More than 20 Yemeni farmers are reported to have been killed in what locals are calling a process of 'colonisation' by the Houthis.
New evidence has emerged of Houthi militia atrocities in the village of al Haima, located in Yemen’s second largest province, Taiz, with local journalists and news agencies sharing photos (graphic) depicting unspeakable horrors, including the hanging bodies of a man and teenager, and bullet riddled bodies of a father and young son.
“These are the bodies of Yemeni farmers,” Mohammed al Rumim, a Yemeni journalist based in Taiz, told TRT World on Wednesday. “Houthi militias want to control their farms and use for military bases to launch operations in the area, but they protested, so now they are dead.”
According to Rumim, more than 20 Yemeni farmers have been killed, alongside another 40 injured in and nearby al Haima during the past week, a claim corroborated by Colonel Abdul Basit al-Baher, a Yemeni Army spokesperson, who told Arab News on Friday, “The Houthis have launched a hysterical attack on Haima."
“They have stormed more than 20 houses, taken 50 civilians as hostage and shelled the villages with heavy weapons. They are committing a cleansing against residents.”
On Wednesday, Yemeni news wire Khabara Agency described in almost identical terms, invoking the words “war crimes” and “genocide” in its reporting of the atrocities carried out by Houthi militias against the villages of al Haima, claiming locals were being punished for refusing to pay the Houthis “double taxes.”
Another local news organisation – Al Hadath Yemen – reported the killings and Houthi occupation of Yemeni land as “colonisation,” alleging the group is “pursuing families who have fled” and “killing and kidnapping children.”
Houthi militias have been accused of war crimes and mass atrocities against civilians in Taiz since 2015, including using banned antipersonnel landmines, firing artillery indiscriminately into populated areas, denying crucial medical and humanitarian aid, and have “beaten, raped, and tortured detained migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa, including women and children,” according to Human Rights Watch.
“The millions living under siege in Taiz have unfortunately received little attention from the international community,” Riyadh Aldubai, co-founder of Yemeni Coalition for Monitoring Human Rights Violations, told TRT World. “We have documented the killing and injuring of 366 children aged 1-17 by Houthi snipers during the period from March 2015 until August 2020, let alone the women and other civilians who were shot by snipers affiliated with Houthis in Taiz.”
Aldubai affirms that Houthi militias had besieged al Haima for almost a week before they launched what he described as a “vicious attack against civilians” last week, an assault that included the bombing of a dozen homes, more than 100 house raids and the public hanging of protesters from trees.
It’s because of these ongoing attacks on Yemeni civilians that both Aldubai and Rumim welcome the United States government’s recent decision to designate the Houthi militias a terrorist organisation, describing it as an important step towards ending the six yearlong conflict.
"The US government's labelling of the Houthi militias as a terrorist organisation is a good start but it's not enough," says Rumim. "We call on the US, UN members, UN Security Council and international community to pressure the terrorist group into stopping its killing of women, children and the elderly; to stop the bombing of civilian neighbourhoods; and to end the coup."
The United Nations has warned that labelling the Houthis a terrorist organisation could worsen the conflict, however, by making it more difficult for humanitarian groups to deliver aid, with UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarrice expressing concern the designation “may have a detrimental impact on efforts to resume the political process in Yemen.”
Aldubai lambasted the UN, however, accusing it of “repeating the same old speech about engaging in negotiations and calling for peace,” while also accusing the Houthis of being disinterested in peace, as they “have always viewed Yemen as a political and military objective.”
It’s clear Yemeni military leaders and analysts share a similar view of the Houthi militias, with many calling for an intense and sustained military campaign to oust the group from Taiz.
“The [army] troops must move in Taiz to completely liberate the province, rescuing Haima and weaken capabilities of the Houthi militia,” tweeted Brigadier Yahyia Abu Hatem on Sunday.
When I asked Rumim how he and his friends, colleagues and family members viewed the Saudi-UAE led military campaign against the Houthis, he said that attitudes have changed over time, saying that while most were initially hopeful the Arab coalition would end the coup in 2015, a majority today feel that both UAE and Saudi Arabia are “part of the problem , not the solution,” with views towards UAE especially hardening.
“UAE is no friend of Yemen,” says Rumim. “It’s interested only in colonisation. It controls all the seaports and oil wells and is stealing from the people of Yemen.”
What is clear, at least for now, is there’s no end in sight to what is widely described as the “world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe,” with 80 percent of the population enduring armed conflict, famine and two pandemics – Covid-19 and cholera, a reality underscored by the fact roughly 80 percent of the country is dependent on imported humanitarian aid.