Beginning Monday, January 26, 2015, Houthi militants reportedly attacked protesters on and around the campus of Sana’a University, and detained an estimated 12 students, professors and activists, as well as two reporters. The protesters had gathered to voice opposition to the Houthis’ recent seizure of control over much of the country. The reporters were reportedly released after signing a pledge not to cover the demonstrations; as of this report, the status of the students, professors and activists who were detained was not clear.
Houthis reportedly broke up another protest on the campus of Sana’a University on January 29, 2015, beating and detaining an unspecified number of student protesters.
The incidents occurred after months of fighting between Houthis and the Yemeni government, during which the Houthis have taken increasing control of the country, including the capital city of Sana’a. On January 22, Yemen’s president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, resigned after Houthi militants besieged his home, placing him under house arrest.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence against and arbitrary detention of scholars, students and other protesters, on or around a university campus, in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expression and association – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All parties to a conflict must refrain from violence and arbitrary detention of non-combatants, including members of higher education communities. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and freedom of expression.