Houthis recruit African migrants, refugees to shore up depleted ranks

Houthis recruit African migrants, refugees to shore up depleted ranks
A Yemeni pro-government fighter takes aim from his position during fighting with Houthis on the Al-Jawba frontline south of Marib. (AFP/File)
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Updated 01 March 2022

Houthis recruit African migrants, refugees to shore up depleted ranks

Houthis recruit African migrants, refugees to shore up depleted ranks
  • Information minister slams desperate militia for exploiting poverty
  • Tribes in occupied areas resist demand to supply soldiers

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The Iran-backed Houthi militia is recruiting African migrants and refugees in Yemen to shore up their ranks, which have been eroded by fierce fighting with government forces and heavy airstrikes by Arab coalition warplanes.

Yemeni military officials, human rights activists and journalists say that the Houthis have intensified the recruitment and conscription of African migrants and refugees, sending them to flaring battlefields to fight their opponents after suffering heavy losses over the past two years, mainly in the central province of Marib.

The Houthis also turned to refugees and migrants after Yemeni tribes in areas under their control resisted their demands to supply soldiers to the battlefields.

“The Houthis recruited the Africans after Marib deserts swallowed their fighters,” an anonymous Yemeni military official told Arab News, adding that the militia armed the migrants and deployed them to key battlefields in Jouf, Saada, Shabwa and Marib’s Al-Kasara front.

Two months ago, Yemen’s army killed about two dozen African migrants who were fighting alongside Houthis in the northern province of Jouf, the military official said.

Many others were killed, wounded or captured in Marib, Saada and recently in the southern province of Shabwa.

Thousands of Houthis have been killed in fierce fighting with government forces in the province of Marib since early last year when the rebels renewed an offensive to control the energy-rich city of Marib, the Yemen government’s last major urban bastion in the north.

To compensate for their heavy casualties, the Houthis recruited migrants and refugees, children, public servants and also deployed fighters from Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iran.

“The Houthis have mobilized African migrants and fighters from South Africa, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Iraq,” the military official said.

Thousands of migrants from Horn of Africa countries cross through Yemen’s coasts each year despite tightened security measures along Saudi Arabia’s border.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration said that 27,693 migrants arrived in Yemen last year, compared to 37,535 in 2020 and 138,213 in 2019.

Most of the migrants use Yemen as a transit point before heading toward Saudi Arabia.

Yemeni military officials say that some African migrants were lured into fighting alongside the Houthis through financial incentives, while many others were forcibly recruited and sent to the battlefields.

The Houthis have never denied conscripting African migrants and militia media outlets have repeatedly aired funeral processions for Africans killed in the fighting.

BACKGROUND

The UN’s International Organization for Migration said that 27,693 migrants arrived in Yemen last year, compared to 37,535 in 2020 and 138,213 in 2019.

On Feb. 18, Houthi-owned Al-Masira broadcast a video showing a number of Houthis and Ethiopians in Sanaa attending a small funeral ceremony for Qasem Ahmed Youssef, an Ethiopian national who was killed in battle.

After the funeral, an armed Houthi figure urged reluctant Yemenis to follow the Ethiopians into war.

“We say to those Yemenis in the houses, here are the Ethiopians who give their souls in the cause of God in order to make the word of God exalted, and to support the oppressed,” the Houthi figure said.

In May last year, dozens of Houthi officials and members of the Somali community in Sanaa attended funeral prayers for Mohamed Saleh Sheikh Taher, a Somali national who was killed in fighting.

The Houthis praised the “courage” of the Somali man and thanked him for fighting the movement’s opponents.

Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani on Sunday slammed the Houthis for exploiting the poverty of African migrants, adding that the latest funeral processions are “desperate Houthi attempts” to boost their depleted manpower.

“The Houthi funeral of Qasem Ahmed Youssef, an African immigrant, and the recruitment of his relative, confirm the Houthis recruit African immigrants and refugees to commit suicide attacks on various fronts, in a war crime and a violation of international laws and covenants,” Al-Iryani said on Twitter.


Egypt slams European Parliament report on human rights situation

Egypt slams European Parliament report on human rights situation
Updated 16 sec ago

Egypt slams European Parliament report on human rights situation

Egypt slams European Parliament report on human rights situation
  • Many Egyptian deputies and politicians voiced their rejection of the European Parliament’s call and asserted that it was blatant interference in Egypt’s affairs

CAIRO: Egyptian MPs and politicians have rejected what they are calling the European Parliament’s “blatant” interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs.

In a statement issued on Friday, the European Parliament called for the immediate and unconditional release of dozens of human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, activists, politicians and social media influencers currently sitting in Egyptian prisons and for the reversal of the excessive use of arbitrary pre-trial detention in Egypt.

