Iran-backed Houthis target Yemeni civilians who oppose them

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


Houthi fighters gather in Sanaa to show support for the militia on September 27th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

As the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) suffer military setbacks in the Yemeni provinces of Bayda, Saada and al-Hodeida, they have been retaliating by ratcheting up the pressure on civilians in Sanaa, local officials tell Al-Mashareq.

A recent spate of attacks targeting Yemeni officials and civilians is part of a wider effort to intimidate anyone who opposes the militia's actions, they said.

Recent losses on the Bayda, Saada and al-Hodeidah fronts "have weakened and disoriented the Houthis, driving them to try to score victories at the expense of citizens", said Yemen's Deputy Human Rights Minister Nabil Abdul Hafiz.

The Houthis have been attempting to spread fear by ruling with an iron fist, he told Al-Mashareq, and by "abusing and intimidating all who oppose them".

Houthi militiamen on September 21st stormed the Sanaa home of Yemeni Ambassador to the United Kingdom Yassin Saeed Noman, local media reported.

And on Saturday (October 6th), militiamen detained dozens of students protesting against poverty in Sanaa, activists and witnesses told AFP.

According to local activists, the Houthis detained at least 55 students, including 18 women, near Sanaa University.

Houthi authorities had warned they would "beat and arrest" anyone taking part in demonstrations in Sanaa, which remains under Houthi control, residents said, after local activists called for a mass protest against inflation and famine.

Iran-backed 'gangs and bandits'

In carrying out such acts, the Houthis are "embodying the behaviour of gangs and bandits, all with the backing of Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)", Abdul Hafiz said.

Yemen's Deputy Minister of Information Saleh al-Hamidi told Al-Mashareq he strongly condemns the Houthis' storming of Ambassador Noman's home.

Al-Hamidi said he also rejects "all the acts of looting and theft committed by the Houthi militias" and admonished Iran, since it "backs the Houthis' operations".

He called on the international community to pressure Iran over these abuses.

"The Houthis are continuing their abuses by storming of the homes of officials, most recently the home of Ambassador Noman," political analyst Khalid Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

Last year, he noted, the militia also raided the homes of Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani and Advisor to the President Nasr Taha Mustafa.

According to Ahmed, the purpose of these raids was to "terrorise officials who moved out to live in Riyadh or Cairo, with the aim of pressuring others to not take opposing stances against them".

Documenting the Houthis' abuses

The Houthis have been indiscriminately shelling residential neighbourhoods so that residents of other areas will submit to their will out of fear, Deputy Human Rights Minister Nabil Abdul-Hafeez told Al-Mashareq.

He stressed the importance of documenting the Houthis' abuses, noting that the ministry will monitor and prosecute the Houthis via various means.

These will include the use of reports prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights and the National Commission to Investigate Alleged Human Rights Violations.

"These reports form the nucleus that will be used by local judicial bodies to hold [the Houthis] accountable," Abdul Hafeez said, and will serve as a basis for litigation at international courts.

Another means to hold the Houthis to account involves documenting violations committed by Iran in Yemen, he said, which is a "task for Yemeni diplomats".

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been "working to expose Iran's actions" in Yemen, he said, stressing that the "Houthi militias are Iran’s arm in the region".

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