Report: The Houthi Marib Offensive Exacerbates Human Rights Crisis in Yemen

Background

Following the Biden administration’s removal of the Houthi political party AnsarAllah, closely back by Iran, from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) listing, the Houthis launched an offensive in the strategically important location of Marib. Formerly, Marib was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Saba, which may have been the Biblical Sheba. This area is in close geographical proximity to Ethiopia, and has been an important trade and travel route between the two countries. It is approximately 75 miles east of Sana’a. Hundreds of fighters for each side – Yemeni and Arab Coalition soldiers  and Houthis – have been killed since the start of the offensive; at one point, over 90 fighters were killed in a 24 hour period.

The battle is important for several reasons: the Marib governorate is rich in oil and gas, it would give the #Houthis, who, by late February, had encircled it on three sides, additional legitimacy and physical dominion and control of key territory and population, and it allowed Houthis to assert themselves and to raise their potential for recruitment of new adherents with the storming and successful release of prisoners. While the battle has been ongoing, the Houthis have attacked KSA with sophisticated missiles and drones, targeting both civilian buildings, including in Riyadh, and military and economic sites such as ARAMCO sites in the east, and international compounds, including an American one near those sites. The massive escalation in Marib has been largely overlooked by the Western press, despite the fact that in the event it is overtaken it may signal the beginning of the end for the Arab Coalition presence in Yemen, and a major loss for the internationally recognized government in Aden.

In addition to its military importance, however, Marib is yet another offensive which, thanks to the ruthless of the Hizbullah and IRGC-trained Houthis, has created a major humanitarian and human rights crisis in the area, exacerbating the overall humanitarian disaster in Yemen.

Symposium

Several human rights groups, including the Yemeni Coalition for Independent women, came together to discuss the issue and to provide policy recommendations for the international community on March 9, 2021.

Participants in the Houthi military escalation symposium on Marib and its implications for the humanitarian situation, held on the sidelines of the 46th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on the virtual platform ZOOM, stressed that the attack on Marib by the Houthi militia in this circumstance is a deliberate and systematic behavior carried out by the militias aimed at obstructing international efforts and undermining peace opportunities in Yemen and its emphasis on its brutal methodology in dealing with all disagrees with it. Indeed,  they agreed upon a clear insistence on its rejection of any peaceful efforts and to stop its rebellion against the state and its suffocation and enslavement of the Yemeni people.

The event, organized by the European Organizations Allied for Peace in cooperation with the Coalition of Independent Women, indicated that the attack on the city of Marib has catastrophic consequences on the humanitarian level, given that the city of Marib is hosting more than two million displaced persons who were displaced by the militias from the areas under their control.  Ninety  camps for the IDPs house more than half a million women and hundreds of thousands of children.

The participants in the seminar explained that the violations and serious crimes committed by the Houthi militia in Marib since the seventh of February after the Houthi group launched attacks that are the most intense and most prolonged  since the start of the Yemeni war in 2014.  The Houthis have advanced on the area from several strategic directions: From the north, Sirwah from the west, as well as from the directorates of Jabal Murad, Rahbah and Mahliya in the southwest. These districts are inhabited by tens of thousands of displaced people from various regions of the republic that are controlled by terrorist militias.

Humanitarian conditions in the IDP camps

The seminar provided an explanation of the conditions of the displaced, as Marib Governorate has received most of the displaced people fleeing violence in the Houthi-controlled areas since the Houthi coup in September 2014.

So far, Marib has received (2,231,000) two million two hundred and thirty-one thousand displaced people. Displaced people in Marib constitute 60% of the total number of displaced people in Yemen, which is equivalent to 7.5% of the total population in Yemen. Therefore, the total population of Marib Governorate increased to 2,707,544 people. According to the survey carried out by the field teams of the Executive Unit for the IDP Camps, the number of camps in Marib is 139 camps, housing 31,411 displaced families, with a total of 219,877 individuals, and in return, there are 282,122 families in the host community in Marib, with a total of 1,974. , 845 individuals.

For more details :
Speakers:
1. A. Faisal Al-Fifi, President of the European Allied Organizations for Peace in Yemen, Switzerland
2. a. Mansour Al-Shaddadi, President of the Yemeni European House for Human Rights, Paris
3. A. Najeeb Al-Saadi, Head of the Executive Unit for the Management of Displaced Persons Camps, Aden
4. A. Yusra Bayrak, journalist and humanitarian activist, Marib
5. Dr. Stephen Eric Brunner – United States of America, co-director of ICDD, Professor of Governing Council of Political Science.

