Arbitrary arrest and detention of Yemeni Women jeopardizes gender equality and peace; threatens Stockholm Agreement

Arbitrary arrest and detention of Yemeni Women jeopardizes gender equality and peace; threatens Stockholm Agreement  

February 5, 2019

Women4Yemen Network

The arbitrary detention and disappearance of Awfa Al Naami by the Ansar Allah Movement (known as Houthi) on January 28 is a disturbing act that will have a negagtive impact on gender equality and peace in Yemen.

Awfa Al Naami, the Acting Country Director of Yemen’s Saferworld International, and her colleague Hassan Al-Qawtari, the director of the organization's programs, were detained at the same time, although Al-Qawtari has since been released. Awfa Al Naami’s whereabouts remain unknown.

According to Women Solidarity Network and other local reports, Awfa Al Naami and Hassan Al-Qawtari were taken to an unknown location after being asked to meet with the Houthi National Security.  It has also been reported that the Houthi broke into the Saferworld's office in Sana'a and confiscated computers and documents.

This is just the most recent incident of targeting of Yemeni women activists as local reports of kidnappings and disappearances of both civilian women and women activists are coming to light even in the midst of a media blackout.

The arrest and abduction of women in Yemen represents a grave threat to Yemeni society as this kind of targeted violence is contrary to social and tribal norms.

According to the Women4Yemen Network the arbitrary detention of women activists further marginalizes Yemeni women and limits their participation in the Yemeni peace process.

Women in Yemen have been working for gender justice and equality in an environment where social and tribal norms give space and voice predominantly to men. With the threat of detention and violence, women now face personal safety concerns.

These arrests are clearly aimed at intimidating women discouraging them from working for peace and gender equality.  And its impact is not only being felt today - with the real safety concerns for women activists - but this is a strategy to weaken future progress towards gender equality and peace in Yemen.

The arrests and detentions, also, negatively affect the recent progress made towards peace last December with the Stockholm agreement. The arrests and detentions contravene hard-won agreements with respect to the treatment of detainees.

Women4Yemen Network calls for:

  • The immediate release of Awfa Al Naami by the Ansar Allah Movement (Houthi) and an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of women activists.
  • An international commission of inquiry to investigate the violations against women and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
  • International organizations and agencies to ensure the protection of and provide support to local staff working in Yemen.
  • The international community to pressure the Ansar Allah to abide by the Stockholm agreement for detainees and to stop their campaign of arbitrary arrest and detention of women civilians and activists.