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Politics & Diplomacy UN, US Continue Shuttle Diplomacy

The UN-led peace process has remained stalled since a formal truce expired without extension last October, and has since been superseded by direct bilateral talks between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi group (Ansar Allah). Nevertheless, the UN and US special envoys have continued to actively consult with the respective belligerents.

On August 9, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg met with PLC chief Rashad al-Alimi in Riyadh along with other members of the PLC. In separate meetings, Grundberg spoke with Prime Minister Maeen Abdelmalek Saeed, Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak, and Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed al-Jaber. Discussions revolved around improving living conditions in Yemen, the political peace process, and increasing regional support. On August 15, Grundberg traveled to Muscat, where he met with the Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the Omani Foreign Ministry, Khalifa al-Harthy, to discuss Oman’s role in the ongoing peace negotiations. He also met chief Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam, to whom he stressed the importance of both parties making compromises in order to implement a nationwide ceasefire and move the political process forward.

Grundberg briefed the UN Security Council on August 16, where he denounced the assassination of World Food Programme employee Moayad Hameidi, while simultaneously praising efforts that led to the release of five UN employees kidnapped by Al-Qaeda last year. He also warned against “public threats to return to war,” noting reported fighting in Taiz, Marib, Al-Dhalea, Hudaydah, Shabwa, and Sa’ada. Amat al-Salam al-Hajj, the head of the Abductees’ Mothers Association, also spoke at the briefing, sharing that the organization had recorded thousands of young men who have been kidnapped or forcibly disappeared since 2016, including civilians with no relation to the conflict.

On August 15, US Special Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking met Al-Alimi in Riyadh to discuss possibilities for reviving the peace process. The meeting came as part of Lenderking’s larger Gulf tour, which began the day prior. Lenderking met with Grundberg in Amman on August 19. In a tweet following the meeting, the US Envoy’s office welcomed the visit of an Omani delegation to Sana’a and reiterated its commitment to intra-Yemeni peace talks.

Gundberg has also reached out to various players. He held a virtual meeting with Ali Asghar Khaji, senior advisor to Iran’s foreign minister, on August 27. Two days later, he traveled to Cairo where he met with the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, the Assistant Secretary-General to the Arab League, and several Yemeni politicians, and to Aden, where he met with PLC chief Al-Alimi and Prime Minister Saeed to discuss ongoing peace efforts. On September 6, Grundberg concluded a visit to Abu Dhabi, where he met with Shabwa Governor Awad bin al-Wazir al-Awlaqi, UAE Foreign Minister Khalifa Shaheen, and the diplomatic advisor to the UAE president Anwar Gargash. Discussions focused on regional and international efforts to bring sustainable peace to Yemen.

Senior US officials, including Middle East adviser Brett McGurk, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Barbara Leaf, and Special Envoy Lenderking have recently traveled to Riyadh for talks with Saudi officials. According to National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan, one of the primary purposes of the visit was to work toward “a permanent peace in Yemen.” US officials confirmed that Yemen was on top of McGurk’s agenda in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-Houthi Talks Resume

After a summer hiatus and concerns over a resumption of full-scale hostilities, negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi group have resumed, though there have been no breakthroughs on familiar points of contention. Along with a debate regarding Saudi Arabia’s role as a mediator, money, in the form of salary payments, has been the primary impediment. Houthi leader Abdelmalek al-Houthi said he would suspend negotiations until public sector salaries are paid and has maintained a stream of hostile rhetoric. In a speech carried on Al-Masirah on August 12, he accused the United States of holding Riyadh back from making a deal, and implicitly threatened that the Saudi development project Neom could be a future target if hostilities resume.

The suspension of negotiations invited fears of escalation, and the threat remains should they fail again. Concern over renewed fighting led intra-coalition tensions to briefly subside. Coalition leaders met with STC leader and PLC member Aiderous al-Zubaidi, and reportedly told him that the talks with the Houthis had reached a dead end. There were joint efforts to de-escalate tensions in Aden and neighboring governorates, including Hadramawt. Marib saw a build-up of Houthi troops, and the group said they intend to test new weapons on islands in the Red Sea, following reports that the Iranians were relocating missiles and drones to Hudaydah. A maritime display would allow the Houthis to demonstrate their ability to threaten international shipping lanes, perhaps for leverage in negotiations. Coalition forces have also shown a renewed interest in the Bab al-Mandab Strait, control of which would be a valuable bargaining chip in any final settlement and confer a degree of international authority.

