ADEN -- Under the control of the Iran-backed Houthis, the Yemeni city of Sanaa has become one of the world's worst places to inhabit because of weak security and poor public services, according to a new global ranking.
Sanaa has been under the control of the Houthis since September 2014, when they seized control of state institutions headquartered in the capital. The move later promoted the Yemeni government to establish a temporary capital in Aden.
The Houthis' coup exacerbated the fragile situation in Yemen and contributed to creating a situation the United Nations (UN) has described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
According to the UN, some eight million Yemenis are on the brink of famine and 20 million are in need of aid.
Spanish magazine Muy Negocios & Economía ranks cities in the world based on how livable they are.
On August 3, it said Sanaa now ranks third on the list of worst cities in the world to live in -- after the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, which tops the list because of its living conditions.
In preparing its list, Muy Negocios & Economía takes cultural events, concerns for the environment, ease of transportation, housing costs, and job opportunities into consideration in determining the level of livability.
Sanaa's brain drain
"This ranking is based on the observation of actual facts," Yemen's Deputy Justice Minister Faisal al-Majeedi told Al-Mashareq.
"Sanaa is almost devoid of opinion leaders, journalists, human rights defenders and politicians as a result of the human rights violations the Houthis have committed against them," he said.
Dozens of satellite TV channels and hundreds of newspapers have been forcibly shut down, he said, and there is only one voice left to be heard in Yemen: the voice that supports Houthi ideas and the Iranian regime's expansionist agenda.
"Travel and freedom of movement are basic rights, but in the era of the Houthis, they are not guaranteed, and this applies not only to personal rights but also to trade and free enterprise," al-Majeedi said.
"The Houthis have kidnapped women, scholars and university professors as well as political leaders, and even social media activists," he added.
The militia has turned the area it controls into an environment "where widespread destruction and devastation prevail", he said, with the exception of its own buildings and investment projects.
City is a 'large prison'
Any country that enters into a war will surely reach a stage of having severe economic and social problems, said Yemeni Deputy Human Rights Minister Nabil Abdul Hafeez.
"Suffering has worsened, especially in the areas controlled by the Houthis," he told Al-Mashareq.
Yemen became one of four countries suffering the worst from famine "and descended into poverty to the point that more than 80% [of the population] live below the poverty line", he said.
He pointed to the Houthis' refusal to pay the salaries of public sector employees, even though the group is pocketing "billions" of dollars in state revenue from taxes, customs and other sources.
Sanaa residents describe the city as "a large prison", Abdul Hafeez said, calling on the international community to put an end to the situation by helping restore security and stability to the country.
"The Houthi coup caused a war that has led to economic hardship," said economist Abdul Aziz Thabet.
"It destroyed the health sector, which is now operating at only half capacity," he said, noting that the war has destroyed more than 2,000 schools.
This has severely curtailed access to education and health care, he said.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate now stands at above 40%, he said, with some projections estimating it could reach 60%, because of the halt in business activities and the shortage of essential public services.