On August 31, 2019, an airstrike was carried out on the campus of Dhamar Community College, leaving more than one hundred people dead.
The airstrike was conducted by forces led by Saudi Arabia (known as the Saudi-led Coalition or “SLC”) as part of its military intervention in the ongoing war in Yemen between the Houthis, Yemeni state-backed armed groups fighting on behalf of the country’s internationally-recognized President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, and the Southern Transitional Council, which is backed by the UAE.
Sources indicate that Houthi forces had repurposed at least one building of the community college into a detention center for prisoners of war in 2015. The SLC claimed that it was conducting air raids on local Houthi targets, including a site allegedly storing drones and missiles. The attack was reportedly the deadliest of 2019.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparent targeting of university facilities in armed conflict and use of the same for military purposes. Parties to a conflict may only attack legitimate military targets; where a party suspects that a civilian facility—such as a university building—is being used for military purposes, that party has a duty to take every action practicable to verify that this suspicion is correct before initiating an attack. In the event of such an attack, parties must take all practicable precautions to avoid or minimize damage to civilian facilities. Likewise, parties must refrain from using higher education facilities for military purposes during active conflict. Further, parties must refrain from launching attacks which may be expected to cause disproportionate damage to civilian facilities.