LIFE in Yemen is brutal and has become increasingly more so since Hamas launched its murderous rampage through Israel in October.
Firing squad executions and public floggings are now on the rise in the conflict-torn country – and no one, not even civilians, is safe.
Houthi rebels, who emerged in northern Yemen in the 1990s and have been fighting the government since 2004, took over Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014 and much of the north by 2016.
With access to Yemen’s military hardware – including missiles, tanks, and air assets – and the support of Iran, the Houthis have only continued to grow inand size over the years.
The rebel group considers Israel an enemy and made a point of pledging its allegiance with Hamas in November when it imposed a shipping blockade on the Red Sea.
It recently vowed to continue attacking ships in the region after a series of US and UK strikes on Houthi bases.
But the rebels are also ramping up their violence against ordinary Yemeni civilians, from human rights activists to media officials and fishermen, in an ongoing ISIS-style reign of terror.
A Yemen researcher from Human Rights Watch, Niku Jafarnia, said the Houthis were using their attacks in the Red Sea to distract the world from its “rights abuses” at home.
Such abuses, which she claimed include public torture and executions, have been on the rise since the Houthis began attacking ships in the Red Sea.
She told The Telegraph: “While the Houthis are busy promoting an image to the world that they are defending Palestinians in Gaza against Israel’s atrocities, they are silencing Yemenis who dare to criticise them.”
A Yemenimedia spokesperson, Rashid Maarouf, made a similar claim, stating: “Many of the death sentences were issued after the war on Gaza.
“We are all seriously considering leaving Yemen to live abroad. There is no safety inside the country. The Houthis have great influence … We are all at risk.”
Just two weeks ago, human rights activist Fatima Al-Arouli was sentenced to death over allegations of spying for the United Arab Emirates, which has been part of a Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis for nearly a decade.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE tried to restore Yemen’s government in 2015, but the violent conflict has dragged on, killing tens of thousands and leaving millions dependent on humanitarian aid.
The Houthis today continue to hold massive military parades, showing off their ballistic missiles and armed, warning foreign forces “to leave or they will face the volcanoes of Yemeni anger”.
It is believed Fatima was arrested two years ago, upon her return from Dubai, and will face execution within a matter of days.
She is just one of many Yemeni civilians set to be executed.
Fifteen-year-old Khaled Ateeq Saleh Al-Awadi was first captured by the Houthis two years ago; his desperate mum has been begging for him to be released and returned to her ever since.
Mr Maarouf explained: “The child’s mother has been pleading with the Houthi leadership to release her only son.
“She has no [other] children.”
He continued: “The militias have assassinated many media activists.
“I was exposed to many threats and assassination attempts, and I was forced to travel to the border with Saudi Arabia to work here in a military area that is considered safer than the interior.”
Houthi chief Mohammed Al Houthi’s recent takeover of Yemen’s judiciary is said to be behind the recent uptake in executions, as it means his movement now has the power to “expedite” sentences.
People can now be given execution orders within days, where it previously took as long as two years.
Back in 2021, the rebels executed nine people – including a 17-year-old boy – who they said were spying for the Saudi-led coalition and involved in the killing of a senior rebel official that happened more than three years prior.
Hundreds of people, mostly Houthis and their backers, attended the execution, which took place by firing squad in Sanaa with pictures of the killings reportedly later circulated by the group online.
The first public execution to take place in Yemen for more than a decade was in August 2017, when a Yemeni man was shot in front of a crowd after being convicted of raping and killing a three-year-old girl.
Following the judiciary takeover, the rebels now also have the power to take the properties and assets of anyone they do not like.
Yemeni human rights activists have claimed fishermen are also being targeted and killed by the Houthis for defying their ban on fishing.
Eight fishermen from Al-Khawkhah District reportedly disappeared a month ago and are yet to be found, while the bodies of two other fishermen were last week found with gunshot wounds and decomposed to such an extent that they could not be identified.
The fishing ban itself – which involves a complete prohibition of fishing and the elimination of all fishing boats in the sea – is predicted to exacerbate civilians’ starvation levels and leave countless families without a source of income.
Last month, harrowing pictures showing gun-toting children in a crowd surfaced as thousands took to the streets in Yemen to protest airstrikes launched by the UK and US.
Houthi supporters flocked to the streets of Sanaa, chanting “America is the devil”, following the overnight blitzes.
The US has not ruled out launching direct strikes on Iran after a series of American attacks in the Middle East.
White House National security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US’ retaliatoryat the weekend, which came after the killing of three American troops in a drone strike by Iran-backed forces, were “not the end” of US action in the region.
Meanwhile, in a disturbing warning to American forces, Tehran on Sunday told America to leave Iranian spy ships in the Red Sea alone.
The US and UK targeted Houthis in Yemen on Saturday night and struck 36 targets in 13 different locations, according to the Pentagon.
Who are the Houthis?
THE Houthi rebels are terrorising vessels and warships in the Red Sea – but who are they?
The Shia militant group, which now controls most of Yemen, spent over a decade being largely ignored by the world.
However, since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war, they sprung from relative obscurity to holding roughly £1trillion of world trade hostage – turning one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes into an active warzone.
Their warped slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, curse the Jews and victory to Islam”.
The rebel group has been launching relentless drone and missile attacks on any ships – including warships – they deem to be connected with Israel in solidarity with their ally Hamas.
The sea assaults have threatened to ignite a full-blown war in the Middle East as ripples from Israel’s war in Gaza are felt across the region – with Iran suspected of stoking the chaos.
However, there have been frequent attacks on commercial vessels with little or no link to Israel – forcing global sea traffic to halt operations in the region and sending shipping prices soaring.
Houthi attacks in the Red Sea increased by 50 per cent between November and December.
The rebel group’s leaders have previously pledged the attacks will continue until Israel stops its devastating offensive inside Gaza – despite recent US and UK strikes on their military strongholds.