The important work that Mwatana has undertaken to promote human rights in Yemen has come with multiple risks, including human rights violations against its staff amid the conflict's complexities. The organization and its team have also been targeted by the parties to the conflict through organized and widespread campaigns aimed at discrediting them and undermining their efforts.
From August 2014 to December 2022, Mwatana's team both in the central office and in the field was subjected to 55 violations, including enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, armed assault, threats, summonses, and harassment. In addition, Mwatana and its work were targeted by hundreds of smear campaigns and incitement launched on satellite channels, websites, and social media networks.
The violations against Mwatana have extended beyond the organization’s field team. They have also targeted the senior management of the organization, which comprises Chairperson Radhya Al-Mutawakel and Executive Director Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih.
On August 9, 2015, while taking part in a protest against the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group's detainment of three prominent women linked with the Islah Party, Mwatana's Executive Director, Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, was arbitrarily arrested and held for five hours at Al-Judairi police station in Sana'a. During his detention, he was subjected to brutal interrogation and physically assaulted with rifle butts by five members of the group before eventually being released.
On September 19, 2015, Mwatana's Chairperson, Radhya Al-Mutawakel, and Executive Director, Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, along with other activists, participated in a solidarity action that had been organized by the family of Mohammed Qahtan, a politician who had been forcibly disappeared. They gathered outside the Political Security Service headquarters, demanding information about his whereabouts and release. However, they were attacked by female members of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group, who were supported by armed men from the group. The attackers then proceeded to detain them separately. Although the organization's Chairperson was released soon after her detention, the Executive Director was held for 10 hours before being released.
On March 4, 2016, upon his return from an international conference in Amman, where he had been advocating for the rights of Yemeni journalists, Mwatana's Executive Director, Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, was once again detained and subjected to interrogation in Sana'a. During the detention, his passport was confiscated, and he was barred from traveling, further restricting his freedom of movement.
On June 14, 2018, at the Al-Falaj checkpoint in Marib governorate, Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, Mwatana's Executive Director, was taken into custody by internationally recognized government forces affiliated with the Islah Party. He was then subjected to physical assault, verbal abuse, and threats, including having Kalashnikov guns pointed at his head, accusing him of espionage. After being held in detention for 10 hours and having his passport and mobile phones confiscated, he was eventually released. Despite this ordeal, he continued to Seiyun to join Mwatana's Chairperson, Radhya Al-Mutawakel, for a planned medical and business trip.
On June 18, 2018, Mwatana's Chairperson, Radhya Al-Mutawakel, and Executive Director, Abdulrasheed Al-Faqih, were detained by Saudi/UAE-led coalition forces upon their arrival at Seiyun Airport. The coalition forces confiscated their passports, IDs, and luggage and prevented them from traveling. After about 15 hours of detention, the two were eventually released as a result of local and international outcry over the incident.
The founders of Mwatana have not only experienced various human rights violations, but they have also been the targets of numerous organized and widespread smear and incitement campaigns by parties to the conflict and their affiliated networks since 2014.
Working in the field of human rights in a multilateral conflict is an extremely risky and dangerous task, similar to navigating a minefield. Field workers are at risk of harm from all sides, whether they are operating in areas with multiple frontlines, large areas contaminated with landmines, booby-traps, and explosives, or areas that are frequently targeted by indiscriminate attacks. In addition, they face risks when traveling on the highways that are full of checkpoints where travelers considered suspicious are stopped and their dialects, places of birth, and surnames are examined.
Mwatana’s researchers and lawyers have faced significant risks operating in the complex conflict environment of Yemen. As a result, they experienced 48 separate incidents of human rights violations. These violations included enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, physical abuse, threats, and harassment, which were perpetrated by all parties to the conflict. Of the 48 incidents, 31 were attributed to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group, while the internationally recognized government was responsible for nine violations. The Southern Transitional Council forces were responsible for seven incidents, and the Security Belt forces were responsible for one.
The field team of Mwatana for Human Rights experienced three incidents of enforced disappearance by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group. In one instance, a researcher operating in Al-Hawban, Taiz governorate, was forcibly disappeared and imprisoned in Al-Saleh Compound for 18 days. During that time, he was subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment and suffered from scarce and poor quality food. At one point, therefore, he was forced to eat cardboard.
Mwatana for Human Rights has faced multiple incidents of enforced disappearance targeting its field researchers. On August 16, 2018, a researcher in Hodeidah was detained while in a cafe on Sana'a Street by members of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group and forcibly disappeared for 40 days until he was released on September 23, 2018. In another incident, a female researcher was subjected to enforced disappearance on February 8, 2020, and was released after four days as a result of intensive follow-up efforts made by Mwatana.
The Mwatana field team experienced nine incidents of arbitrary detention by different parties to the conflict in Yemen. On October 8, 2016, a field researcher was detained for eight days by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group in Amran.
On February 2, 2017, two of Mwatana’s researchers were detained in Al-Bayda for one day. In Al-Mahweet, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group detained, on September 12, 2018, a field researcher of Mwatana for four hours.
On June 30, 2017, the internationally recognized Yemeni government forces detained in the city of Aden a field researcher of Mwatana for 20 hours. On November 22, 2017, the same researcher was detained by the Southern Transitional Council forces for seven hours.
On September 21, 2021, the Transitional Council forces detained a field lawyer. In 2022, two of Mwatana's field team members were arbitrarily detained in the city of Ma'rib. The first was detained in February 2022 by the internationally recognized Yemeni government forces for five days, while the other was detained in July by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group for four days.