But a massive escalation is seen as less likely with the talks again active. An Omani delegation landed in Sana’a on August 17 to meet with Houthi negotiators. The talks were reportedly requested by the Houthis, who are frustrated with the current status of the de facto truce. Houthi leaders are reportedly under the impression they have been enticed into a situation where they have neither the leverage of frontline fighting, nor the relief they sought in the form of salary payments. Their agency has been further curtailed by the Saudi-Iranian understanding, which, while limited in scope, reportedly includes recent assurances that the Houthis will not launch cross-border attacks into the kingdom. The delegation spent four days meeting with Houthi officials, but returned to Muscat with no official announcement on the outcome of the talks.

The Omani contingent was reportedly joined by a four-man Saudi delegation and two Iranian diplomats. The trip appears to have been coordinated with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian’s visit to Riyadh on August 18, which follows the China-brokered Saudi-Iran detente reached in March. The Saudi delegation included intelligence officers, an advisor to the royal court, and an ambassador to an EU country.

The Saudis reportedly offered to pay public salaries from oil and gas revenues within a year, though there were no further details on how this might be done with exports suspended. The issue is equally sensitive for the government: the STC has signaled that it considers the use of oil and gas to pay Houthi salaries as an abuse of southern resources, and that a Saudi-Houthi agreement with this provision could be a trigger for further violence. A statement issued after the STC’s presidium met on August 20 read: “the resources and wealth of the south are the sovereign right of its people,” who alone should decide their political future. ِMukhtar al-Nubi, the STC-aligned commander of the Abyan Military Axis, said during a trip to Shabwa on August 20 that the governorate’s oil fields “cannot be neglected, no matter the price.”

The talks will continue in Oman. On August 20, senior Houthi official Abdelmalek al-Ejri posted on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that a delegation had arrived in Muscat ahead of a new round of negotiations that could be “decisive.” Their direction could be shaped by a new Saudi approach: reports are circulating in Arabic media that Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed al-Jaber is on the way out. Al-Jaber was not part of the entourage of officials who visited Sana’a, and a wing within the Saudi policy establishment is known to be unhappy with him over his high-profile trip to the Houthi capital during Ramadan in May. The visit did not lead to a final deal, giving the impression in some quarters that the Houthis were playing the Saudis for fools. Al-Jaber’s reputation has also suffered from his leadership of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen. Recent storm damage to Aden airport exposed shoddy work carried out by the organization, raising questions in the media about corruption.

FSO Safer Operation Completed

On August 29, the salvage team overseeing the transfer of oil from the FSO Safer oil tanker announced the completion of operations and their departure from the coast of Hudaydah. The UN says it is relying on the “additional generous support” of US$22 million to finish the operation, which includes constructing a CALM buoy offshore loading terminal, mooring the replacement ship Yemen to the buoy, and scrapping the Safer.

The United Nations oversaw the operation, which removed 1.14 million barrels of crude oil from the decrepit FSO Safer tanker moored off the coast of Hudaydah. The oil was transferred to a replacement vessel as part of a US$143 million operation aimed at averting an environmental disaster in the event of a spill. Efforts to commence a salvage operation were repeatedly delayed by Houthi officials and funding shortages. Control of the replacement ship Nautica, renamed The Yemen, was handed over to Houthi officials before the operation began.

It remains unclear what will be done with the transferred oil, which is worth an estimated US$80 million, and the profits from any sale are likely to be contested by the warring parties. The Safer itself would be worth some US$33 million if scrapped. While environmental catastrophe has been averted, the Houthis could still use the new vessel for ecological blackmail. Some officials in the Aden-based government have called the entire operation “fruitless,” but US officials have urged international donors to continue supporting the initiative and efforts to remove the Safer from the Red Sea.

