SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 28, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Sana'a University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Yemen

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 28, 2019, it was reported that Houthi forces had detained dozens of students at Sana’a University for allegedly forming an “opposition bloc” and for other alleged expression critical of the Houthis.

Houthi soldiers reportedly raided multiple university faculties in their search for the students. Sources suggest that pro-Houthi students were monitoring and reporting on classmates on behalf of the Houthis. Available sources do not indicate the students’ names or their status since their arrest.

Not long after their takeover of Sana’a, Houthi forces have occupied and exercised control over Sana’a University, firing many scholars considered to be disloyal, instituting reforms intended to bolster their influence, and closely surveilling student activities.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students, apparently based on their alleged nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association—conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Yemen is a party. All parties to a conflict must refrain from arbitrary detention of non-combatants, including members of higher education communities. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.