The European Parliament also appealed to the member states of the EU “to support the call for the creation of an international mechanism for monitoring and reporting gross violations of human rights in Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council, as well a deep and comprehensive review of the EU’s relations with Egypt in light of the very limited progress in Egypt’s human rights record.”

Many Egyptian deputies and politicians voiced their rejection of the European Parliament’s call and asserted that it was blatant interference in Egypt’s affairs.

Hind Rashad, a member of the House of Representatives, told Arab News: “I strongly reject all lies and attempts to interfere in the affairs of the Egyptian state.”

His comment came as Egypt’s parliament asserted that the EU position reflected only a biased and subjective view of the reality in the country.

Tamer Abdel Qader, also a member of the House of Representatives, told Arab News that the European Parliament’s statement on human rights in Egypt constitutes “blatant interference” in the affairs of “a country that enjoys all sovereign rights.” He also said the statement violates UN charters, “as it included many lies, fallacies and rumors.”

Abdel Qader added: “This old school has had its...policies exposed more than once, and everyone knows what the intentions of the (drafters) of these policies (are) towards the Egyptian state, which recently launched the National Strategy for Human Rights and laid frameworks for its implementation in front of everyone.

“Among the inaccuracies in the statement is that Egypt executes children, bearing in mind that Egyptian laws criminalize the trial or execution of children…Egyptian laws stipulate that they be placed in care homes for their rehabilitation and integration into society.”

Political expert Hazem El-Gendy, deputy head of the Egyptian Wafd Party, told Arab News that the decision of the European Parliament confirmed beyond any doubt that “there is a state of hostility and ambush adopted by some international institutions against Egypt” and that these are “not sufficiently aware of the developments of the situation in Egypt.”

El-Gendy said: “The resolutions say that Egypt has been living under a state of emergency since 2017, despite the announcement by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to cancel it in October 2021 … The declaration of a state of emergency came in light of the war waged by the state and terrorist groups in Sinai.”

Mahmoud Bassiouni, member of the National Council for Human Rights, also told Arab News that the European Parliament’s statement constitutes meddling in Egypt’s domestic affairs and ignores the efforts of the Egyptian state to improve human rights.

He added that the controversial statement relied on a single source of information.


Amnesty International lauds UN probe into Iran human rights violations

Amnesty International lauds UN probe into Iran human rights violations
Updated 13 min 46 sec ago

Amnesty International lauds UN probe into Iran human rights violations

Amnesty International lauds UN probe into Iran human rights violations
  • ‘The cries of the people in Iran for justice have finally been heard’
  • The fact-finding mission comes 73 days on from the murder of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini

LONDON: Amnesty International has applauded the establishment of a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations in Iran as “long overdue” given the “dire situation” in the country.
Responding to Thursday’s announcement from the UN Human Rights Council that the “landmark” resolution had been passed, Amnesty’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said: “The cries of the people in Iran for justice have finally been heard. It not only enhances international scrutiny of the dire situation, but puts in place a process to collect, consolidate and preserve crucial evidence for future prosecutions.
She added: “We hope it marks a fundamental shift in the international community’s approach to tackling the crisis of systematic impunity that has long fueled crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations in Iran.”
The fact-finding mission comes 73 days on from the murder of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police.
Amini’s death ignited a tinderbox of pent-up frustrations over falling living standards and discrimination against women and minorities, and has fueled the most widespread protests seen in the country since the 1979 revolution, with no signs of the protesters backing down.
The fact-finding mission is mandated to “collect, consolidate and analyze evidence of such violations and preserve evidence, including in view of cooperation, in any legal proceedings.”
Amnesty said as the resolution was being negotiated, Iranian authorities continued to reject the findings of UN experts and human rights organizations, and have persisted in widespread use of unlawful lethal force and sought the death penalty for protesters.
Iran has faced repeated cycles of protests since 2018, all of which have been met with violent reprisals.
“States must now ensure that the mandate is made operational and sufficiently resourced without delay and call upon the Iranian authorities to cooperate fully with the mission and allow unhindered access to the country,” said Callamard.
“This vote must also serve as a wake-up call for the Iranian authorities to immediately end their all-out militarized attack on demonstrators.”
Callamard said Amnesty has “consistently” documented crimes under international law committed by Iranian authorities against protesters, including unlawful killings, unwarranted use of lethal force, and mass arbitrary arrests and detentions.
It has also recorded enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, and the sentencing of individuals to lengthy prison terms or death.
Amnesty said: “Iranian authorities have ignored repeated calls by the international community to open criminal investigations into such crimes.
“Instead, they have sought to destroy evidence of crimes while persecuting survivors and victims’ relatives.”