Discontent Surfaces in Houthi Areas

A number of incidents in August drew attention to rising discontent in Houthi-controlled territory. Though their economic fortunes have improved over the past year, with the lifting of restrictions on the port of Hudaydah and the Sana’a airport, many people living in areas under Houthi control face increasingly desperate circumstances. The ruling authorities have faced unprecedented criticism as public sector salaries continue to go unpaid: some payrolls are now seven years in arrears. The lack of payment is pushing some families into extreme poverty. In one recent case, publicized on social media on August 20, a teacher in Ibb drew up a legal document offering his eight-year-old daughter to a couple in return for a guarantee that they would see to her food and shelter.

The disbursement of salaries is being held up by the Houthi leadership’s insistence they be paid through the government’s oil and gas revenues. Disputes over such an arrangement, including Houthi demands that payment be extended to their military and security forces, derailed truce talks last fall. The Houthis appear to want to set a precedent with such an agreement, but the government no longer has access to such revenues due to a Houthi blockade on oil exports, and appears unwilling to budge.

The withholding of salaries has fueled unprecedented dissent from political and labor leaders, and a violent response from the authorities. Teachers in particular have demanded their back salaries, with some staging isolated protests despite orders from religious officials to keep quiet. Houthi forces kidnapped the head of a teacher’s union in Sana’a who spearheaded a strike over the issue. The union leader, who was invited to meet with Houthi authorities under false pretenses, was taken to an unknown location. In Sana’a, Houthi gunmen beat prominent journalist Majali al-Samadi in front of his home in retaliation for criticizing the group’s failure to pay salaries. Al-Samadi’s radio station, the Voice of Yemen, was shut down by Houthi authorities in January 2022.

Dissent has also been voiced in the political sphere. A General People’s Congress (GPC) MP requested in parliament that the minister of finance answer questions about revenues and expenditures related to the disbursement of public salaries, and was subsequently assaulted by an employee of the Houthi-run ministry. Houthi media have begun a social media campaign to remove immunity from MPs who demand the payment of public salaries. But GPC MPs have persisted, making a rare move to demand a response from Minister of Education Yahya al-Houthi at an August 20 parliamentary session. The minister did not attend, apparently to avoid the situation escalating into a vote of no-confidence.

The head of the GPC in Sana’a, Sadeq Amin Abu Ras, raised the stakes further on August 24, at a conference marking 41 years since the GPC’s founding. In his first public attack on Houthi authorities, Abu Ras accused officials of a lack of transparency on government finances: “We have to put our budget and resources before the people. Nations are not built via late-night meetings and basement diwans; it requires transparency,” he said. Criticizing the Houthi group for interference in the affairs of a government technically headed by a member of the GPC – Abdelaziz bin Habtoor has been prime minister of the Sana’a-based government since 2016 – Abu Ras tempered his remarks by praising Abdelmalek al-Houthi as “the leader who realized victory,” claiming to have recently met him in Sa’ada.

Houthi authorities appear to be unnerved by the teachers’ protests and their support by the GPC, their nominal allies in power. Abu Ras’s comments drew a furious response from the head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, who gave a series of speeches in Sana’a, Amran, and the Houthis’ historical base of Sa’ada, where senior Houthi figures had congregated to meet with local tribes. Al-Mashat talked of “fools” and “traitors” working to “disturb the domestic front” by undermining the demand that salaries be paid by the government and Saudi-led coalition. He said GPC efforts to promote greater transparency only played into the hands of the UN sanctions committee. In retaliation against Abu Ras, senior Houthi figure Mohammed Ali al-Houthi announced on September 2 that homes and other properties owned by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s supporters would be put up for auction in order to pay the public sector salary bill.

Yemeni media has been full of speculation about the dispute. One analysis suggested Abu Ras was trying to preempt action against the GPC, after Abdelmalek spoke recently of unspecified “fundamental changes” that he planned to enact. This might mean removing the GPC prime minister and moving to a model that more reflects the system in Iran, where Al-Mashat’s post would be akin to that of President Ebrahim Raisi, and Abdelmalek’s to that of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It could also be that Al-Mashat fears for his own position and being scapegoated for simmering public anger over economic deterioration, despite the wealth accrued by the upper echelons of Houthi society during the war. Some anti-Houthi media outlets have speculated that the first signs of internecine conflict are emerging as divisions widen between different wings of the Houthi movement against the backdrop of de-escalation and social discontent, though as yet there are few signs of broader instability.

