A well-known Yemeni activist who exposed sexual abuse by the Houthis in Yemen’s prisons has been held imprisoned by Saudi intelligence for over a year, and her friends are unsure of her current location.
Ali Albukhaiti, a well-known Yemeni politician and writer, made the assertion regarding the disappearance of Samira al-Houri. He decided to make this information public because he believed that all attempts to secure her release through diplomatic channels had been exhausted. Albukhaiti drew a comparison to the case of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and dissident who was killed, expressing his concerns for Houri’s safety even though he had no evidence of her fate.
Houri was released from a Houthi prison in 2019 and gave powerful interviews, mainly on Arabic channels, where she revealed that female prisoners were systematically raped, mistreated, and held for ransom. Her testimony played a role in the United Nations imposing sanctions on two Houthi security officials in February 2021.
Later, it was alleged that she admitted that some of her statements on Arabic TV were untrue and that she had exaggerated the claims at the request of Saudi officials.
For the past 8 years, a Saudi-led partnership has been fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. However, the Houthis have acquired control over much of the country, particularly in the north, and the war has reached a stalemate.
According to Albukhaiti, Houri and her 20-year-old son were arrested by Saudi intelligence at their home in Riyadh on April 17 of the previous year.
Albukhaiti, who has 1.2 million followers on Twitter and was once a spokesperson for the Houthis before breaking with them, stated that Houri had informed him that some of what she had said about her time in prison was false or exaggerated. She revealed that some of the decorations were made under the instruction of Saudi officers.
Albukhaiti further mentioned that only a small part of the Houthi crimes have come to light, and their treatment of women is similar to that of the Taliban. While Houthi leaders support arbitrary detention and have imprisoned many women in Yemen, they do not officially support sexual crimes. However, sexual abuse and harassment by officers occur within their detention centers, with some officers engaging in such acts in exchange for releasing prisoners.
Regarding Houri’s claim that the Houthis demanded she use sex to lure Houthi politicians and film them as a form of blackmail, Albukhaiti stated that this was not true.
He suggested that Houri might have been arrested by Saudi officials out of fear that she would admit to being used as a propaganda tool. It was also alleged that she felt the Saudi funds intended to help free Yemeni women in jail had been misused.
Shortly before her arrest, Houri called Albukhaiti in tears, expressing her desire to leave Saudi Arabia and go to Europe, unsure if it was possible.
Albukhaiti demanded that the Saudi authorities disclose what has happened to her, emphasizing that no law permits enforced disappearance for more than a year without informing families and lawyers about the case.