The Iran-backed Houthi militias have intensified in recent days their sectarian activities in Sanaa and other Yemeni regions ahead of an annual Iranian ritual linked to 1979 revolution leader Khomeini.
The militias are spending massive funds to commemorate the weeklong sectarian occasion, incurring the ire of government employees at Houthi institutions who have not been paid for 20 months.
Amid the growing hatred harbored by the majority of the people against the Houthis, especially in Sanaa and major cities, the militias planted several of their spies to keep their tight grip in regions under their control.
Activists in Houthi-held Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that they have spotted militia informants and spies at public spaces, such as cafes and restaurants, as well as social gatherings, such as funerals and weddings.
As a result of this Houthi activity and surveillance of telephone calls, the activists revealed that they have resorted to social media and internet messaging apps to escape the militant reprisals and prying eyes.
An activist recounted how a cafe owner in southern Sanaa had advised him to speak in a low voice when talking about the militias to avoid being overheard by Houthi spies who frequent the cafe.
Observers attributed the militias’ heightened spy efforts to their losses on the West coast battles. Residents in Sanaa, Hodeidah and Ibb have also removed and torn up Houthi posters and banners in defiance of the militias.
The Houthis appear to be concerned about the people breaking the barrier of fear, which may pave the way for armed uprisings against the militia led by former military and partisan figures.
Evidence of this concern were the Houthis’ orders to hotel and cafe owners to remove from their televisions pro-legitimacy stations. They warned that violators will be be penalized and fines. Their paranoia has gone so far as to prompt them to raid people’s homes to make sure they are not watching those stations, which they believe will expose their true sectarian and Iranian agenda and violations against Yemen.
Meanwhile, the Houthis prepared for celebrating the Khomeini commemoration by hanging hundreds of sectarian posters throughout Sanaa. They also encouraged the people to repeat Khomeini chants in what they claim “is one of the most effective ways to fortify society from being breached by the United States and Israel.”
Posters with these chants were plastered on the walls of Houthi-controlled government institutions, mosques and schools. The militants also dispatched convoys mounted with loudspeakers to broadcast recordings by Houthi founder, Hussein al-Houthi, and his brother and their current leader, Abdul Malek.
Moreover, the Houthis ordered their followers and loyalists in government departments, including universities and academic institutions, to organize seminars and events to commemorate the Iranian occasion.
The militias’ commemoration of various sectarian events throughout the year has been frustrating unpaid employees, who see their wages being spent on posters commemorating militant leaders and their dead.