Yemen rebels crack down on protests in Sanaa

University under watch after protests that led to dozens of students being arrested

Yemeni fighter in a vehicle with a heavy machinegun are seen during a gathering in Sanaa to show support for the Huthi Shiite movement against the Saudi-led intervention in the capital Sanaa on September 27, 2018. / AFP / MOHAMMED HUWAIS
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Yemen's Houthi rebels have stationed gunmen at Sanaa University and are patrolling areas around the campus in a crackdown on protests against deteriorating living conditions, according to accounts from residents of the capital and video footage shared on social media.

Dozens of student protesters were arrested at the university on Saturday, including about 15 women. Some of the women were released on Sunday after warnings from local tribal leaders to the rebels, but the whereabouts of the others is not known.

"One of my colleagues in the faculty of economy was released," said a student who asked to be identified only as Amr.
"She told us that the Houthis beat her until she fell to the ground and she was given an electric shock when she stood up again so she wasn't able to move," the student told The National.

Photos shared on social media showed another female student, identified as Azal Ali, with blood on her face after being beaten by the rebels.

The female students suspect that some of the Houthi women activists who arrested them were men in disguise, according to Rasha Jarhum, a Yemeni peace activist based in Canada.

"Women detained yesterday believe that some of the Houthis women thugs were actually men wearing women clothes. This was sent to me by a relative of one of the girls who were protesting yesterday and who were beaten and detained for demonstrating against hunger," Ms Jarhum wrote on Twitter.

The student arrests on Saturday came as the Iran-backed rebels face growing public anger over the worsening living conditions in the capital, which they seized in September 2014.

Sources at Sanaa University said Houthi gunmen kidnapped the vice dean of the Education Faculty, Saeed Al Touki, in the Arhab area of north Sanaa after he complained to university officials, and replaced him with one of its loyalists.

Video shared on social media showed Houthi gunmen at the university gate threatening to "cleanse it of the traitors".

The rebels are under increasing pressure as government forces and the allied Saudi-led military coalition encircle the rebel-held port of Hodeidah, entry point for the bulk of Yemen's food imports and humanitarian aid, and cut off the main road connecting it to the capital and other rebel-held areas of northern Yemen.


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