• The symposium started with Prof. Faisal Al-Qifi,  who introduced the other panelists and said: “Greetings to all of you, guests and observers of this day, and on the sidelines of the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, we are organizing a symposium of military escalation on Marib by the Houthi militia and its implications for the humanitarian situation in general and the loss of civilians and displaced persons in particular, including children and women and the elderly.
At a time when the international community is intensifying its efforts to bring peace to Yemen, the Houthi militia escalated its brutal attack on the city of Marib and pushed tens of thousands of its fighters to storm the populated city from several fronts with unprecedented military operations.

The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffith, expressed concern over that brutal attack by saying that the Houthis’ resumption of military operations is a matter of concern at a time when diplomatic efforts aimed at stopping the war and bringing peace are renewed. It is being carried out by the militias with the aim of obstructing the international efforts and undermining the chances for peace in Yemen and emphasizing their brutal methodology in dealing with all who disagree with them. Indeed, a clear insistence on its rejection of any peaceful efforts and to stop its rebellion against the state and its suffocation and enslavement of the Yemeni people.

This brutal attack is evidence that the Houthi militia does not want peace, does not believe in dialogue, and rejects UN decisions.

It does not respect international humanitarian law. In this context, we affirm that the attack on the city of Marib has catastrophic consequences on the humanitarian level, considering the city of Marib is home to more than two million displaced persons who have been displaced by militias from the areas under their control, and in the city of Marib, there are 90 camps for the displaced, which contain more than half A million women and hundreds of thousands of children. The United Nations aid official, Mark Lowcock, warned of the humanitarian risks of the militia attack on Marib, saying that the attack on Marib would endanger two million civilians and that this would cause unimaginable consequences and despite international and international warnings about the consequences of the attack and its catastrophic repercussions on the humanitarian situation, the Houthi militia continues its military operations. Furthermore,  the Houthis drew attention for their swift and broad mobilization to attack Marib,  throwing  hundreds of child soldiers to the front lines in Marib, to meet their death without responding to international pressure, as it is a group that does not respect international humanitarian law and does not abide by it.

Through the reality of this group and its actions, its brutal aggression against Marib and its mobilization of fighters on the basis of extremist religious doctrines, the accurate and correct legal description of the military operations launched by the Houthi militia against Marib should be to consider these military operations a terrorist attack by a rebel terrorist group outside the law. AnsarAllah, the Houthi political party,  ideologically and politically inclined and constituted to serve Iranian policies under the supervision and support of the Revolutionary Guards, The Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah, which are classified as terrorist organizations;  in return, the Yemeni state has the right to exercise its constitutional right to restore the state and work to confront rebellion and terrorism by all possible means and guaranteed according to the constitution, law and national and international conventions.

In conclusion, he added,  we say that the international community and international organizations, and the Yemeni government accepted them, are required to classify the Houthi group A terrorist group and deal with it on this basis and intensify cooperation and coordination to ensure the elimination of terrorism.

• A. Mansour spoke about the violations and grave crimes committed by the Houthi militia in Marib and said:
Since the seventh of February, the Houthi group launched attacks that are the most extensive and most intense since the start of the Yemeni war in the year 2014. Southwest. These districts, in addition to their residents, are home to tens of thousands of displaced people from various regions of the republic that are controlled by terrorist militias. There are large camps in some districts, such as Dhanna Camp and Rawda, and other small camps scattered in some districts.
The aim of the Houthis is to use the escalation to try to force the displaced to flee, and to create a great burden on the organizations and the local authority, in order to achieve military objectives and reach the city.

Houthi War Crimes Contribute to the Deterioration in the Humanitarian Situation

These massive numbers of refugees will disperse with the escalation of the fighting, which threatens a humanitarian tragedy, the indicators of which have begun to show many deaths, injuries and civilians, and the beginning of the displacement of many families from these areas in anticipation and fear of the approaching battles from the city of Ma’rib, What makes the situation even more dangerous is the lack of ready-made alternatives for the displaced at the present time. The Houthi group does not hesitate to commit any of the violations it believes will be a way for it to achieve a military victory. Most of the violations the governorate is exposed to include:

1- Ballistic missiles and projectiles: In February, the city of Marib was hit by about 10 ballistic missiles and many Katyusha rockets, including four in one night, causing many civilian casualties, including men, women and children.
2- The drone strikes: The directorates of Medghal, Raghwan and Jouba, as well as the camps for the displaced in Sirwah, were subjected to continuous and systematic beatings by Houthi drones targeting homes, housing residences and vital gatherings.

