Since overthrowing Yemen’s internationally recognized government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in 2015, the Houthi militias have controlled the capital Saana with an iron fist, intimidating, imprisoning, and killing anyone who stands in their way – be it political opponents, critics, human rights activists, journalists, or academics.
The Iran-backed rebel group’s brutality has drawn condemnation from human rights organizations and the United States, which designated the Houthi militias a terrorist organization in January, only to reverse the decision a month later. The reversal was made out of concern the terrorist designation would impede humanitarian efforts from reaching those worst affected by the ongoing conflict, which has pitted the rebels against the Saudi-led coalition.
Women have borne the brunt of the violence in Houthi controlled areas, with the United Nations Population Fund reporting a 63 percent increase in gender-based violence since the conflict began, including rape, torture, and other forms of physical and psychological abuse and trauma.
Women have borne the brunt of the violence in Houthi controlled areas, with the United Nations Population Fund reporting a 63 percent increase in gender-based violence since the conflict began.
Geneva-based human rights organization SAM Monitors have accused the Houthi militias of “perpetrating systematic violations against women, including arbitrary detention and torture against approximately 200 women detained in Houthi detention facilities.”
Female human rights activists, journalists, teachers, charity workers, and artists have been especially targeted, including prominent Yemeni poet Bardis al-Sayighi, who was arrested for writing poems about Houthi repression. Most are forced into signing false confessions regarding espionage, aiding the enemy, drug trafficking, and prostitution.
Three of these survivors of Houthi prisons and detention facilities have now come forward to tell Inside Arabia their harrowing stories — through Yemen’s “RASD Coalition” for Monitoring Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV). These are the details of their abduction and abuse at the hands of their Houthi captors in the women’s own words.
Ghada Mohammed Abdulrahman al-Asi
I was taken from my home in Saana at 7pm on October 21, 2018. I was immediately subjected to physical and psychological torture. The female supervisors were cruel and showed no mercy, just like monsters. There were a lot of detainees who were kidnapped from the markets, parks, and public places. They tortured us with electricity, beating, and slavery. Some were tortured to death.
They put me on trial, and I was sentenced to two years in jail. Several men took turns torturing us and their names are Abu Hussam, Hassan Batran, and Sultan Zaben [who’s on the US government’s sanctions list]. The names of the female guards are Ftin, Taqia, and Fardous, along with others.
They tortured us with electricity, beat us with wires, and prevented us from going to the bathroom.
They tortured us with electricity, beat us with wires, and prevented us from going to the bathroom. We were also denied clothes and blankets in the dead of winter. We were held in solitary confinements too. I was beaten in various parts of my body by a huge number of men in the investigation room.
There were no basic necessities of life in prison. Even the food was so bad. We lived on one meal a day for months. We were allowed to go to the bathroom only once a day. Sometimes, we were not allowed to use the bathroom in addition to being denied medical treatment and medical review.
I lost everything because of the Houthis. I lost my family who disowned me and expelled me from home. I was forced to flee the country because I can’t live where I don’t feel safe. I was accused of collaborating with the former regime as well as of drug cases which led my family and tribe to expel me and wish for my death.
Nidhal Muthana Mahdi Mutahar
They presented a search warrant and raided my house on August 18, 2019 in Sanaa, and then blindfolded me and took me to a place that I didn’t recognize. I was never told what I was charged with.
I was taken to the Criminal Investigation Unit and the interrogation lasted throughout the night and until the next morning. They used immoral methods during the investigation in addition to the unjustifiable brutality while dealing with me. They beat me on my face with their foreknowledge of my pregnancy. I was beaten with electrical cable too.
They beat me on my face with their foreknowledge of my pregnancy. I was beaten with electrical cable too.
I was the only pregnant woman among the detainees, but they didn’t take into account my special circumstances. As a result of torture, I hemorrhaged many times. I once vomited blood while being interrogated as a result of being beaten and electrocuted. The suffering I felt in prison affected my daughter – Mira – who was with me in prison, and she is still in a state of a psychological shock. She still cries whenever she sees an officer. She was denied food, and they even refused her bread.
I still remember the man who tortured me the most. His name is Ahmed Mater. He would assault and torture me from dusk until dawn. I tried to commit suicide. I thought death would be better than this. Later, I was referred to the court but not knowing the charges made against me. When I was taken to the judge, I didn’t speak in the fear that they would frame me for a crime I didn’t commit. I was threatened by the investigators that I would be accused of trafficking in hashish, along with other crimes if I told the judge what they did to me during interrogation, so I decided to not to speak at all.
I am a social activist and was detained for 87 days in the port city of Hodeida after the Houthis arrested me in front of the Red Crescent Center in al-Mina district. I was lured there by an unknown woman who claimed she represented a group of IDPs [internally displaced people] in one of the neighborhoods.
When we arrived, I realized it was a trap. I found myself in front of a heavily armed military vehicle, when five gunmen and two women took me at gunpoint for no reason or explanation.
They kidnapped me off the street coercively. I had no idea where I was taken to. I heard them mocking me. The first station was al-Rabsa police station, where my cell phone, notebooks, and pens were confiscated, along with my dignity.
I was verbally insulted and threatened to be beaten and sexually harassed. They took me to the Central Prison for three days. I didn’t know what fate awaited me. All I thought of was my mother and siblings and how the community would think of me. I got nervous and frightened.
I was placed in a room that was one meter wide and two meters long and had a tiny bathroom in the same room. I couldn’t change my clothes for three days. I was interrogated and asked to sign some papers after being threatened every evening. When they realized they had no evidence against me and I was not involved in anything, they said, “We will keep you as a hostage or swap you for captives.”
When they realized they had no evidence against me and I was not involved in anything, they said, “We will keep you as a hostage or swap you for captives.”
After that, I was transferred from solitary confinement to the prison wing where there were 17 women prisoners and their children. I stayed there for 75 days. I was counting days and hours, and I was unable to communicate with my family. I wanted to know why I was detained.
We were forced to clean the bathrooms. We were constantly assaulted. There were many women who spent months and sometimes years there without anyone knowing. All of us were subjected to beatings, abuse, and insults from these savages. They denied us food, forced us to clean bathrooms and prison wings, and brutally tortured us, and some were sexually harassed.
When I was released, I discovered my brother had passed away from a stroke, which was caused by the stress in him believing I had died or gone missing in detention.