AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis have abducted up to 100 women from their homes over prostitution allegations since the beginning of July in Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah, Yemeni activists and rights groups warned on Monday.
The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties said that it received information that Houthi authorities in Hajjah city, capital of Hajjah Governorate, aggressively raided homes in the city, arresting about 60 women and throwing them in prison.
“We stress that what happened with the women is a full-fledged kidnapping crime that does not take into account the legal controls imposed by the law,” the organization said. “We call on the Houthis to immediately and unconditionally release the women.”
SAM said that several Houthi officials, including the city’s security chief Mohammed Salbah and another figure called Hisham Wahban, conducted the raids on women’s gatherings and homes in Hajjah.
Yemeni officials and human rights activists put the number of abducted women at about 100, warning that the Houthis falsely accused the captives of prostitution without offering evidence to support their allegations.
Many of the abducted women have suffered from intense social stigma as a result of the arrests, with some ostracized by family members.
Hadi Wardan, a lawyer and a member of the National Committee for Allegations of Human Rights Violations in Yemen, told Arab News that armed Houthis stormed homes and female student accommodations in Hajjah city and arrested at least 95 women, including many displaced people from the neighboring Haresh and Abes districts. The militia placed the women in prisons and secret detention cells in the city, Wardan added.
“They frightened people and said that these women practice adultery, prostitution and immoral acts. They did not catch a single case red-handed,” Wardan said, adding that no men were man arrested during the raids.
The Houthis also rejected a mediation proposal by local dignitaries and tribal leaders who tried to secure the release of the abducted women, the Yemeni activist said.
Activists believe that the Houthis launched the raids after growing local anger over the group’s morality crackdowns, which targeted women who allegedly violated Islamic dress codes or socialized with men.
Wardan said: “How can that number of women be involved in prostitution and why didn’t they arrest any men?”
Due to the raids, some husbands have divorced their abducted wives while other women have been made social outcasts.
“Many women now prefer staying in the prison to going back to their houses after the Houthis distorted their reputation. In one case, they arrested a mother, her daughter and her daughter-in-law,” Wardan said.
Wardan accused provincial Houthi operatives, including Naif Abdullah Abu Khorfesha, Hajjah province security chief; Mohammed Salbah, Hajjah city security chief; Sadeq Al-Gailil, an officer; and Mohammed Al-Madwami, deputy director of criminal investigation in Hajjah city, of masterminding the raids.