Kidnapped Yemeni model highlights plight of women detained by Houthi militias

Entisar Al Hammadi is being prosecuted by an organisation accused by the UN of sexual violence and torture

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi movement is prosecuting a young model and actress on Wednesday, reliable sources in Sanaa told The National.

Her trial is going ahead despite the fact that her reported "arrest" by the militias amounts to kidnapping.

Entisar Al Hammadi was taken at gunpoint by Houthi militias along with two of her friends from a street in the Houthi controlled city, four weeks ago.

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All that has been published about my girl is false and baseless

"The Houthi security authorities told her family that they have referred her case to the prosecutor and her first trial session is supposed to start today," a source based in Sanaa told The National.

Her lawyer also confirmed the trial would go ahead, despite the baseless nature of the charges and the fact that the Houthi movement has no legal standing in Yemen, or internationally.

Houthi rebels kidnapped the 19-year-old model with two of her friends while they were walking in Hadda street in southern Sanaa and took them to the central prison where they have been detained for four weeks.

epa09131519 A Yemeni walks through a pedestrian bridge in front of historic buildings in the old city of Sana'a, Yemen, 12 April 2021. US envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths and other international representatives are meeting in Germany to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts which aim to secure a nationwide ceasefire between the warring factions in Yemen, the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government, in a fresh attempt to end six years of war, as the Houthis continues to intensify their attacks on the oil-rich Yemeni city of Marib and their cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

According to the source who spoke to The National, Houthi security authorities detained Ms Al Hammadi and her friends based on fabricated charges.

"They said that Ms Al Hammadi and her friends were taking part in a ‘wild party’ in a house in Sanaa city" the source said.

The National contacted Ms Al Hammadi's mother by phone who confirmed that her daughter is being detained and will be interrogated.

The mother, who seemed fearful of the Houthis, would not give further details about her daughter's case.

epa09131522 Vehicles drive past historic buildings in the old city of Sana'a, Yemen, 12 April 2021. US envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths and other international representatives are meeting in Germany to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts which aim to secure a nationwide ceasefire between the warring factions in Yemen, the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government, in a fresh attempt to end six years of war, as the Houthis continues to intensify their attacks on the oil-rich Yemeni city of Marib and their cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

"My daughter is in safe place and will be interrogated by the security authorities soon" the mother told The National.

A source in Sanaa informed The National that she was not able to speak freely about the situation due to intimidation by the militias.

Ms Al Hammadi was born to a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother.

"All that has been published about my girl is false and baseless," the mother said. With a shaking voice, she criticised local media reports. She added that she hoped the Houthis would free her as soon as possible.

Ms Al Hammadi was pursuing her ambition to become a fashion model. She started posting pictures without her hijab and wearing traditional Yemeni outfits, imitating famous models.

This wasn't welcomed by the conservative society around her.

“My parents told me my dream of becoming a model was pie in the sky. I told them that it was my dream and I would keep pursuing it,” she said during an interview on a local TV channel last year.

Ms Al Hammadi also took part in Yemeni drama series produced by the local Shabab TV and televised during Ramadan last year.

Her abduction with her friends ignited a wider outcry in Yemen and abroad.

Lawyers and activists launched a campaign on social media under the hashtag #freentisar calling for her immediate release.

Forces loyal to Yemen's Huthi rebels stand to attention during a mass funeral for fighters killed in battles with Saudi-backed government troops, in Yemen's capital Sanaa on April 8, 2021. / AFP / MOHAMMED HUWAIS

Yemen’s government condemned the abduction of Ms Al Hammadi and her friends and called on the US and UN envoys to Yemen, and the international community, to condemn it.

They have appealed for the international community to pressure the Houthi rebels to free a dozen women still detained in the Houthi’s prisons.

"The heinous crime, that comes after Houthi terrorist militias announced death of Sultan Zaben, who is under international sanctions, confirms that crimes committed by Houthis against women is systematic and managed by organised networks to abuse Yemeni women," said Muammar Al Eryani, Yemen's Minister of Information.

Sultan Zaben was the Houthi manager of the Criminal Investigation Department, an organisation sanctioned by the US and the UN for torture and sexual violence against Yemeni women. The Houthis announced that he died suffering an incurable disease two weeks ago.

"We call on the international community, the UN and US envoys to Yemen and women's protection organisations to condemn the crime, and pressure the terrorist Houthi militia to stop using women for extortion, and release all disappeared women in their secret prisons unconditionally," Mr Al Eryani said.

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