On February 2, 2020, armed Houthi forces raided a lecture hall at Sana’a University and assaulted Ali Baalawi, a member of the university’s sociology faculty.
The attack was in apparent retaliation for Balaawi’s allegedly criticizing the appointment of a military commander’s relative as dean of the Faculty of Arts. The appointed dean reportedly lacked the appropriate qualifications for the position, an occurrence that has been regularly reported since the Houthi takeover of the university. Baalawii was promptly removed from campus and reportedly barred from returning to the university.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by armed forces raided a university and a violent assault on a scholar for the alleged, nonviolent exercise of the right to academic freedom and freedom of expression—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 violent force against 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.