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: January 25, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Science and Technology

Region & Country:Western Asia | Yemen

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 25, 2020, Houthi militants reportedly kidnapped Dr. Hamid Aqlan, President of the Sana’a-based University of Science and Technology (USTY), along with one of his administrative colleagues.

Rebels took Aqlan from his home and brought him to an undisclosed location, where he has reportedly been denied contact with family and colleagues. It is unclear whether his administrative colleague is being held at the same location.

Since 2015, Houthi militants have taken over a growing number of educational institutions in Yemen. This takeover has been marked by violent attacks on and the armed occupation of educational facilities, arrests of students and academics, the dismissal and replacement of teaching and leadership personnel with those favored by the militia, and the implementation of Houthi-approved curricula and educational materials.

Following the kidnapping of Aqlan, Houthi militants reportedly posted a notice around the university announcing the appointment of a new president, Dr. Adel Al-Mutawakkil, who the Yemeni government has identified as a supporter of the Houthis.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the abduction of a university president and administrator by non-state militants. All parties to a conflict must refrain from the detention and disappearance of non-combatants, including members of higher education communities. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such attacks undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.

Update: On February 2, 2020 Houthi forces released Aqlan from custody.

Correction: Since publishing this report, SAR has learned that Aqlan was detained on January 25, not January 29 as previously reported.