3- Planting mines in the vicinity of the camps and roads, whether through infiltration and laying mines, or in the roads of the places they have controlled, as is the case in Mudghal, Slaughterhouses, Mahliya, Qaniyah and others.
According to a new statistic obtained by the Executive Unit for the Management of IDP Camps in Marib, the number of new IDPs during the period since the beginning of the Houthi escalation on the seventh of February until the end of the month includes: 2,059 families and 14,413.

He concluded his speech with recommendations: We are from here and as civil society organizations, and through communication with the Local Coordination Committees in Marib and the Executive Administration to manage the IDP camps, and in view of the approaching battles to Marib and its threat to the neighboring IDP camps, we appeal to the international community, the United Nations Mission in Yemen, the Human Rights Council, and international governmental and non-governmental organizations In order to work to prevent the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Marib through a package of decisions, chiefly:

1- The UN mission and the international community should play their roles in protecting civilians and establishing a safe zone to keep battles away from the vicinity of the Ma’rib region, with the aim of protecting hundreds of thousands of civilians threatened with displacement to unknown places until this moment

3- Calling on humanitarian organizations to urgently supply the displaced areas with the necessary supplies for the long-term residency in the form of food, care and medical teams.. This humanitarian involvement should be contingent on  requiring the Houthi militia not to bring any military reinforcements in and around Marib.

4- Calling on international and local humanitarian and human rights organizations to open their permanent branches in Marib that keep pace with the deteriorating humanitarian situation there and to monitor and document violations of the right of civilians in Marib and the surrounding displacement camps.
5- Inviting the UN envoy and the UN office to go to Ma’rib and investigate the facts closely and present the correct picture of the reality of the facts on the ground.

The shortcomings of the international organized operations

• Naguib spoke about the conditions of the displaced in Marib and the humanitarian situation and mentioned that the Ma’rib governorate has received most of the displaced people fleeing the violence in the Houthi-controlled areas since the Houthi coup in September 2014. So far, Marib has received (2,231,000) two million two hundred thirty-one thousand Displaced. Displaced people in Marib constitute 60% of the total number of displaced people in Yemen, which is equivalent to 7.5% of the total population in Yemen. Therefore, the total population of Marib Governorate increased to 2,707,544 people.

According to the survey carried out by the field teams of the Executive Unit for the IDP Camps, the number of camps in Marib is 139 camps, housing 31,411 displaced families, with a total of 219,877 individuals, and in return, there are 282,122 families in the host community in Marib, with a total of 1,974. , 845 individuals. These numbers continue to rise every day in light of the continuing waves of displacement to Marib due to the Houthi escalation. He stated that the Houthis had resumed their attack on Marib since the beginning of February 2021, which led to the second or third displacement of 1,517 displaced families, 12,005 individuals, in Sarwah district, west of Ma’rib. He referred to the situation of the displaced in Marib, where the displaced live in very poor conditions and the lack of services provided to them.

He stated that the organizations ’work is weak because the organizations are still running humanitarian work in Marib from Sana’a, and this puts it under pressure from the Houthi group.
He further noted that 80% of the displaced people of Marib are fleeing the persecution and harassment of the Houthi group, and this complicates the situation even more, as they not only need food and shelter, but also need protection programs. Further worth noting that there is an ongoing flow of migration for work involving close to one million people in the area and this influx has put great pressure on services and infrastructure in Marib.

He said, “The Houthi group’s continuing attack on Marib exposes nearly three million five hundred displaced people, economic migration and illegal immigrants, endangering their lives and threatening the largest wave of displacement in the world if the Houthi group manages to enter Marib. In Sarwah alone, there are 9 camps that contain 2,460 families. It consists of 17,220 individuals, and the field teams of the Executive Unit for the Management of Displaced Persons Camps have documented many violations by the Houthis, including the following:

1. Lafaj camp: Al-Malah The camp, which includes 49 displaced families, was exposed on February 8 to the bombing of the Houthi militia with artillery and mortars, which led to the second displacement of all families towards Dhanna Al-Sawabeen camp.

2. Al-Zour camp: The camp in Sarwah district, which houses 570 displaced families, on February 10 and February 11 was bombed by the Houthis with bullets and mortar shells, prompting 570 families to leave towards the city of Ma’rib in search of safety. On February 14, the Houthis stormed the camp, burned some houses, planted mines around others, and planted mines on the road leading to the camp and in the midst of the dwellings, and on February 17, the Houthis bombed the Al-Zour Mosque and the surrounding houses, damaging the mosque and a number of homes.

