The appointment of Adel Al-Mutawakel comes on the heels of a multi-year legal battle over ownership of the private university
Houthis take over Azal University with the appointment of loyalist president
The Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee in Sana'a issued a decree appointing Houthi loyalist Adel Al-Mutawakel as president of the Sana’a-based Azal University for Human Development Thursday. Al-Mutawakel replaces long standing president Dr. Hussein Al-Bahji as head of the private university and one of Yemen’s foremost public health education institutions, offering majors such as physiotherapy and midwifery.
Prior to the appointment of Al-Mutawakel as president, the committee had installed him as a legal guardian on the university’s board, along with another Houthi loyalist, Ibrahim Al-Omaisi, as a financial auditor.
The decision to appoint Al-Mutawakel followed two years of conflict between the university’s administration and Houthi leaders, according to sources at the university, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution.
Houthi authorities have stormed the university on several occasions and imposed different forms of administrative, legal and financial restrictions in an attempt to extend influence over it, the sources said, adding that the Houthis have arrested and imprisoned administrators and academics at the university.
"A great farce! And they said they counter corruption,” Azal legal counsel Dr. Abdullah Sultan Shaddad wrote in a Facebook post, criticizing the "unjust decision" of the presidential appointment.
On Nov. 16, General Saleh Mosfer Al-Shaer, who appointed Al-Mutawakel and Al-Omaisi to the board, threatened then-President Al-Bahji and the university’s secretary general with jail and expulsion from Yemen in front of the university’s students, were they to refuse the new appointments, Shaddad said.
The public threats of jail and expulsion were the result of a legal dispute over the ownership of the university. The Houthi prosecution claims that the university is owned by a member of parliament who resides outside of Yemen. University officials say that it is owned by 18 academics and businessmen residing in Sana'a.
Employees of private companies throughout Houthi-controlled governorates have complained of increasing Houthi restrictions on businesses, including seizing revenues and at times taking over the companies.