Independent intellectuals under threat - Bonnefoy

In a recent piece published by, French scholar Laurent Bonnefoy examines the post-revolution trend of attacks on independent activists and thinkers, and the related polarization of Yemen's political and intellectual arena. Bonnefoy focuses in particular on a recent attack on Nabil Subay, a famous journalist/poet/social critic:

On 2 January 2016 in Sana’a, Nabil Subay, a Yemeni journalist, heads for lunch with friends. Unidentified gunmen attack him on a busy street: they beat him violently about the head and shoot him in both legs. He is taken to hospital and operated on. One of his colleagues, Muhammad Aysh, immediately places responsibility on the Houthis, given that the city is under their control; they allowed this aggression to happen and let the perpetrators escape....

...The attack he suffered in early January 2016 symbolises a deep and worrying dynamic emerging in a country which, only a few years ago, and particularly during the 2011 revolutionary moment, demonstrated a flourishing of ideas and creativity. As the political situation has become increasingly tense since 2014, far too many independent and moderate personalities have been murdered or suffered violence and intimidation.

As Bonnefoy points out, groups on many sides of Yemen's political divides have carried out assassinations, arrests, and other acts of intimidation and repression against their ideological enemies in recent years. The atmosphere such acts create will only make it harder for Yemen to ever emerge from the present conflict.

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.]