Love in the time of Houthis

Love in the time of Houthis
The story of the young lover Huda, from Saudi Arabia, and Arafat, from Yemen, ended happily - with a little help from the heavily armed Houthi movement.
3 min read
07 November, 2014
Unlikely matchmakers? (Getty)

In October last year, a young Yemeni man and a Saudi girl were stuck with a problem they could not resolve. They had just undertaken a long and difficult journey from Saudi Arabia to Yemen, and they wanted to marry.

What they did not expect was that the last chapter of this love story between Huda and Arafat would be written by the fighters of the Ansar Allah movement, more commonly known as the Houthis.

The story of Huda al-Niran, known in the Saudi media as “the girl from Bahr Abu Sakina” after the area in which she lived in southern Saudi Arabia, started in October 2013 when she fell in love with Arafat al-Qadi, a young Yemeni man living in Saudi Arabia. Huda’s parents refused the marriage, so Arafat and Huda eloped, fleeing to Yemen.

At the time, the story grabbed public attention in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Some supported the couple’s right to get married, others opposed it, claiming the case violated established norms and traditions and that the “kidnapping” was illegitimate, even if done for love and marriage.

     The last chapter of this love story would be written by the heavily armed fighters of the Houthi movement.

On 27 October 2013, the Municipal East Court in Sanaa acquitted Arafat of all charges that had been brought against him, and he was released. Huda was granted the right to request humanitarian asylum from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and was meanwhile detained in the “Hope for Juvenile Care” house in the Yemeni capital. Another court requested permission from her guardian in Saudi Arabia to marry her without which marriage would be impossible.

But on the evening of 6 November, some 15 armed Houthis stormed the youth centre and led away the Saudi girl. The armed men told the building’s guards they belonged to the popular committees (tribal armed followers of the Houthi group), and said they were there to take out "the Saudi prisoner, Huda al-Niran". The guards tried to stop them but failed.

On Thursday, Yemeni media then reported that Huda and Arafat had arrived in the city of Imran in north Yemen.

The Houthis seized the city of Imran, north of Sanaa, in July, after besieging it for months. Since then, they have taken over the local administration and started to carry out the functions of the state themselves, from running the courts to issuing and implementing capital punishments.

And in a country at war with itself, in which there are so few happy endings, Huda and Arafat’s love story provided a rare ray of light. Under the aegis of their new civil administration, the Houthis married the two eloped lovers.

Whatever the reality of this fairy tale ending, it is likely that the continuing saga of the "girl from Bahr Abu Sakina" and her Yemeni knight in shining armour will now unfold far from the public scrutiny under which their flight to be together was conducted.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.