Iran-backed Houthis abuse Yemeni civilians

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Houthi fighters march in Sanaa on October 16th. The Houthis have been using tactics similar to those employed by Iran's IRGC to extend their control over the population, experts say. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Houthi fighters march in Sanaa on October 16th. The Houthis have been using tactics similar to those employed by Iran's IRGC to extend their control over the population, experts say. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Atrocities committed by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) against civilians in Yemen closely mirror the abuses perpetrated by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), experts told Al-Mashareq.

These include violent crackdowns on protesters and the recruitment of children to fight in their ranks, they said.

On October 6th, the Houthis carried out a campaign of arrests against Sanaa University students for issuing a call to take part in a "Revolution of the Hungry" demonstration.

A widespread social media campaign has been calling on Yemenis to demonstrate against the collapse of the riyal and the devastating economic conditions in Houthi-held areas.

The militia has barred these protests as it views them as a threat to its rule.

The Houthis stormed the campus of Sanaa University accompanied by the Zainabiyat all-female battalions, whose members beat up female activists with clubs and electric shock sticks.

They arrested a number of female students on charges of threatening social peace and of being agents of foreign governments.

The Houthis "have revealed their atrocious use of force against dozens of male and female students", said Adel al-Shujaa of the General People's Congress (GPC) general committee.

"Their abuse and arrest of women is unprecedented," he told Al-Mashareq.

"Those who confront university students with armored vehicles and heavy weapons reveal the state of weakness and confusion they are experiencing," he added.

Tactics used by the IRGC

"It is clear that the abuses committed by the Houthis are inspired by Iran as they mirror the abuses committed by the IRGC," political analyst Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq.

The IRGC has been involved in violent crackdowns on protesters, the latest of which happened between December 28th and January 1st when demonstrators across Iran protested the dire state of the economy and the Iranian regime's involvement in regional wars through its proxies.

Twenty-five people were killed in the unrest, according to the authorities.

Houthis are using similar tactics employed by the IRGC, al-Jalil said, including "forcing opposition activists to make confessions that are not true", as was the case with Yemeni journalist Ali al-Sharaabi who was forced to make false admissions under torture in a video recorded and aired by the militia October 5th.

They also have been recruiting child soldiers to swell their ranks, he said, noting that they resort to kidnapping children from schools, brainwashing them and blackmailing their parents.

Similarly, the IRGC has been accused of sending Afghan immigrant and refugee children to fight in Syria as part of the Fatemiyoun Brigade.

It also established the first scout troops in that country in 2010 with the help of trainers from Lebanon and Iran.

Bulletins issued by IRGC-affiliated militias in Syria have announced the death of a large number of these child fighters in battle, al-Sharq Centre for Regional and Strategic Studies researcher Fathi al-Sayed told Al-Mashareq previously.

The Houthis pose a threat "not only to Yemen but to the entire region", al-Jalil said, stressing that their actions threaten Yemen's social fabric and embroil the countries of the region in internal wars and sectarian conflicts.

Indifference to the lives of civilians

"The IRGC oversaw the training of the Houthis and provided them with weapons and all that they need for combat," said GPC media deputy department director Abdul Hafeez al-Nahari.

They also inspired them on how to treat protesters and how to torture detainees and activists who oppose them, he told Al-Mashareq.

The Houthis’ practices have revealed "their disregard for the lives of civilians", he said, pointing to the militia's use of bombs camouflaged as rocks, which have claimed the lives of scores of Yemenis, including children.

These devices have been linked to Iran, according to a March report by Conflict Armament Research, a weapons-tracking group.

"The responsibility for these abuses [against civilians] rests with both the Houthis and Iran," he said.

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The comment is weak about Houthis’ practices on the ground, including their violations, crimes and atrocities, and their going beyond all that is shameful.