AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni officials and international human rights organizations have demanded the Iran-backed Houthis release hundreds of detained citizens who took to the streets of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities last week to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the Sept. 26 revolution.
Yemenis marched through the streets of Sanaa with flags and chanted slogans in praise of the republic.
Social media videos show armed Houthi militia in military uniform and civilian clothing violently suppressing gatherings in the capital and the city of Ibb, dragging dozens of people from the streets and forcing them into military vehicles.
The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties condemned Houthi attacks on peaceful gatherings in the cities it controls. The body demanded that the militia cease harassing those who lawfully express their opinions.
The organization said: “We call on the Houthi group to halt its brutal attacks, release all detainees, and instruct its members to respect the rights of individuals to express their opinions, and peaceful assembly.
“In addition, the Houthi group is required to prosecute all individuals involved in the attacks and arrests for their grave violations.”
Sanaa residents said the Houthis had deployed security forces throughout the capital, primarily around Al-Sabeen Square, in response to calls for demonstrations against the mass arrests following Friday prayer.
Amnesty International has demanded that the Houthis “immediately and unconditionally” release the detained individuals, adding that the Yemenis were arrested and assaulted for commemorating a national day.
It said: “In a draconian show of force, Houthi de facto authorities have carried out a wave of sweeping arrests, demonstrating their flagrant disregard for the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
Grazia Careccia, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement: “The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained solely for exercising their rights.”
The Houthis have not officially commented on the arrests, but activists in Sanaa, including legal activist Abdul Wahab Qatran — who has contacted Houthi security agencies — say those seized are being questioned about “possible affiliations” with external groups.
Analysts say the gatherings in Sanaa have been occurring at a time when public pressure has been mounting on the Houthis to compensate thousands of state employees who have not been paid for years.
They add that the Houthis do not acknowledge the 1962 uprising against the imams.
Faisal Al-Shabibi, a Yemeni journalist, told Arab News: “They (the Houthis) view the events of Sept. 26 as a rebellion, not a revolution as the Yemenis do. They intend to transform the republic into a monarchy gradually.”
The Houthis, who took military control of Yemen in late 2014, have detained thousands of Yemeni politicians, activists, journalists, and members of the general public, as well as forcing tens of thousands to abandon their homes.