Yemen’s first GSM Network operator, Sabafon, announced that it will officially relocate its headquarters from Houthi-held Sanaa to the war-torn country’s interim capital, Aden. The move came in response to an invitation made by the internationally recognized Yemeni government.
Sabafon, through the move, seeks to gain independence from the control of Iran-backed Houthi militias.
Houthi militants, in areas of their control, have looted and plundered Yemeni state institutions and terrorized the private sector.
“Secure mobile communications services in the liberated areas have been launched through a communication network independent of Houthi control in Sana'a,” Sabafon said in a statement.
Although it said that only basic services had been launched, Sabafon confirmed that its staff is working closely with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology to launch more services, some of which are related to fourth and fifth generation technology.
Sabafon said that it faced many challenges and obstacles while operating from Houthi-held territory. An administrative team linked to the Houthi leader Saleh Al-Shaaer, a logistics official in the Houthi-styled defense ministry, was appointed to oversee Sabafon’s operations in Sanaa.
Houthis have also been reported to having stolen Sabafon assets and revenues.
More so, Houthi militias have attempted to block the operator’s move to Aden by targeting its networks and seizing its equipment, in addition to committing fraud crimes against Sabafon.
Houthi hostilities and aggression has pushed the operator to seek refuge in government-controlled areas and to cooperate with state ministries to establish a safe and independent network away from the violence.
Sabafon vowed to reboot service features lost to subscribers in the near future. The operator is actively working to compensate for lost and lacking equipment.
“Houthi militias have taken over communication sectors through organized crime, and have seized revenues collected from the sector to funnel them into its war effort and leaders,” Najib Ghallab, undersecretary at Yemen's information ministry, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Ghallab added that Houthis had imposed information control on Yemenis living in areas they run.