Young Yemeni model attempts suicide in Houthi captivity

This undated handout picture obtained on April 21, 2021 from the Facebook page of Entisar al-Hammadi shows her posing for a 'selfie' at an unknown location. Hammadi was just starting out on her modelling career when she was arrested two months ago in Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa, where the Iran-backed Huthi rebels are enforcing a morals campaign.
Born to an Ethiopian mother and Yemeni father, the 19-year-old had been pictured online in traditional dress as well as leather and denim jackets, and sometimes she went without a Muslim headscarf.
 - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / FACEBOOK ACCOUNT OF MODEL ENTSAR AL-HAMMADI" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
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Intisar Al Hammadi, a Yemeni model and actress jailed by the country’s Houthi rebels, attempted suicide in prison in Sanaa last week, her lawyer told The National.

"My client attempted a suicide following orders by the prison's officer to move her to the prostitution section in the central prison where she has been arbitrarily detained since February," Khaled Al Kamal said.

"She was saved at the last moment after the child of an imprisoned mother saw her tottering with her face turned blue as she attempted to hang herself," he said.

"The child rushed to his mother and other inmates who rescued her and called the prison guards who took her to a hospital in the prison in a critical condition."

Prison officials have not allowed Ms Al Hammadi's family to visit her after the incident, he said.

"Her family wasn't allowed to visit her, nor was I.”

He said the International Committee of the Red Cross had promised to visit her soon.

Ms Al Hammadi, 20, was detained by Houthi militiamen while riding in a car with friends on a main street in Sanaa on February 20. She now faces charges including prostitution and drug dealing, which her lawyer and family say are baseless.

She is a model and actress born to a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother. Aspiring to become a fashion model, she started posting pictures of herself in traditional Yemeni costumes, which was frowned upon by conservative society in Houthi-held areas in Yemen. She also took part in a drama series produced by a local TV channel.

In March, Houthi authorities sent Ms Al Hammadi to the central prison in Sanaa where she was reportedly subjected to verbal and psychological abuse and interrogated while blindfolded.

Mr Al Kamal told The National in May that the Houthis had attempted to subject her to a virginity test as a part of humiliation tactics to make her confess to the charges.

"They forced her to sign on documents while she was blindfolded and they used to deprive her of sleep for days," the lawyer said.

Amnesty International objected to the attempt to subject Ms Al Hammadi to a virginity test and called for her immediate release.

Quote
The Houthi de facto authorities have a deplorable track record of arbitrarily detaining people on baseless charges
Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International.

“The Houthi de facto authorities have a deplorable track record of arbitrarily detaining people on baseless charges to silence or punish critics, activists, journalists and members of religious minorities – as well as subjecting them to torture and other forms of ill-treatment," said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

"There are no legal grounds to prolong Intisar Al Hammadi’s detention and the Houthi de facto authorities must order her immediate release.”

A Houthi-run court held two sessions last month to try Ms Al Hammadi on charges including committing indecent acts and drug possession. Mr Al Kamal said the prosecution denied him access to the case documents and later suspended from his government job as a lawyer at the Houthi-run West Municipality (Sanaa) Court to prevent him from working on the case.

He said he had also received anonymous threats before he was suspended.

Updated: July 3rd 2021, 6:50 PM
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