Houthis Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic to Boost Fundraising, Recruitment
The Iran-backed Houthi militias’ ravenous appetite to exploit the coronavirus outbreak in Yemen has increased as they stepped up their collection of local royalties and opened bank accounts to receive local donations.
Yemeni activists on social media have meanwhile, accused the Houthis of covering up COVID-19 cases in their areas of control.
Mohammad Abdul Quddus, deputy editor of the Houthi-run SABA news agency, announced on Thursday evening the recording of the first coronavirus case in Sanaa, which is held by the militias.
Later on, he revoked the announcement after he was arrested by Houthis and put under investigation.
Meanwhile, the Houthis announced the opening a special account in banks in areas under their control and called on citizens and merchants to deposit funds to support their alleged efforts to fight a potential coronavirus outbreak.
Houthi gunmen also launched a campaign targeting shop owners, businessmen, pharmacists and private hospitals to collect royalties in the name of "supporting the social effort" to confront the coronavirus.
In other news, Houthis released 1,500 convicted prisoners under the pretext of precautions taken against the spread of the virus. But human rights activists in Sanaa, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, said that the militias only released those who agreed to be recruited and deployed to frontlines.
Thousands of activists and political prisoners remain in Houthi detention centers, according to activists.
Activists revealed that prisoners released by the Houthis from the central prison in Sanaa reported that they had been released after pledging to the militia leaders that they would go to fight on battlefronts in the Marib and Al-Jawf provinces.