Five Yemeni YouTubers abducted by Houthis, minister says

Social media influencers taken for posting videos criticising Iran-backed group

Armed Houthi fighters in Sanaa, Yemen. The Iran-backed group sentence six civilians to death last week on politicised charges. AP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Houthi militias have abducted five well-known Yemeni social media influencers who criticised the Iran-backed group, a Yemeni minister has said.

The influencers highlighted the Houthis' widespread corruption, mismanagement and failure to provide basic services for people living in areas under their control.

Yemen's Minister of Information Moammar Al Eryani told The National that Houthi militias abducted YouTubers including Mustafa Al Mumari, Hamoud Al Mesbahi, Ahmed Al Law and Issa Al Outhari.

The quartet had posted videos criticising the pro-Houthi security service for abducting YouTuber Ahmed Hajar as he walked through Sanaa 15 days ago.

Mr Hajar was abducted after posting a video on his YouTube channel in which he criticised Houthi authorities for corruption and mismanagement.

Mr Al Mumari has more than two million followers on his channel. He and the other abductees have produced videos on YouTube and Facebook reaching millions of followers in Houthi-held areas and elsewhere.

The abduction is “an extension of the repression acts and the heinous crimes” of the Houthi militia, Mr Al Eryani said.

Those cries targeted “journalists, politicians, social media influencers and any who oppose the crimes and oppression” of the Iran-backed group, he added.

“Abducting Ahmed Hajar and his fellow YouTubers is a desperate attempt by the Iran-backed militia to silence those activists who struggle to give a voice for the ordinary people who have been dying of hunger in areas under the Houthi control,” Mr Al Eryani said.

“The latest frenzied campaign launched by the Houthi militia to crack down on social media influencers reflects the hysteria of the Houthi leaders” after calls for a revolution against the group, he said.

“These calls reflect growing popular congestion and anger as due to the militia's practices and after confirming its corruption and its responsibility for the deteriorated conditions in areas under its control,” he added.

Last week, a pro-Houthi court issued death sentences against six civilians from Al Mahweet province, among them three teachers, based on politicised charges, said Mr Al Eryani.

In December, the group executed 16 civilians from Saada province for “no fault except their opposition for the group's sectarian agenda, such genocide is committed by the Iran-backed group while the UN and the international community keep a blind eye”, he said.

More than 120 human rights and civil society organisations in Yemen issued a joint statement on Wednesday, urging the international community to pressure the Houthi militia to release thousands of dissidents including journalists and social media influencers.

They said: “Yemen civil society and human rights organisations have been closely monitoring the Houthi frantic and hysterical campaigns targeting journalists and social media influencers who strongly voiced their opposition against the Houthi group corruption, who looted everything and left the Yemeni people suffering poverty and hunger.”

Updated: January 10, 2023, 12:00 PM