Houthis Turn to Chat App to Recruit New Members in Sanaa
The Iran-backed Houthi militias have resorted to new methods to recruit new members in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
The militias first ordered neighborhood officials, who are loyal to them, to speed up recruitment of new members. They also ordered them to collect detailed information about the residents.
The Houthis have consequently increased their patrols in Sanaa, taking advantage of the humanitarian truce declared by the Saudi-led Arab coalition amid the coronavirus outbreak.
They demanded that four civilians be recruited from each neighborhood so that they can later be deployed to the battlefronts, revealed local sources in Sanaa.
The Houthis even kidnapped children when their parents refused to allow them to join their ranks, they added.
In order to speed up the recruitment process, the Houthis have distributed application forms to the people, who are asked to fill in information about themselves and their household. They alleged that the forms are aimed at assessing how much gas and relief goods each household is entitled.
One resident told Asharq Al-Awsat that three militants and a neighborhood official visited his house and handed him one such form. The form demanded detailed information, he said, comparing it to intelligence gathering.
The resident said one of the gunmen informed him that no one, but the “concerned authorities” have access to the filled forms.
The locals have slammed the forms as one of the “most dangerous” means the Houthis could resort to in order to gather information about them, significantly the number of youths in each home who can be recruited by force.
Not content with such a breach of personal information, the Houthis have in recent weeks stepped up efforts to target youths for recruitment. They ordered the neighborhood officials to set up WhatsApp chat groups that include local residents.
The Houthis and officials have sought to obtain the telephone numbers of male youths and teenagers to add to these groups, which are managed by the so-called social overseers.
Youths who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat revealed that the Houthis mostly share posts about their extremist ideas, incitement to violence and glorification of their dead and their leader.
Observers in Sanaa speculated that the Houthis may have turned to the group chat after the majority of people stopped attending events organized by the militias.