Israeli wounded in Jerusalem bus stop bombings dies

Israeli wounded in Jerusalem bus stop bombings dies
Updated 37 min 29 sec ago

Israeli wounded in Jerusalem bus stop bombings dies

Israeli wounded in Jerusalem bus stop bombings dies
  • A 15-year-old Israeli-Canadian was also killed in Wednesday's twin blasts
  • Thirteen others were wounded, medics said, in the first bombings to hit the contested city since 2016

JERUSALEM: An Israeli wounded in rare bombings to hit Jerusalem earlier this week died Saturday, the hospital treating him announced, the latest casualty as violence surges in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital announced the death of Tadesa Teshuma “who was fatally wounded in an attack at the entrance to Jerusalem.”
A 15-year-old Israeli-Canadian was also killed in Wednesday’s twin blasts, which hit bus stops frequented by ultra-Orthodox Jews at the city’s western exit.
Thirteen others were wounded, medics said, in the first bombings to hit the contested city since 2016 according to Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency.
A security source told AFP the explosives were detonated remotely and no group has claimed the attacks, which were celebrated by Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The bombings come amid a spike in violence, which has claimed the lives of six Israelis and 14 Palestinians this month across Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
Israeli security forces remain on high alert and on Saturday police briefly closed a main road in Jerusalem, not far from the site of the bombings, due to a suspicious package. The incident turned out to be a false alarm, police said.
During the second intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s, Palestinian militants repeatedly planted bombs at urban bus stops, including in Jerusalem.
Much of the recent violence has centered on the West Bank, where more than 125 Palestinians have been killed this year according to an AFP tally.
At least 26 Israelis have also been killed in attacks across Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The dead have included Israeli troops, Palestinian militants and civilians on both sides including multiple children.
Earlier this year, 49 Gazans were killed in a three-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave.


Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family
Updated 26 November 2022

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family

Iran rapper arrested over protests risks death penalty: family
  • Toomaj Salehi, well known on Iran's rap scene, was arrested late last month after denouncing the regime and showing support for the protests
  • Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi had the first day of his so-called 'trial' today in Tehran without a lawyer of his choice," the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said

PARIS: The family of an Iranian rapper detained for supporting protests over Mahsa Amini’s death said his life was at risk after he went on trial behind closed doors on Saturday.
Iran has intensified a crackdown on the protests sparked by the September 16 death of Amini after her arrest in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress code for women.
Toomaj Salehi, well known on Iran’s rap scene, was arrested late last month after denouncing the regime and showing support for the protests, human rights groups said.
“Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi had the first day of his so-called ‘trial’ today in Tehran without a lawyer of his choice,” the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said on Twitter.
His family tweeted that his “life is at serious risk right now” as he faced charges of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth” — sharia-related charges that are capital crimes in the Islamic republic.
Salehi had disappeared at the end of October before appearing in a video published on November 2 by Iran’s state-run media.
The video claimed to show the first images of Salehi after his arrest.
It depicted a tattooed man in a sleeveless black T-shirt sitting on the ground, wearing a blindfold and looking bloodied and bruised.
The man says: “I am Toomaj Salehi. I said I made a mistake. I said... that you should run. I didn’t mean you.”
Activists condemned the recording as a forced confession extracted under duress.
Salehi is one of a number of prominent figures to be arrested in a mass crackdown that has seen dozens of journalists, lawyers, civil society and cultural figures arrested.
His detention came shortly after he gave an interview highly critical of the regime to the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation.
“You are dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation... in order to keep its power, money and weapons,” Salehi said in the interview.
Iranian state media claim Salehi was arrested while trying to cross one of the country’s western borders, but his family have denied this saying he was in the southwestern province of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari at the time.


UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran
Updated 26 November 2022

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran

UN rights council to hold urgent session on Iran
  • Decision comes after the German and Icelandic ambassadors to the UN in Geneva submitted a request for such a meeting late on Friday
  • So far, 44 countries, including 17 Council members, have backed the call
GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council announced on Monday it would hold an urgent session this month on Iran, where a brutal crackdown on mass protests has left hundreds dead.
The United Nations’ highest rights body said a special session on “the deteriorating human rights situation” in Iran would be held on November 24.
The decision comes after the German and Icelandic ambassadors to the UN in Geneva submitted a request for such a meeting late on Friday.
The support of 16 of the Human Rights Council’s 47 members — more than a third — is required to convene a special session outside the three regular ones held each year.
So far, 44 countries, including 17 Council members, have backed the call, the body said.
The request follows eight weeks of protests in Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested for an alleged breach of the country’s strict dress rules for women based on Islamic sharia law.
At least 326 people have been killed in the crackdown on the protests, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), as the demonstrations have grown into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 fall of the shah.
Thousands of peaceful protesters have also been arrested, according to UN rights experts, including many women, children, lawyers, activists and journalists.