The Iran-backed Houthi militias have seized new coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to achieve material and political gains. The militias have consequently forced more than 1,000 Yemeni travelers into so-called quarantine in the al-Bayda governorate where they are being kept in unsanitary conditions.
On March 16, the Houthis took the arbitrary decision to shut borders with liberated areas controlled by the internationally-recognized government.
Local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that a young cancer patient died while she was being held in quarantine in the Afar region. The lives of dozens of the elderly are also at risk because they are not being provided with necessary health care.
Photos circulated by travelers on social media revealed the decrepit state of the “quarantine” where piles of garbage are laying around. The facility also lacks proper clean water.
The government, for its part, has accused the militias of detaining travelers in al-Bayda and preventing them from reaching their destinations under the pretext of subjecting them to quarantine as a precaution against the coronavirus.
In a statement, published by the Aden-based Yemeni Saba news agency, the government added that this matter "resulted in the suffering of hundreds of travelers as a result of being held in the open, without shelter and without distinguishing between children, the elderly and women.” It accused the Houthis of keeping them in inhumane conditions without the most basic necessities for life.
This “reflects the hideous image of the Houthis' violations of human dignity, rights and life.”
In its statement, the government called on the international community and United Nations to "urgently press the Houthis to release the citizens held in the so-called quarantine."
It also stressed the need to take all necessary measures in dealing with this pandemic, where all those coming from abroad at the border crossings are checked to ensure that they are free from the symptoms of the virus.
Local sources accused the Houthis of transforming their checkpoints in areas under their control into “quarantines” that they will use as a new method to extort travelers.
The Houthis claim that they would force travelers into a 14-day quarantine period. Some people, however, refuted the allegation, saying they were able to reach Sanaa after they paid the Houthis to allow them to pass.
Yemeni officials have warned that the Houthis would take advantage of the global phobia over the coronavirus to further oppress the people.