Houthis Threaten to Block Social Media Websites

Houthi authorities threatened to shut off access to the social media websites YouTube and Facebook after the technology giants Google and Meta removed a number of accounts linked to the group. Government Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani alleged that the accounts were closed at the behest of the government to prevent the spread of the Houthis’ radical ideology and indoctrination of children: “We renew our call on all international platforms and satellite [stations] to block TV channels, websites, and pages linked with the Houthi militia, which is listed as a terrorist organization in Yemen and a number of other countries.”

Facebook is widely used in Yemen, and maintains a more significant reach than Twitter and other similar platforms. It is used to coordinate all manner of organizations and informal social networks, including those that provide humanitarian aid. Social events are promoted on the site, and it is the primary forum for the publication of political and religious speech. It also has a large commercial component: cars and electronics are often bought and sold there, and businesses use it for advertising and promotion, sometimes employing prominent online “influencers.” Its primacy is illustrated by a WhatsApp and Facebook data package available to mobile phone users.

Facebook and other social media sites have been a recurrent target of Houthi ire. But the Houthis are also well-versed in their instrumentalization, and the group has a large and influential social media presence where it regularly posts propaganda. It is accordingly wary of online dissent, and surveils Yemeni social media users: in March, Houthi authorities arrested four prominent YouTubers for criticizing the regime. The threat to ban the service may be related to recent domestic criticism and the teachers’ strike.

Government-STC Competition Continues

Saudi-UAE tensions continue to undermine unity within the internationally recognized government. The political tussle between Saudi-backed PLC chief Rashad al-Alimi and UAE-backed STC chief and PLC member Aiderous al-Zubaidi could intensify in September if both figures attend the UN General Assembly in New York. The event could provide a public demonstration of the government’s dysfunction, if its leading figures, with their rival Gulf backers, offer substantively different visions of a future political settlement. Al-Zubaidi may not be able to attend – he has reportedly been unable to secure a visa – perhaps reflecting US displeasure at his moves to undermine the PLC’s authority. But recent political and military changes in the STC’s structures and leadership positions have strengthened Al-Zubaidi’s position, and the group has increased media outreach in the West to cast itself as the natural heir to the former state of South Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has pushed on with its effort to outflank the STC in Al-Mahra. PLC chief Rashad al-Alimi arrived in the governorate, which borders Oman, on August 16, for a week-long trip to inaugurate development projects and meet with local officials. Al-Alimi made a major play for local support in a speech to a gathering of political, military, and security leaders, praising efforts to combat weapons and drug smuggling, promising more local autonomy, and declaring steps to preserve the Mahri language. On August 21, he laid the foundation stone for the Al-Ghaydah power station and inaugurated the first phase of the tourist and residential city of Marina, due for completion in 2028 at a cost of US$100 million. The total cost of the projects announced during the trip, which cover the rebuilding of roads and other public works, was given as 93.3 billion Yemeni rials, to be funded by the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen. This follows the reopening of Al-Ghaydah’s international airport last month after its refurbishment by the Saudi program. The government praised Al-Alimi’s trip as “fruitful” despite protests in both Al-Mahra and Aden, with southern activists alleging that Al-Alimi “came to strip Al-Mahra from the south.” Al-Alimi is understood to be planning a trip to Taiz next.

The UAE fears local Saudi-backed political initiatives, such as the Hadramawt National Council, could become successful models of autonomy, which, if applied in other southern governorates, could see the Emiratis lose the influence they thought they had gained through their backing of the STC and other armed groups. But Saudi leaders seem to have slackened in their resolve to rally Hadramawt against STC influence. The Hadramawt National Council was meant to finalize its statutes and leadership within a two-month period that ended on June 20, but nothing has materialized. Saudi leadership may have concluded that it has already effectively blocked the STC by easily mobilizing social and political forces for the council. It could also be that bureaucratic malaise in the heat of summer, on either the Hadrami or Saudi side, has simply slowed the initiative down. ِHowever, it is notable that Amr bin Habrish, the head of the Hadramawt Inclusive Conference – another anti-STC bloc – took aim at the Hadramawt National Council in an interview published on August 12, in which he described his Conference as an independent body formed by Hadramis to represent Hadrami interests alone. The implication was that the new Saudi-backed council was a foreign project that lacked local legitimacy.

