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Tuesday, 31 January 2023
  • Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women Exposes Continuing Houthi Crimes Against Women on the Sidelines of the 47th UNHCR Session

Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women Exposes Continuing Houthi Crimes Against Women on the Sidelines of the 47th UNHCR Session

On Monday June 28, at 13:30 Geneva time, the YCIW held a Symposium on the situation of the Yemeni women following the Houthi coup, including violations, arrests, and abuse. The event was held at the Conference Centre in Geneva and had 17 people in attendance.

The gathering was chaired by Dr. Wesam Basindowah, the head of the March 8 Bloc for Yemeni women speakers. Other panelists included Prof Noora Al-Jarawi, President of the Women’s Coalition for Peace in Yemen, Irina Tsukerman, lawyer and national security expert, Dr. Arwa Al-Khattabi, President of the Broken Chair Organization for Mine Victims in Yemen, and Mrs. Fawzia Ahmed, director of the women’s section in the central prison in Sana’a, was previously detained in Al-Houthi prisons.

Dr. Wesam inaugurated the symposium and started her speech by talking about Yemeni women and the clear violations and crimes of the Houthis against women. She mentioned that Yemeni women had a special exalted role in Yemeni society. Due to Houthi violations of Yemeni traditions and culture, unfortunately now women are detained in Houthi prisons, and with the efforts of human rights organizations, the file of women has become in the corridors of the Security Council. Individual Al-Houthi leaders are now o in the sanctions lists. Today, she added, we will talk about violations and crimes against women by Al-Houthi, who follow the footsteps of the mullahs of Tehran.

Prof. Noura spoke about Houthi violations against women and stated that Houthi crimes violated all international laws that emphasize the protection of women in conflict and war. She mentioned that she has worked on the women’s file for three years, as international reports on women were issued through the Security Council’s Experts Council. Cases of arrest, rape, displacement, violence and unfair sentences such as the ruling against Asmaa Al-Omeisy are worth noting. Noora also highlighted the fact that recently the militias issued a death sentence against Yemeni Coalition of Independent Women colleague, Ms. Zafaran Zaid. Prof Noora then mentioned the report of women in Houthi prisons, which was issued in cooperation with the March 8 bloc for Yemeni women, the Human Trafficking Organization and the Women’s Coalition for Women Peace in Yemen, which provided information and data based on the monitoring of various cases. According to the report, the number of female detainees reached 1181, including: 274 cases of forced disappearances, 292 female activists and human rights activists and activists from the education sector, and 246 women workers in the relief and humanitarian field. The report also documented 71 cases of rape and 4 cases of suicide. In terms of the age group of female detainees, the number of female detainees under the age of 18 reached more than 293 cases, in addition to documenting dozens of cases of male and female children who were detained with their detained mothers.

She mentioned the targeting of Baha’i, Jewish and Christian minorities, and the violations varied between killing, maiming, detention, arrest, kidnapping, torture, and sexual violence. The arrested women were raped in the name of purification. The mechanisms of torture varied, and included beatings, electric shock, and mutilation in sensitive areas, and there are many women whose injuries resulted in disabilities. In the context of discussing cases of torture, Noora spoke about Entisar Al Hammadi, a model that the Houthi militia had recently arrested, and Lamia Al Hakami, who Al Houthis claimed threw herself from the second floor resulting in her disability. Noora concluded her speech with recommendations to the international community to pressure the Houthi militia to release all women in Houthi prisons and condemn what the Houthis are doing. She called on the international community to classify the Houthi group as a terrorist organization for committing war crimes against women, and also to open an international investigation into the names of Al Houthi leaders accused of torturing women. Finally, she called on the international community to provide a protection program for survivors of Houthi prisons.

Dr. Arwa spoke about the decisions to restrict the personal freedoms of Yemeni women and mentioned the different types of violations of women’s rights in Yemen starting in 2014, such as killing, torture, arrests, enforced disappearances, confiscation of material and moral rights, violations by blatant interference in women’s individual rights and issuing arbitrary decisions in personal affairs . She mentioned that the terrorist Houthi militia issued more than 13 types of decisions that restrict women and violate their rights and dignity, including: deprivation of basic rights, dismissal of a large number of female and male employees in the public and private sectors, depriving women of going to public places, decisions depriving women of the right to move and travel, Determining what clothes women wear and covering the face in public places, and various procedures to cover the pictures of women on billboards, decisions to prevent joint celebrations of graduation from universities, and to determine the times of celebrations for weddings and events, decisions to prevent women from using birth control methods, decisions to limit dowries for women, and finally decisions to confiscate women’s money and property.

