February 3-9: Crackdown on press and protests follows Houthi coup

The past week has seen a significant political escalation by the Houthi movement’s leadership, as well as a heavy crackdown on the media and ongoing protests by a group of youth students who are opposing the group’s coup. Two staff members of the Islah-affiliated TV channel, Suhail, were kidnapped on February 3 by Houthi security forces as they covered a protest against the Houthis outside Sanʻa University. Houthi gunmen also allegedly stormed al-Shomuʻ Publishing House and arrested its staff.

A new movement called "For a Stable Nation" accused the Houthis of storming houses and launching a crackdown on protests as well as kidnapping at least a dozen opponents. The movement also accused political parties and UN envoy Jamal Benomar of being in connivance with the Houthi coup, and called for continued street protests.

Adding to the fears of deteriorating freedom was a memo issued by Ministry of Interior, ordering police to ban any “unlicensed” protest. The ministry claimed that the reason for the ban was concern that public gatherings could be targeted by terrorist attacks.

The Houthi’s gradual escalation reached its climax last Friday, with the group’s unilateral decision to issue what they termed as a “Constitutional Declaration,” which dissolved the parliament and appointed top senior officials from the previous government in military and security positions.

The Houthis’ move has raised fears among opponents, including youth activists who have faced harsh repression by the Houthis’ militias since the group took charge of the capital and other provinces in last September.

The youth union has pledged to go on with their protest until the “Houthi coup” is over. The pace of protests against the group has been small yet steady; activists have made Change Square, the center of the 2011 uprising, the launching pad for their ongoing demonstrations. [Larger protests have taken place elsewhere in the country.]