Thursday, November 2, 2023

Houthis attack Yemeni activists supporting public salaries


Yemeni Journalist Brutally Assaulted by Houthis: Human Rights Groups Condemn Attack

Human rights activists in Yemen and international rights groups have condemned the Houthis for mercilessly assaulting a journalist based in Sanaa and sending death threats to Yemeni activists and politicians who support the intensifying public demand for the Houthis to pay state employees.

Brutal Attack on Journalist

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists reported on Tuesday that a Houthi-affiliated armed group brutally attacked Majili Al-Samadi, head of Voice of Yemen radio, outside his home in Sanaa’s Al-Safia district on Aug. 24. The IFJ demanded that the Houthis bring the perpetrators to justice and cease harassing journalists. “We condemn the brutal attack on our colleague Majili Al-Samadi and all attempts to silence his critical reporting,” IFJ Secretary-General Anthony Bellanger said in a statement posted on the organization’s website.

Al-Samadi’s Fight for Justice

Sharing images of his bruised face and bleeding mouth on social media, Al-Samadi said that armed men severely beat him for posting on social media. He vowed to continue challenging the Houthis until they pay him. “During my return, a band of five individuals beat me outside my house in Al-Safia and threatened to do more if I did not stop writing,” he said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

The Houthis’ Accusation

Hours before the attack, Al-Samadi posted on social media demanding that the Houthis pay his salary. “My rights and my salary … before the Prophet … The Prophet does not need me!! I need my salary,” he said in the post. Indirectly claiming responsibility for the attack, the Houthis accused him of profaning the Prophet Muhammad in the post.

Threats to Activists

Activists based in Houthi-controlled Sanaa and others residing outside Yemen have reported receiving death threats from Houthi-affiliated figures for demanding that the Houthis pay state employees in areas under their control and condemning the assaults on journalist Al-Samadi.

Ahmed Hashed, an outspoken member of the Houthi-controlled parliament, said that he has received numerous death threats from Houthi figures for exposing the corruption of Houthi leaders and supporting the salary demands of public employees. “I hold the leader of Ansar Allah and the authority of the Ansar group entirely responsible for my life and the safety … The authority in Sanaa incites (the populace) against us and seeks retribution for our opposition to corruption and our demand for the reinstatement of the salaries of teachers and employees whose pay has been reduced for many years,” Hashed said on X, using the official name of the Houthis. In one of the messages, Hashed said, a Houthi figure threatened: “If Majili Al-Samadi loses a tooth, you will lose both your mouth and your tongue.”

Targeting Relatives

The Houthis have also threatened to target relatives of Yemeni activists who reside outside of their territories in retaliation for their criticism. Exiled Yemeni activist Ibrahim Asqin stated that the Houthis had threatened to target his relatives in his home province of Ibb if he did not cease criticizing them and supporting public employee salaries. “A group that cannot tolerate censure of many of its practices from its opponents is too fragile and weak to lead the people,” Asqin said on X. Asqin is well-known for exposing human rights violations committed by Houthi figures in the province of Ibb and for publishing videos and photographs depicting armed Houthis plundering lands and assaulting people.

Pressure to Pay State Employees

The Houthis are facing rising public pressure to pay thousands of government employees who have not been paid since 2016. Since early 2022, the pressure has increased amid reports that the Houthis have generated billions of riyals in revenue from the port of Hodeidah as a result of an increase in the number of ships during the UN-brokered cease-fire.

The Houthis have asked that Yemen’s internationally recognized government pay public employees from oil sales, while the government has said that it will only pay public employees if the Houthis deposit revenue from Hodeidah port into the central bank.

Houthi Leaders’ Wealth

Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst and a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute, said that Houthi leaders have become increasingly wealthy over the past eight years, as they have amassed immense sums of revenue despite the extreme poverty of the public workforce. “The Houthis are not interested in governing, which would entail them actually providing services including salary payment. The Houthis’ model is largely based on population control through repression and violence,” she said.

Potential Escalation

She did not rule out the possibility that the Houthis would restart the war in Yemen in order to avoid public pressure. “Now that the Saudis have stopped their airstrikes and lifted restrictions on Hodeidah seaport, the Houthis are running out of excuses (to pay public employees). I would not be surprised if they escalate militarily in order to force these protests to stop.”

In conclusion, the brutal assault on journalist Majili Al-Samadi and the threats against activists and politicians demanding fair payment for state employees highlight the oppressive tactics employed by the Houthis in Yemen. Human rights groups are calling for justice and an end to the harassment of journalists and activists. The pressure on the Houthis to pay state employees is mounting, and their refusal to do so raises questions about their governance and priorities. The international community must continue to condemn these actions and support those fighting for justice and fair treatment in Yemen.

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