3. Dhinnat al-Sawabin and Dhina al-Hayal camps: The Houthis targeted the two camps directly with heavy artillery and mortar shells, forcing 450 families to flee to Rawdat Sirwah, while the Houthis prevented 470 other families from leaving and used them as human shields. Even today, there are still many families trapped by the Houthis in the two camps.
He concluded his comments with recommendations:

– The Executive Unit for the Management of Displaced Persons Camps demands that the Houthis respect international humanitarian law, stop targeting civilians and displaced persons, and open safe corridors to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to them.
– The Executive Unit for the Management of Displaced Persons Camps appeals to the United Nations and the international community to exert pressure on the Houthis to stop their attacks on Marib and target the displaced and spare them new stages of displacement.
– The Executive Unit for the Management of Displaced Persons Camps appeals to international and relief organizations operating in Yemen to move urgently to provide relief to the displaced and alleviate their suffering.

Personal Stories

Yusra spoke about the civilian experience in Marib and said: ”
I salute the authors of this symposium and thank them all for inviting me to participate in it. I also greet the colleagues and professors who submitted papers. I greet all the participants for this participatory space that we have gathered together for an important issue, which is the issue of the displaced …
The displaced, and I am one of them, constitute a great concern and a crisis of conscience among various nations and peoples in general, and of working organizations in particular.

Many stories were narrated by Yemeni citizens that the region and the international community often dealt with as political issues and internal discord only, without going back to the humanitarian consequences and painful wounds left by this displacement and displacement, and I mentioned some examples; Mahmoud (35 years), who is displaced from Taiz in the city of Ma’rib, the suffering that combined homelessness, oppression and deprivation is evident on the features of his face, despite his attempt to hide those features resulting from a long journey with displacement and the search for life with minimal requirements and obtaining a safe shelter that Mahmoud lives in. Small rooms built from mud, while the nature of what the displaced inhabitants varies between tents, counters (built of iron), mud buildings and a few others built of mud or bricks, Mahmoud points out that the camp lacks all basic and basic services combined.

Al-Jufinah, a camp on the outskirts of the city in the south, has been a refuge for thousands of displaced families after the high rents of residential apartments narrowed their way – according to IDPs in the camp who said that they face many difficulties in life in a camp that lacks the minimum that meets a simple life for the displaced.

Displaced people in the city of Marib are living in difficult conditions and suffering, beginning with the battles and their intensification, through the Corona virus and many epidemics and diseases, due to the overcrowding of camps, scarcity of resources, absence of sanitation networks, as well as heavy rains, torrents, and the city’s dry weather !! The waves of displacement are still continuing in the city, so that there are families who were displaced for the fourth and fifth times due to the intensification of the fighting and its continuous intensification, and near some of these camps, such as Al-Zour camp, which includes nearly 600 families, and Dhanna camp in the city of Ma’rib has always been viewed as a refuge for many displaced people who fled the fighting or hoped for a new beginning in a city that has been stable for years, but are now under fire.

More than a year ago, the Iranian-backed Houthis have been trying to control the Marib Governorate with the aim of laying their hands on the entire north of Yemen, and for the second time in five years, Ahmad’s family, like hundreds of other displaced families, found themselves forced to flee from Al-Zour camp in Sirwah, 30 km from the city, Marib.

The family collected their basic necessities and fled to a camp in the Jaw al-Naseem area, three kilometers from Marib, northwest of the city. Ahmed’s family fled their home in 2016 from Taiz, in southeastern Yemen, and settled in Al-Zour camp, before they were forced to leave the camp last week. “We were about 600 families living in Al-Zour camp, and now these families are dispersed,” said Mahfouz Ahmed, who sat in a tent he shared with ten people. “Some went to live with relatives. There are three to four families living in one tent here, and sometimes seven families. In one tent. The situation only God knows about. ” For his wife Houria, the situation is unbearable. “We live in one tent, the bathroom is inside the tent and the kitchen is also. We are ten people sleeping in this tent. Two families are in one tent,” she says.

Houria complains that her children cannot learn, explaining, “They left school. We used to be fine in the past and they were studying, but now they have left. We did not find schools, teachers, and we do not know how to act for their benefit.”

