On February 2, 2020, Houthi soldiers and a number of pro-Houthi students reportedly shut down an academic event that they claimed was “immoral” and did not have their advance approval.
English students from the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Education were holding an event that news sources described as an “academic competition.” The event was attended by faculty and family members of some students. When the soldiers and students stormed the hall where the event took place, they reportedly shouted Houthi slogans and ordered faculty, students, and their families to leave.
Department heads wrote to university leadership to complain about the incident, reporting that students belonging to a so-called “Student Forum” were behind the incident. In recent years, reports on developments at a number of Yemeni higher education institutions have referred to “Student Forums,” which apparently serve as a campus surveillance arm of the Houthis.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the entry of armed soldiers on campus and efforts to intimidate and restrict students and scholars exercising the right to academic freedom — 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. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions violate institutional autonomy, the right to education, and academic freedom, and undermine democratic society generally.