Who is Entesar Al-Hammadi, the Yemeni model kidnapped by the Houthis?

The Iran-backed Houthi militia has kidnapped Entesar Al-Hammadi, a popular Yemeni model and actress, along with two other fashionistas in the capital Sanaa, residents and local media said.

The abduction is the latest in a string of attacks by the rebels on dissidents and liberal women in areas under Houthi control. The incident led to an angry response at home and abroad, as human rights groups and activists called for Al-Hammadi’s release.

Al-Hammadi was born to a Yemeni father and an Ethiopian mother, and pursued her ambition to become a supermodel despite growing up in a conservative country. When she was a child, Al-Hammadi wore her mother’s clothes around the house and imitated famous models she watched on TV, saying that her parents “told me my dream of becoming a model was pie in the sky. I said that it was my dream and I would keep pursuing it,” she told Balqees TV in an interview last year.

Living in Sanaa, Al-Hammadi, who planned to enroll at a college next year, found fame when a friend, who was a professional photographer, published photos of her on social media wearing traditional Yemeni outfits, all with her in a hijab. The acclaim the images received prompted her to pose for images without a hijab, drawing criticism from conservative observers.

“I did not care about anything, since I love this profession,” she told the interviewer when asked about the criticism.

Since then she has continued to model, and also featured in two drama series on local TV. Al-Hammadi has also spoken out about her experience of racism on account of her dark skin, but has voiced her ambition to further her career, and model on international catwalks. “It would great if I was given an opportunity outside Yemen,” she said.