On September 2, 2019, a field researcher of Mwatana was stopped for several hours in the city of Aden by the Security Belt Forces of the Transitional Council. On October 22, 2020, a field researcher was arbitrarily detained by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group in Al-Bayda for seven hours.
On February 2, 2022, a Mwatana field researcher in Hodeidah was physically assaulted by members of the Support and Backup Forces of the National Resistance, which operates under the umbrella of the Joint Forces and is led by Tareq Saleh. The assault occurred during the researcher's arbitrary arrest.
From July 2018 to December 2022, Mwatana's field team, lawyers, and researchers (both male and female) were threatened 25 times due to their human rights work. The Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group was responsible for eight threat incidents against Mwatana's team in Hajjah, some of which involved summonses and investigations into their work. The team was warned that they would be arrested or accused of espionage if they continued to document violations and follow up legally.
Mwatana's field team in Al-Hawban, Taiz, was threatened four times by members of the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group, who also summoned and interrogated them. Meanwhile, Mwatana's field lawyers in Sana'a were threatened three times during 2021 and 2022.
In 2022, a female lawyer from Mwatana in Ma'rib faced two threat incidents from the internationally recognized government and was interrogated and suspended from her work. In Abyan governorate, a female field lawyer and a researcher of Mwatana experienced two threat incidents, one on April 12, 2021, and the other on January 22, 2022.
Mwatana's field lawyers encountered threats from the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group in two separate incidents. The first occurred on April 11, 2021, targeting a lawyer operating in Ibb governorate, while the second incident happened on November 16, 2021, directed towards a lawyer working in Amran governorate.
In January2022, a lawyer working for Mwatana in Dhamar governorate was threatened by the Ansar Allah group. Additionally, a female lawyer of Mwatana in Dhale’ governorate was the target of a number of incitement campaigns by the Transitional Council forces on news websites due to her work. The threats she received included that she and her family would be eliminated and expelled from the governorate by the Transitional Council.
A female researcher of Mwatana in Aden was threatened by the Transitional Council on July 15, 2022. Similarly, in January 2022, the organization's female lawyer in Hadramout received a threat and summons from the internationally recognized government.
Incidents of Intimidation
To intimidate and deter them from assisting victims, explosive grenades were thrown near the residences of two of Mwatana’s lawyers, one in the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group-controlled Ibb governorate and the other in the internationally recognized Yemeni government-controlled Ma'rib governorate.
In addition to the direct violations faced by Mwatana's field team, they have also been subjected to various incidents of harassment, such as verbal and written abuse, and insults based on their surnames or geographic origins. These incidents also included defamatory slogans painted on the walls of their work premises, such as accusations of treason and espionage for the opposing parties in the conflict. Furthermore, Mwatana's staff members have been victims of theft, with their houses and mobile phones being targeted. The Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group is responsible for three incidents, while the internationally recognized government is responsible for two incidents and the Transitional Council is responsible for one incident.
Travel Denial Incidents
On June 15, 2022, at approximately 2:00 pm, the Advocacy Unit Director of Mwatana for Human Rights was stopped at Sana'a airport by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group from leaving the country. The Director had planned to travel to Jordan to apply for a visa from the Swedish Embassy in Amman, so that he could participate in the Yemen International Forum, a high-level conference scheduled to take place in Stockholm from July 17 to 19. However, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) armed group prevented him from leaving the country through Sana'a Airport under the pretext of "lack of coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sana'a."
Mwatana, its management, and team have been the target of significant smear and incitement campaigns by parties to the conflict and their supporters. These campaigns carried out with various hashtags, aim to intimidate and discredit the organization due to its work in documenting and exposing violations. Among those who have faced the brunt of these campaigns is Radhya Al-Mutawakel, the Chairperson of Mwatana.
These campaigns have used various hashtags. For example, the Houthis launched Afaf's Piggy Bank campaign in 2014 following Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) took over Sana’a. Also, Radhya Raje' "ricocheting projectiles" campaign in 2015 in the context of the Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) using anti-aircraft guns and the damage they caused to civilians.
The Saudi/UAE-led coalition, the internationally recognized government, and their loyal forces and groups launched the Al-Hiyad “impartiality" campaign to vilify the principle of neutrality. Also, following the release of the report entitled “They are Not Here” in 2016 that Mwatana didn’t shed light on Houthis violations, the Indigenous People campaign following a seminar held in the hall of US Congress the campaign based on a lie that Radhya described Houthis as Indigenous People in Yemen. In the same year, many organizations and individuals started a campaign following the briefing of Mwatana's Chairperson before the UN Security Council falsely claiming that Mwatana is partial to Houthis.
Houthis, government, and collation supporters’ launched a campaign after prominent US Congressman Bernie Sanders posted a photo of a meeting with Mwatana's Chairperson and Executive Director. A campaign accompanying a detention incident in Marib and Seiyun in 2018. Then “the Volatile Substances campaign” in 2019 following a statement by Mwatana on an incident that mentions using of volatile substances to whitewash Houthis. Also, another campaign was based on the lie that Mwatana’s chairperson supports the Houthi discriminatory decision regarding the (fifth) as positive discrimination.
In parallel with Mwatana applying for the ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL Consultative Status, a campaign accusing Mwatana of stealing 700 thousand dollars, and other campaigns.
Good to mention that the campaigns are not on social media platforms but also on media outlets and TV channels for example Suhail TV, Yemen Shabab,and Belqees TV channels.