Al-Alimi is pushing ahead to increase the powers of local government, which the STC views as a scheme to strengthen federalism at the expense of its secessionist agenda. According to Badr Basalama, the Hadrami former minister of transport who heads the technical committee, a plan for “enabling local authorities,” is to begin in Aden, Hadramawt, and Taiz governorates. The idea is to encourage development, led by local private sector initiatives, that would include the provision of basic services and create jobs. Al-Alimi promoted the plan during his trips to Hadramawt and Al-Mahra. Basalama said eight years of war had weakened the central state to the point that it was no longer able to provide basic services, making federated government with private sector help the only way forward. The project will face resistance because of the implied loss of revenue to the financially embattled central government, which Basalama said could be solved by employing a gradualist approach.

Giants Brigades Storm Presidential Palace

The STC is not the only faction represented on the PLC to openly pursue a separate agenda. On August 13, Giants Brigades forces loyal to PLC member Abdelrahman al-Muharrami (Abu Zaraa) stormed the Maashiq Presidential Palace to confront Prime Minister Maeen Abdelmalek Saeed. The palace is under the protection of the STC-affiliated Al-Asifah Brigades. Several narratives have emerged regarding the motivation behind the raid, with Giants Brigades forces apparently surprised at the rapid reporting of the incident. They quickly denied it had taken place, alleging that a team had gone to follow up on security issues with the prime minister. Other sources would later allege that Saeed had intentionally kept a Giants Brigade delegation waiting for some 12 hours in an intentional demonstration of disrespect to Abu Zaraa. This is unlikely given that the incident was already being reported by mid-afternoon. The promulgation of such narratives is likely intended to obscure a darker truth, that Abu Zaraa sent his forces to the palace to intimidate the prime minister and extract additional funds for his troops and supporters. The UAE-backed Giants Brigades are currently the most powerful coalition force on the ground in Yemen – their counteroffensive was vital to checking the Houthi push to seize Marib in 2020-2021. They have also interceded internally, notably during an orchestrated push by the STC to drive Islah forces from Shabwa last September. But in general, Abu Zaraa has publicly maintained that his forces, despite their foreign sponsorship, operate only on behalf of the Yemeni state.

But Abu Zaraa also operates on behalf of himself, his Yafea tribesmen, and his Salafi troops and supporters. Imprisoned in Sa’ada during the wars with the Houthis in the 2000s, he was later empowered by the UAE because of the influence he had over Salafi groups. His military authority soon gave him a seat at the table – the Emiratis added him to the PLC in a belated attempt to counterbalance the influence of the STC. His addition was reportedly such an afterthought that he was listed as ‘Abu Zaraa’, rather than by his legal name. But he quickly made the most of the opportunity, appointing Yafea tribesmen and other supporters to influential positions, particularly those with access to financial resources. He successfully installed a Yafea tribesman on the banking board and has pressured officials to grant banking licenses to Salafi associates. Abu Zaraa also operates outside the environs of the government beyond the reach of just his Giants Brigade forces, maintaining his own prisons, links with Salafi and jihadi networks, and benefiting from a business network that includes oil traders and money exchangers, and preferential access to financial institutions. The extent of the graft is unknown, and perhaps even unremarkable in a notoriously corrupt system in the throes of conflict. But the war economy has been good to Abu Zaraa – he is one of the few figures who unambiguously benefits from the continuation of the conflict, and he has efficiently extracted substantial government resources for his problematic supporters at a time when the government is running out of money. The confrontation with Saeed, in all likelihood, was an attempted shakedown after Abu Zaraa experienced difficulty maintaining such levels of parasitism as government coffers ran low.

