Yemeni model detained by Houthis in danger of 'forced virginity test': Amnesty

Yemeni model detained by Houthis in danger of 'forced virginity test': Amnesty
2 min read
Entisar Al-Hammadi is in danger of undergoing a 'forced virginity test', Amnesty International said, describing the practice as 'sexual violence'.
Amnesty demanded Entisar Al-Hammadi's 'immediate release' by Houthi rebels [AFP/Getty-file photo]
A Yemeni model arrested two months ago for "challenging social norms" is at risk of undergoing a forced "virginity test", Amnesty International said on Friday.

According to the London-based NGO, Entisar Al-Hammadi was detained in February by plainclothes personnel in Sanaa, where the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the Yemeni capital are enforcing a morality campaign.

Her detention, which Amnesty said occurred at a checkpoint, has previously been decried by activists and others online who said it was a Houthi kidnap.

According to Amnesty, the 19-year-old woman born to an Ethiopian mother and a Yemeni father has been "interrogated while blindfolded, physically and verbally abused [and] subjected to racist insults".

She was also "forced to 'confess' to several offences, including drug possession and prostitution", the London-based rights group said.

Read more: How the odds were stacked against Yemen's Arab Spring revolution

It said her lawyer learned of "plans to subject her to a 'virginity test' within days" on Tuesday from "a member of the prosecution team".

Amnesty has called on the Houthis to stop this.

"She is being punished for challenging the social norms of Yemen's deeply patriarchal society, which entrench discrimination against women," said Amnesty's Lynn Maalouf.

"Forced 'virginity tests' are a form of sexual violence and amount to torture under international law," said Amnesty.

Al-Hammadi had several thousand followers on Instagram and Facebook, where she posted sessions with local stylists and designers.

The young woman often appeared online in traditional dress as well as leather and denim jackets, and sometimes without a Muslim headscarf.

The Houthis, who seized Sanaa from Yemen's internationally recognised government in 2014 and control much of the north, have not commented on her fate.

"On April 21, she was brought before public prosecution for questioning in the presence of her lawyer on charges including 'drug use, drug promotion, and prostitution' - all of which she strongly denies," Amnesty said.

"At the end of the interrogation, her lawyer witnessed her being slapped by the prison manager," it added.

The public prosecutor prevented Al-Hammadi's lawyer from accessing her file, and a gunman then threatened him on 27 April telling him to drop the case, said Amnesty.

It called for Al-Hammadi's immediate release from prison.

The Houthis, Amnesty said, "have a deplorable track record of arbitrarily detaining people on baseless charges - to silence or punish critics, activists, journalists and members of religious minorities".

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