Houthis prohibit music at school graduations

By Abu Bakr al-Yamani in Sanaa

In an April 11th directive, the Houthis banned music and dance performances at school graduation ceremonies in Sanaa. [Abu Bakr al-Yamani/Al-Mashareq]

In an April 11th directive, the Houthis banned music and dance performances at school graduation ceremonies in Sanaa. [Abu Bakr al-Yamani/Al-Mashareq]

School graduations in parts of Yemen controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) will be muted this year following a new directive that imposes strict conditions on the ceremonies that includes the banning of music.

On April 11th, the Houthi-controlled Ministry of Education and the Education Bureau in Sanaa issued a directive that imposes new conditions on public and private schools with regard to graduation ceremonies.

Per the directive, all graduation ceremony agendas now must be submitted to the Houthi Student Activities Department for prior approval.

The directive also sets out a series of restrictive new conditions.

Music and dance performances are banned during graduation ceremonies, according to the directive, which stipulates that the ceremonies must not include any aspects of "Western culture".

The only guests granted permission to attend graduation ceremonies at girls' schools are the graduate’s father, mother and siblings under the age of 13.

Graduation ceremonies are not the only area where the directive seeks to assert control over Yemeni schools, however.

Companies and organisations are prohibited from entering school campuses without the approval of the Student Activities Department, according to the directive, and all school field trips are to be approved by the department.

Restrictive measures

The measures imposed on schools by the Houthis are "arbitrary and prohibitive", Private School Teachers Syndicate member Faisal Ali told Al-Mashareq.

In a subsequent directive, circulated April 25th in the aftermath of the killing of the Houthis' top political leader, Saleh al-Sammad, the Iran-backed militia banned residents from holding graduation parties or any celebration, he said.

Schools are suffering under the Houthis' rule because of these types of arbitrary measures, Ali said, and also because of the militia's imposition of additional taxes and tributes on them.

"We are extremely tired [of this], and most schools, us included, are on the verge of closure," he said. "They are driving us insane with taxes, insurance, zakat and other fees under many names."

"All parties are tampering with Yemen, and what the Houthis did is part of this tampering that is besieging society and constricting [people's] livelihoods," said al-Noor Centre for Islamic Studies director Sheikh Zaid Abdul Rahman.

The Houthis’ ban on music during school graduation ceremonies is in the same vein as measures imposed by extremist groups such as the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and al-Qaeda, he told Al-Mashareq.

The ban aims to "reshape the consciousness of the youth and detach them from anything that connects them to creativity and the inclination for peace", said political researcher Yassin al-Tamimi.

Instead of focusing on peaceful thoughts, the minds of the youth are being filled "with slogans that glorify violence", he told Al-Mashareq.

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