The Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen have barred politicians and activists in Sanaa from taking part in the Riyadh consultations.
The intra-Yemeni consultations are set to kick off from the Saudi capital on Wednesday. They are being sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and held at its headquarters. Parties and figures across Yemen have been invited to attend to discuss reaching a political solution to the crisis.
GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf had appealed on Tuesday to the Houthis to take part.
In Sanaa, the militias had gone so far as to the arrest some activists and politicians to bar them from attending the consultations, revealed sources close to the Houthis.
The militias have tightened security measures at the entrances to Sanaa and other cities under their control, preventing several partisan, parliamentary and civil figures from leaving.
The sources said dozens of figures in Sanaa were keen on attending the consultations the moment they were announced. They even arranged to move to liberated regions that are held by the legitimate forces so that they could smoothly and safely travel to Riyadh.
On Monday, the Houthis arrested in Ibb city three prominent activists and academics as they were on their way to the interim capital Aden where they were planning to travel to Riyadh.
The sources identified the figures as Dr. Hammoud al-Oudi, a social science professor at Sanaa University, Dr. Anwar Shaab, and social activist Abdulrahman al-Alfi. They were detained at a checkpoint in Ibb and taken to an unknown location.
They were detained even though they had coordinated their departure from Sanaa with the Houthis.
The Houthis had deployed patrols and sent out their spies in regions under their control in the buildup to the Riyadh talks, reflecting their concerns that politicians and activists would travel to attend, continued the sources. They closely watched the homes of several politicians and civil activists.
On the street, Yemenis expressed to Asharq Al-Awsat their great optimism that the consultations would be a success, while lamenting the Houthis' rejection of the invite.
Speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of Houthi reprisals, they slammed the militias for rejecting the talks as reflected in last week's escalation against Saudi Arabia where they launched attacks against civilian and economic infrastructure.
They attributed the rejection to Houthi fears that any dialogue that would end the crisis would cost them all the gains they had obtained through illegitimate ways.