She explained the similarity in the instructions of ISIS and the Houthi instructions about clothes for children and talked about the establishment of a new women's battalion by the Houthi under the name of the Batoul Brigade. The Houthi terrorist militia aim to besiege women and restrict them by establishing a new Houthi women’s battalion under the name of the Batoul Brigade, aimed at monitoring women at weddings and supervising wedding parties, as well as calling on private homes and checking whether the women confirm to clothes code inside their private homes. The Houthis, Umm Aqil al-Shami and Umm Muhammad Jahaf, are training the new Houthi battalion in surveillance methods, interrogations and arrests.

She spoke about the issuance of death sentences against human rights and political activists, as the terrorist Houthi militia issued a death sentence in absentia and confiscation of the property of human rights activist Zaafaran Zaid, head of the Yemeni Women Empowerment Foundation, and her husband, human rights activist Fouad Al-Mansoori and called on the international community to hold the Houthis accountable.

Irina reported on the continued Houthi violations of women in Yemen and stated that the Houthis are continuing and becoming more daring in their opposition to the basic rights and freedoms of women, such as increasing the ban on buying contraceptives without the presence of a husband, violence against women in prisons, sexual violence as a means of terrorism and intimidation, and campaigns of harsh propaganda against well-known figures such as the activist Zafaran Zaid. Irina said: "The ideology of the Houthis is not new, it is rooted in ancient practices and some extremist tribal traditions, but it is fueled by the Khomeinist model, which employs women as part of the systematic oppression against other women.

Increasingly, it has become The Houthis are more like ISIS in tarnishing their reputation and erasing women's identities and their ability to participate in open space. Not to mention defending themselves against abuse. Women lose any right to a social voice; Even activists who fight for somewhat apolitical humanitarian issues related to the advancement of women are seen as agitators. that the Houthis They are now building concrete walls to separate male and female students in universities. Meanwhile, dozens if not hundreds of women are being held without charge in secret Houthi prisons, subjected to brutal torture and humiliation. Some are kidnapped after refusing to become informants or join the Zainabiyat, similar to Iranian groups. Human trafficking has also increased significantly under the Houthis, but this aspect of the discussion is rarely discussed and how human trafficking turns into the drug trade that stimulates the Houthi shadow economy, further destabilizes and divides the country. In addition, minority and immigrant women from Africa face increased scrutiny, and are vulnerable to additional arbitrary targeting by the Houthis.” She mentioned that there is a lack of response from the international community to what is happening in Yemen, and recently the Biden administration announced that the Houthis have legitimacy in Yemen, and did nothing to hold them accountable for these heinous human rights violations. No Houthi official has been punished on the basis of the human rights violations he committed against women.

Irina further added that the crimes against women are crimes against humanity, and that the Houthis repression against women aims not only to restrict their freedoms, or to deny them their rights but to erase them from both public and private spaces, to deny them humanity, and to make them invisible. The true Houthi aim is to enslave women, and by doing so to destroy Yemen itself, because women have a foundational role in family structure as they impart ethics and spirituality to future generations and play a vital part in community life. Furthermore, children who see their mothers and sisters being destroyed and humiliated will grow up with damaged and abnormal psyche. The Houthis are creating a weak society based on terror; it is part of IRan’s plan to subjugate the region. Societies where women are erased are extremist and enslaved; when half the population is denied a place in the economics of the country, the country’s economy stagnates and becomes dependent on drugs and terrorism. Houthis are a criminal gang doing Iran’s bidding; they do not care about Yemen’s prosperity, and for that reason do whatever is possible to destroy the society on all levels. Furthermore, a society where women are absent from playing an active role in social structure become backwards in every way, which is precisely what Iran and Houthis want to see – primitive, dependent societies based on ignorance and fear.

