A radio station run by the Iran-backed Houthi militias announced that it had managed to garner millions of riyals in donations to the Lebanese Hezbollah party.
The Iran-backed party has seen its income diminish due to American sanctions on Tehran.
Sam FM announced that it collected 73 million riyals (around $132,000) from Houthi members and followers over a ten-day campaign for Hezbollah, which is blacklisted by various countries.
The news sparked outrage among residents of Houthi-held Sanaa. Many expressed their disgust to Asharq Al-Awsat over how the militias are keener on Hezbollah’s interests than on the people and on easing their suffering.
Sanaa-based Yemeni activist Saeed al-Kholani told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are not surprised that the militias would support their allies in the region, but we question how such a donation campaign could be organized at a time when the majority of Yemenis in regions under their control are starving.”
He also noted that the Yemenis are starving in regions where Houthi rulers boast massive wealth from looting state resources and imposing additional taxes on merchants.
“Sam FM was better off collecting donations to the thousands of families that lost their sources of income or employees of the government, whose salaries have been halted by the Houthis for the third straight year,” he remarked.
Relief worker Samir Yehya told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The amount the militias managed to collect may be small, but it reveals the extent to which they are disconnected from the problems of Yemeni society and just how keen they are on serving Iran’s sectarian and regional agenda.”
One Sanaa resident expressed his shock at the Houthi donation campaign, saying: “If only they would allow us to collect donations for the poor.”
“If only they would cease meddling in charitable work and harming humanitarian agencies that are keen on providing relief to the Yemenis,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. “They do not care for the suffering of the people because they are nothing more than a sectarian gang. They can never rise up to the responsibility.”
A local official in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis’ “bewildering” behavior stems from their hatred towards the Yemenis and their fear that Hezbollah’s diminishing income would negatively impact them.
Partisan sources in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that the donation campaign “was merely symbolic and instead sought to underline the ties that bind Iran’s proxies in the region.”
He noted that senior Houthi officials still receive their monthly salaries, which are provided by Hezbollah.
Sources said that the Yemeni people were more entitled than any other party to obtain humanitarian relief. Hezbollah needs nothing given its massive sources of income, whether from Iran, its major investments or its money-laundering and drug trade.
American reports had previously revealed that Hezbollah derives its income from Iran’s supreme leader, charitable (zakat) donations from its supporters and various institutions and financial networks. The reports estimated that Hezbollah has an annual budget of some $700 million, eight percent of which is provided by Iran, meaning the American sanctions on Iranian oil will negatively affect this support.
Yemeni observers believe that the Houthis sought from their donation campaign to prove their loyalty to Hezbollah and garner its support to keep dozens of its experts in Yemen where they provide combat training to Houthi members.