased in Ansar Allah-controlled areas, significantly affecting field mission and the implementation of activities,” the organization said using the official name of the Houthis, adding that insecurity in the government-controlled areas also led to temporary suspending humanitarian assistance in Yemen.
During the past two years, the Houthis have imposed tough religious rules targeting women, activists, artists and singers in their territory.
The Houthis banned women from mingling with men in public places, cafes, universities and restaurants, banned singers from singing at weddings, rounded up women for dress code infringements and ordered women not to travel or work without a male guardian.
In March, the Yemeni organization Mwatana for Human Rights said that Houthi-manned checkpoints at the entrances of Houthi-controlled cities harass and question unaccompanied women and demand men who travel with women to prove they are siblings.
The latest Houthi laws have irked Yemeni activists who warned that many women in the Houthi-controlled areas would be thrown out of work.
Zafaran Zaid, a Yemeni human rights activist and lawyer who was sentenced to death in absentia by a Houthi-run court, told Arab News on Wednesday that the Houthis, who refuse to pay public servants or provide people with jobs, would aggravate the humanitarian crisis and the suffering of Yemenis by depriving thousands of women of getting good jobs with international organizations.
“The Iran-backed Houthi militia increases the suffering of women, especially with regard to opportunities to improve livelihoods and job opportunities in the public and private sectors,” she said, adding that the Houthis punished bus and taxi drivers in Sanaa for ferrying unescorted women.
In April, residents in the Houthi heartland city of Saada said that all-female morality police officers detained dozens of women for shopping without male companions or shopping in male-only places.