Houthi Taxes Target Sports Clubs, Cafes, Internet Shops
Houthi militias in Yemen have launched a new royalties campaign that targets hundreds of sports and entertainment clubs, internet outlets and cafes in the districts and regions in Sanaa, well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Through its illicit campaign, which started two days ago, the Iran-backed group ordered the shutdown of 22 playgrounds, 38 internet shops, 19 popular cafes, and five hotel cafes. Houthis used coronavirus lockdown as an excuse to justify shutting down gathering spots.
This is the first time that Houthis target sports and entertainment playgrounds in Sanaa. As for cafes and internet shops, they have been brutally targeted several times over the last years.
Imposing a ‘disciplinary fine,’ Houthis would force club, café and commercial store owners to pay up the fee before allowing them to reopen.
Meanwhile, the owners called on local and international organizations and humanitarian agencies to intervene in lifting the Houthi oppression. In their complaint, they revealed that Houthi gunmen had imposed royalties amounting up to 150,000 Yemeni riyals per shop.
The group had found in the outbreak of the pandemic an appropriate climate for blackmailing merchants and restricting companies and businesses, despite the group's silence on the numbers of victims of the virus.
According to local estimates, the virus has claimed the lives of hundreds in the last few weeks.
Deciding to shut down playgrounds to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Houthis have left dozens of owners in dismay without a solution. Houthis wouldn’t even spare them rent during the lockdown.
An owner of three cafes in Sanaa said that the Houthi campaign aims at frustrating business owners and workers, who are in thousands, so that they leave their jobs and join the fighting frontlines.
Due to Houthi oppression, business owners are forced to open discretely during night time to cover rent and expenses.