When the Biden administration, Irina Tsukerman continued, recently announced that Houthis have legitimacy in Yemen, the officials referred to the fact that Houthis through the use of intelligence and kinship based marriages, as well as subversion, drugs, and the use of force managed to infiltrate 70% of Yemeni society and to indoctrinate generations of people to follow their bidding and ideology, including accepting the increasingly repressive actions against women. However, even if Houthis enjoy popular support, this does not grant their actions any legitimacy under international, regional, or Yemenite laws, or under any moral or religious codes and cultural norms. Abuses and crimes against women cannot be tolerated even if the society’s majority supports, them just like similarly repressive regimes that managed to gain significant following, such as Nazis, Communists, and ISIS, have to be rejected and actively fought back rather than accepted as “the will of the people”. Furthermore, Biden believes that if he appeases Iran, Yemen’s problems with women will stay in Yemen. This, Irina underscored, is hypocritical for the administration and its base of support, because the very same people who support these deals with Iran, claim to fight for women’s equality and rights in the US. However, they need to remember that just because Yemen is far away, the situation there is not isolated and will not stay there.

Houthis, who do not recognize the United States and call for its destructions, import propagandists to the US and all over the world, who indoctrinate local communities and others with the same hateful ideology, create fifth columns of extremists supporters, and destabilize other countries. They do so through propaganda on university campuses, cultural centers, and lobbyists among other methods. US is in danger from the rise of the similar ideology that has already overtaken Yemen and threatens the entire region, and Biden is actively feeding it by removing Houthis from the terrorist list and claiming that their hateful presence in Yemen has legitimacy. Furthermore, the Biden administration actively empowers these horrific human rights abuses against the entire Yemeni society via attacks on women by giving humanitarian aid to the Houthi regime, which gets diverted not only to personal corruption, and to terrorism and wars, but also to the employment of tortures, enforcers, and indoctrination of women with the same ideology who then join Zaibaniyat and contribute to the repression of other women. By giving money and public recognition to the Houthis, rather than treating them as a threat that cannot be tolerated and has to be unequivocally condemned, and fought until their defeat, the Biden administration is complicit and actively supportive of torture and other crimes against women. So what needs to be done? It’s not enough for the UN to issue toothless resolutions condemning the Houthi abuses against women as recently happened. Houthis must be recognized as a global threat and a dangerous movement equal to ISIS and treated accordingly by all involved, Irina Tsukerman concluded.

Fawzia Ahmed recounted her experience as the director of the women’s section in the central prison and said: “I worked in the central prison for 18 years until 2019 after the Houthi coup. The regime, laws and regulations were changed, everything was changed, organizations were prevented, and the attorneys for female prisoners were prevented, and the attorney’s mandate was imposed through them, after the death of Ali Saleh, Building a prison inside the women’s prison in which women are imprisoned informally without any orders or data, and they are placed in secret prisons where they are kidnapped from the streets and public places, Pregnant and lactating women are imprisoned and deprived of the most basic rights such as food and milk. The entry of children’s necessities, visits and communication with families are prevented. The children of female prisoners are taken to the front, and female prisoners are forced to go out on Friday to the grave of Badr Al-Din Al-Houthi to atone for her crime and purify her. The investigations take place in the middle of the night, and the girls are interrogated by masked men that we do not know of, and the prisoners are tortured, and in solitary confinement, women are deprived of food and visits, even from seeing their children.”

She mentioned that the official prayer has been changed and a new prayer has been imposed on female prisoners, cultural seminars and awareness raising, and Abdul-Malik al-Houthi’s lieutenant and brochures were brought to be taught to female prisoners. She mentioned that private and secret prisons are houses and villas for former officials in which women, children and men are detained. She mentioned that she and her children were arrested for 3 months because she told one of the mothers that her daughter was detained in a private prison. She stated that the number of children in the secret prison is more than 30 children, and in the general prison 40 children, she was released under certain conditions, including that she should not leave Yemen and not communicate with Nora Al-Jarawi and train Zainbat to work in prison.

Interventions:Mr. Magdi El-Akwa, Secretary General of the International Caucus for Rights and FreedomsHe criticized European countries and America for not interfering in stopping Houthi violations in Yemen. Yemeni women are the main victims. There is Houthi fraud that promotes itself in the West, but the world is aware of everything that is happening in Yemen, but according to political interests with Iran, it ignores what is happening in Yemen.Mr. Nabil Al-Asadi, member of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate CouncilHe submitted a proposal to create a special unit for media monitoring, such as forming a journalists' association specialized in women's issues--  levant