In a very bad situation in Jaw al-Naseem camp, the families that had recently come, have begun to settle, but are afraid that the fighting will prolong and expand. The site lacks the most basic needs, according to the displaced and humanitarian organizations. “The situation is bad, and most of the families are in urgent need of shelter, food, water, sanitation, health and food aid,” IOM spokeswoman Olivia Headon told AFP. According to Heydon, 1,048 families have been displaced from the Sarwah area alone since February 8th. Fleeing is not something new for Ali Al-Tohami, who describes his life as very difficult.

Al-Tuhami was displaced initially from Hodeidah in western Yemen, then to Dhamar Governorate in the center of the country, before displacement to Ma’rib. “We faced difficult living conditions and then we were displaced to Sirwah, but the problems of war came to us, then we fled to Ma’rib. We are upset with the situation” in a country that is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and millions of its inhabitants face the threat of starvation, he says. “A philanthropist donated the tent to us. My children got sick from the severe cold, we do not have blankets or water tanks, even the bathrooms are not available to us,” he added with a sigh. She concluded her speech that Al-Houthi is a terrorist group, and it is not possible to reach an understanding with it or even to make a truce with it, because it has gone beyond all sanctities by bombing the displaced and defenseless civilians.

Countering Extremism as a Prerequisite to Improving the Humanitarian Situation

• Dr. Stephan spoke First of all, let me thank you all for inviting me to this meeting and for this important conference on violations. I would like to talk to you not only about describing a case that you know, but I want to say that I feel that I am involved in this matter, because 10 years ago I visited Darfur and attended the Darfur crisis and visited a number of camps and I can Saying that what you have said about the camps is a correct thing, and I sympathize with many people in the camps. From the perspective of the West, countries in the West view Yemen as the poorest country in the world, and this creates a sense of sympathy, but creates a sense of indifference, and the Yemeni economy has faced many difficulties in recent years. And we see many people in Yemen suffer from starvation and malnutrition. There is a child who dies every 10 minutes.

This is a catastrophic situation, but when we focus on the situation and solutions to this the crisis, Yemen lacks state sovereignty and I believe that public opinion in the West does not care about foreign policies in general and does not care about Yemen, and you are all right. There was also talk at the international level, but not seriously, despite the criticisms that the Kingdom faces in the West regarding the Khashoggi case and its interference in a war Yemen, the Houthis, and Saudi Arabia are the negative side, but this is because many do not know who the Houthis are and where they came from. The majority of politicians do not know which Houthis are. Yemeni and explain the truth of the picture to the West and who they are the Houthis and their main hostility to the Yemeni people, they are terrorists and the world knows that, and for NGOs that send doctors and products if that is easier if Biden’s decision does not classify them as terrorists, it is because of the difficulty of sending people from NGOs when there are terrorists in the field.

International organizations and the rest of the international community may help you, or perhaps not, if you do not take a bold move, the situation will get worse and the cease-fire must be completed. This is one of the first things that must be achieved. At the beginning, we must disarm and extremism first, and you must deal with the issue of extremism and militancy first, finally. I would like to say and conclude by looking at the policies adopted in Yemen, you must launch independent committees for an independent state. You should not only invite the United Nations and international organizations only, and you should have only civil society, and the International Council and the dialogue will help you in this field. Interventions:

Dr. Arwa Al-Khattabi, academic, human rights activist and president of the Broken Chair for Mine Victims Organization in Yemen I mentioned that the international community does not understand the problem in Yemen and does not care about the Yemeni people, and the goal is only to say that Yemen is a country that suffers while they ignore the real problem in Yemen, from bringing the Houthis to Yemen.

Majdi Al-Akwa, Secretary General of the Humanitarian League for Rights In Marib, there is one party, the Houthis, who are mobilizing to kill civilians in the name of God, and they are supported in that by Hezbollah, the largest terrorist organization. There is a civil society and the National Army that defends civilization. We don’t see the international community. Nabil Al-Asidi, a member of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate Council

The first thing is the state of chaos in which the Biden government is experiencing as a result of focusing its policies almost exclusively on  retaliation against Trump and all his decisions, as happened from canceling the Houthi classification, and the second thing is the US government’s attempt to restore the nuclear agreement with Iran and give powers to divide the region from Iran. Yemen does not consider it the humanitarian aspect, as international organizations and the United Nations are the beneficiaries of whoever gets in Yemen, 80 percent of the aid goes to the United Nations and the Yemenis do not benefit from it. The Houthis wanted to benefit from chaos and Iran’s desire to move its arms in the region for the sake of negotiations with America and to pressure the international community to make concessions to it, and the Houthis are one of Iran’s arms and are now trying to enter Marib with various Roads and civilian victims are not interested in them.