On October 6th, 2018, members of the Houthi militia allegedly attacked a group of students from the University of Sana’a taking part in a demonstration near campus. At least 55 students were briefly detained by the militia. Later that day, the University of Sana’a was shut down by the militia and armed vehicles were deployed around the campus.
The protesters were reportedly demonstrating just outside the campus gates, demanding a response to ongoing poverty and diminishing living standards. Members of the Houthi militia, which currently controls Sana’a, reportedly used violence against the student demonstrators, including beatings and electric shocks, before arresting at least 55 of them. The Houthis briefly imprisoned the students, before releasing them on the condition that they take a pledge not to take part in any future demonstration. It is unknown as of this report whether all of the students were released from custody.
Later that day, the Houthi militia reportedly shut down the University of Sana’a citing “security measures,” and deployed tanks and armed vehicles around the building to prevent access to the students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence and arrests of nonviolent student protesters, and about the military occupation of a campus in response to such protests. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State officials and parties to a conflict have a responsibility to ensure the security of higher education communities, to refrain from arbitrary arrests of students exercising their internationally recognized rights to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators accountable.