Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have issued new orders in their occupied territories. These include the restriction that no woman will be able to travel without a close male relative.

Yemen's Houthi rebels following in the footsteps of the Taliban
Yemen’s Houthi rebels following in the footsteps of the Taliban


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The war in Yemen has been going on for many years. This war has not only destroyed this country brick by brick but also created a human tragedy. It cannot be called a ‘positive development’ because of the war, but what happened was that the role of women emerged in war situations.

This role of women was not the result of any government policy, but the dire humanitarian conditions in Yemen meant that women had to play a much more active role in the well-being of society than was traditionally assigned. Many women traveled unprecedentedly across the length and breadth of the country.

Freedom of women is being taken away

However, now this travel freedom of women is also being taken away. Lamia, a young Yemeni woman, has worked at a charity organization for more than three years, but she also worries that this may soon no longer be possible.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who rose up against Mansour Hadi’s government in 2012, now control the country’s southwest, including the capital Sanaa, after years of fighting. They have imposed the ‘Muharram Law’ in the territories under their control, meaning that no woman will be able to travel without a close male relative.

This decision will have a huge impact on women. For example, take the example of Lamia. His father is a retired civil servant. They also want to see their daughter working but still do not have enough energy to accompany their daughter everywhere. Neither they can afford it nor their health allows it.

These new orders are creating major problems for many Yemeni women, not just Lamia. Umm Umar recently traveled to Sana’a, where she was supposed to meet her relatives. Umm is in her mid-fifties and has been living abroad with her husband and five children since 2014. She was told by the car rental company that if she wanted to use their service again, she would have to carry a mahram to go anywhere. She won’t even be able to go to the airport alone.

“To avoid further complications and save money, my family is in contact with the Houthi rebels through intermediaries to facilitate my future travel,” Umm Umar told DW.

Criticism of Native Yemeni Women

The former Minister of Human Rights of Yemen, Houria, famously says that the new orders of the Houthi rebels are against the current country’s laws and international agreements on the protection of women’s rights. Speaking to DW, he said that these orders do not correspond at all to the reality of daily life of people today.

She says that the threats women faced 1,400 years ago, when such laws were first enacted, no longer exist. She argues that today’s world is full of means of transportation and communication and such decrees are meaningless.

Description of the Houthi rebels

The spokesperson of the so-called Ministry of Human Rights of the Houthi authorities, Sanad Al-Sunaidi, says that this decision is currently being reviewed. However, he argues that the purpose of the decree is not to impose arbitrary restrictions on women but to protect them as well as combat human trafficking.

They say that the government decided to issue this order in view of the “oppression” that many women suffered during the war. He also gave several examples of how women were exploited in areas not controlled by the Houthis.

Even critics do not deny that travel in Yemen is particularly dangerous for women, given the dire security situation. However, they say that women and their families are aware of this risk and take appropriate safety measures in this context. They say that it is not right to restrict women’s freedoms and opportunities for development while arguing for security.

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