Angry backlash as Yemen’s Houthi rebels ‘declare war on women's lingerie'

Angry backlash as Yemen’s Houthi rebels ‘declare war on women's lingerie'
Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa, have confiscated and burned hundreds of pictures of underwear models from lingerie shops, sparking a furious backlash.
3 min read
The Houthis have launched several campaigns against 'immodest' women's clothing [Getty]

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have confiscated and burned hundreds of images of underwear models from lingerie shops and retailers in the capital Sanaa, sparking a furious backlash on social media, including from supporters of the movement.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who took control of Sanaa in 2015, are locked in a brutal war with Yemen's internationally-recognized government and have imposed strict moral rules in areas under their control, with women particularly targeted.

The Houthis’ Office of Industry and Commerce announced a three-day campaign on Sunday to remove what they called “pictures of clothing which offends morality”.

"The [Houthi] commerce ministry confiscated all of the photos of women from my shop under the pretext they were naked which undermines modesty," Mohammed al-Alimi, a lingerie shop owner in Al-Safiya district, told AFP.

Another retailer, Omar al-Ouessabi, confirmed that the Houthi campaign had targeted lingerie shops, saying that "hundreds" of photos were burned by the Houthis.

"The authorities in Sanaa recently descended on lingerie shops and confiscated indecent images," a Houthi official confirmed to AFP.

"We are a conservative society. We all have our own dress and customs. This type of indecent image will not be allowed," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But several other Houthi movement representatives criticised the move.

Abdelmalik al-Ajri, a member of the Houthi political bureau, called on the local authorities to "contain their officers who have misinterpreted religion".

On social media, Ahmed al-Moayed, a supporter of the Houthi movement, wrote, “I say to the leader of this campaign, I saw a mobile phone in your hand – don’t you know that with the touch of a button you will see thousands of the same type of pictures that you’re trying to bury?”

The sarcastic Arabic hashtag #Take_a_selfie_of_me_with_the_underwear was also used on Twitter, with one user saying of the Houthis, “whenever they fail to run the country and people get tired of their taxes and oppression they focus on pictures of lingerie in the name of morality… don’t use Daesh [Islamic State] to scare us anymore please because it won’t do any more than what you’re doing”.

The information minister of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, Muammar al-Iryani, also attacked the Houthis’ move, saying in a series of tweets that the rebel group’s action revealed the “true and ugly face of [the] Houthi militia, which is not different than terrorist orgs [sic].”

This was not the first time the Houthis took action against shops selling women's items.

Last year, members of the movement confiscated accessories worn by women over dresses to accentuate their figures, and Sanaa's only cafe for women, Ophelia, was forced to close its doors.