Houthis turn Sanaa into a prison

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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A newly-recruited Houthi fighter looks through the scope of a sniper rifle while taking part in a gathering in Sanaa, to mobilise more fighters to battlefronts on July 16th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

The Houthis (Ansarallah) have imposed new travel restrictions on residents of Sanaa, limiting their ability to leave or enter the city without getting prior approval from the militia, travel agents told Al-Mashareq.

The Iran-backed militia issued new directives on Tuesday (December 19th) that require transport and travel companies to submit daily records of all travel activities to the Houthis.

Residents also are required to receive permission from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) before travelling.

The new measures come in the wake of a mass exodus of Sanaa residents in the 10 days that followed the killing of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on December 4th.

According to a December 15th statement by the International Organisation for Migration, some 25,000 people fled Sanaa after a wave of indiscriminate killings and intimidation by the Houthis, including against members of the General People's Congress (GPC) and their families.

The new measures ban residents from travelling on the same day they reserve their tickets, and require that travellers' data be submitted to the Houthis' information and investigation division at least six hours prior to travel time.

Transport companies also are instructed to record travellers' information -- including full names, province, district, ID and passport numbers.

Foreigners who desire to travel, whether domestically or internationally, need to obtain a permit, and a copy of their passports has to be sent via WhatsApp to the investigation division.

The measures also require travel agents to immediately report any suspicious cases or persons.

Major losses due to drop in reservations

"Reservations cannot be made for anyone without a personal ID card or passport," said Mohammed al-Aghbari, a reservation agent at the Group Transport Company on al-Seteen Street, Sanaa.

"Criminal investigation representatives check the buses and passengers, and may cancel the trip or prevent some passengers from travelling," he told Al-Mashareq.

Mohammed al-Mosbahi, a travel agent at Raha Transport in Sanaa, complained that the new restrictions have led to a drop in reservations, and that this "may expose domestic transport companies to major losses".

Meanwhile, Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Monday urged the local authorities and security agencies in southern provinces, as well as the Arab Coalition, to facilitate the entry of residents from northern provinces to the provisional capital of Aden.

The call, made to the governors of Aden, Abyan, Lahij and al-Dhale, and to the security chiefs of those provinces, came after citizens faced hurdles in entering Aden at the hands of the security forces.

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You’re the biggest liars. I’m Yemeni and I live in Sana'a. There is better freedom in Sana'a than you, rogues!

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