Lucrative Drug Trade Finances Houthi War Effort
The Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen have been since their coup against legitimate authorities employing the drug trade to finance their war effort.
Various drugs have spread across regions under Houthi control. Residents in Houthi-held Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that narcotics are everywhere and are even sold on the streets, some markets and Houthi-owned grocery stores.
They complained that the militias have transformed their areas into open markets for the drug trade, while placing some blame on the state authority over its poor means in cracking down on smugglers.
Local reports said that the trade witnessed a major revival after the Houthi coup, which was coupled with a consequent rise in abusers. This trade has also become a main source of vast wealth for the Houthi militias.
Legitimate security authorities have succeeded in arresting hundreds of smugglers and confiscated massive amounts of contraband material.
A report from the legitimate Interior Ministry revealed that Maarib witnessed the greatest number of drug busts, followed by al-Jawf region, Hajjah and al-Bayda. In the past three years, security agencies seized more than 27 tons of cannabis and other drugs from Maarib alone. The latest bust took place in June when they confiscated a 99-kilogram shipment that was headed to Sanaa.
The figures in the report are only a fraction of the successes achieved by the legitimacy. The report also spoke of the close cooperation between the Houthis and drug gangs that are affiliated with Iran and the its proxy, the Lebanese Hezbollah party.
The Houthi drug trade dates back to even before the coup. In the early 1990s, the militias had used a barren desert region between the Harad and Midi border region with Saudi Arabia to unload smuggled weapons and drugs for trade inside and outside Yemen, observers told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Security sources revealed that Saada was the most active province in Yemen in international drug smuggling networks. They added that many prominent international smugglers originally hail from Saada.
The Houthis use drugs as one of the effective ways to lure children into their ranks. International reports revealed how the militants abduct children and force them to take drugs. Once they become addicted, they become easy to control by the Houthis and are forced to the battlefronts.
Abou Mohammed recounted to Asharq Al-Awsat how the Houthis kidnapped his 15-year-old son and forced him to become addicted to drugs.
“My son has changed. He is in a constant daze, as if he has been stripped of his mind and will, due to those drugs,” he lamented.
Economic experts estimate that the Houthis reap in about 1 billion dollars a year from the drug trade, which is one of the main sources for funding its war effort.