Twenty journalists taking part in an anti-hate speech event in the capital city Sanaa in Yemen were detained by Houthi kidnappers for several hours, according to a United Nations spokesman.
Ishraq Al-Maqtary, who works with Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Yemen, explained that the journalists were held against their will by Houthi militia members during the event, which was being held at a hotel in the city, according to reporting from the Middle East Memo.
“Houthi militias kidnapped 20 journalists and media workers during their participation in an anti-hate speech and incitement to violence in the Yemeni media event,” Al Maqtary said.
Most of the journalists were released later that same day, according to the Washington Post, but two of the journalists, including an individual who had founded the group that put on the event, were transported by the militia members to an unknown place. Those journalists were Ashraf el-Refi and Adel Abdel-Moughni, the Post reported.
el-Refi and Abdel-Moughni are still being held by the Houthi militia members, according to Nabeel al-Osaidy, the education chairman for the Journalists’ Syndicate in Yemen. It was not made clear why the abduction occurred at all, according to reporting from Yeni Safak, and Houthi officials haven’t yet acknowledged the kidnapping.
Civil war has plagued the nation of Yemen for more than four years. According to reporting from Al Jazeera, the war had its roots in 2013, when Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference was launched and efforts to form a new government and create a new constitution begun. Houthi participants in that conference withdrew, however, after a dispute emerged that allowed the transitional government to remain in power in the nation.
In 2014, tensions mounted after that transitional government lifted fuel subsidies, which angered Houthi leaders. Protests in Sanaa, organized by Houthis and others, soon allowed the group to take over the capital city, forcing the government to locate elsewhere. Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s neighbor to the north, soon intervened, launching air assaults along with its allies in efforts to push back Houthi strongholds that had been gained.
The conditions for the civil war have been made more complex by the emergence of terrorist organizations in the country in recent years, which began before the conflict between Houthi rebels and the transitional government started.
The war itself has had a devastating toll on the people of Yemen. At least 10,000 have died as a result, according to the UN, and more than 1-in-9 have been displaced since the war began.