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: February 11, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of Science and Technology

Region & Country:Western Asia | Yemen

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On February 11, 2020, Houthi forces arrested Dr. Hamid Aqlan (also romanized as “Hameed Aklan”), President of the Sana’a-based University of Science and Technology.

This was the second arrest targeting Aqlan in 2020. On January 25, Houthi militants arrested Aqlan , along with one of his administrative colleagues, charing him with “aiding aggression” (see report). The charge was based on accusations that he smuggled the university’s financial and electronic records, including those of the university hospital, to the private university’s owners in Aden. The day of his arrest, the Houthis announced the appointment of a new president, Dr. Adel Al-Mutawakkil, a supporter of the armed group.

On February 2, Houthi forces released Aqlan; however, they detained him again on February 11 at a checkpoint in the Ibb governorate, along with his brother and three other companions. On March 4, Aqlan was charged with “falsifying a personal identity.” As of this report, Aqlan remains in custody, while his companions were released within weeks of their arrest.

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 a number of reforms intended to bolster their influence.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of a university president 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: According to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, on February 23, 2021, Dr. Aqlan was ordered released on bail.