Raiding the Maashiq Palace was likely a miscalculation. The prime minister is not popular, but Saeed has no obvious successor, and so enjoys the tacit support of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia. PLC chief Al-Alimi has now instructed the Minister of Defense to investigate the incident, and the French, American, and British embassies issued a statement noting their concern that the incident threatened security in the capital and could compromise the government’s authority. But Abu Zaraa’s power and influence remain unchecked, and with them his ability to coerce members of the government. In the interim, his clientele networks will continue to pull the strings of the bureaucracy to secure funding for his Yafea tribesmen and Salafi associates.

Saudi Arabia Displeased with Calls for Justice

The recent announcement of a joint declaration signed by 70 victims’ and civil society organizations in Yemen has rattled Saudi officials, who reportedly perceive the declaration as an attack on their conduct and an obstacle to their ongoing talks with the Houthis. Riyadh and its coalition partner the UAE have repeatedly opposed calls for justice and accountability measures which may target them. The declaration, which was first announced at the second Yemen International Forum in June, and of which the Sana’a Center is a signatory, seeks to build common ground on a rights-based approach to justice and reconciliation in Yemen and address the numerous violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated by national and international parties to the conflict. The declaration has received support from prominent regional and international non-governmental organizations working in Yemen, including Human Rights Watch and Save the Children. The US envoy and ambassador and the EU delegation to Yemen tweeted their support.

Transitional justice is notoriously difficult, as the belligerent parties benefit from an environment of impunity and refuse to admit misconduct or concede judicial authority over their forces to an outside party. Collecting evidence and witness testimony is extremely difficult in wartime, and post-conflict judicial processes are susceptible to accusations of politicization. But the attempts to obfuscate the investigation of abuses in Yemen are particularly brazen. In October 2021, the UN Human Rights Council voted not to renew the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, tasked with investigating war crimes. Though they did not have a vote, Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners reportedly lobbied intensely against extending the investigator’s mandate. The kingdom had drawn negative attention from the panel and the international community for the high civilian toll from its disastrous aerial bombing campaign.

Yemeni civil society groups have taken it upon themselves to renew calls for documentation and justice. Saudi Arabia is annoyed by the initiative, which it reportedly interprets as being undertaken in collusion with the US to discredit them. It is highly unlikely that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the government, or the Houthi group will ever agree to participate in a process that opens up their forces to the threat of prosecution, and each would likely dispute further charges of misconduct. Civil society organizations hope that elements of transitional justice can be integrated into the wider peace process, and seek to protect future efforts from obstruction.

Damning reports of Saudi crimes continue to surface. On August 21, Human Rights Watch released a report claiming that Saudi border guards had systematically shot and killed African migrants trying to cross from the Saudi-Yemen border, killing hundreds of people in the past 15 months. Migrants had also reportedly been subjected to beatings, torture, and rape. The Saudi government has denied the accusations, calling the report “unfounded and not based on reliable sources.” On August 22, the Ethiopian government announced it would launch an investigation into the matter with the cooperation of the Saudi government.

The report, which received extensive coverage in international media, also suggested there could be a secret Saudi government policy in place to kill migrants, which would constitute a crime against humanity. It said too that Houthi forces work with the smugglers, extorting migrants or transferring them to detention centers in Sa’ada, along the Saudi border, where they are abused until they can pay exit fees.

The allegations are not new. In April 2020, Houthi fighters expelled thousands of Ethiopian migrants from northern Yemen, forcing them to try to cross the border into Saudi Arabia where they were fired on by border guards. The current conflict has made the border zone, which Saudi Arabia views primarily as a conduit for illegal immigration, gun-running, and drug smuggling, even more dangerous than before. The securitization of the Yemen-Saudi border dates back to 2009, during one of the last rounds of the Sa’ada wars, when Saudi authorities relocated villagers living on the Saudi side to a distance of at least 50 km away, freeing up the Saudi military to act with impunity. Abuse of African migrants elsewhere in Yemen was highlighted in a report that emerged in August detailing a government official’s plan to evict Ethiopians from Shabwa for “religious and moral corruption that destroys society.” The official, who is head of the governorate’s religious endowments office, had presented a memorandum to the governor’s office and organized a meeting with mosque preachers to encourage incitement against the presence of migrants.

Other Developments

Government Receives New Saudi Support

On August 1, Saudi Arabia announced it would support the internationally recognized Yemeni government with a US$1.2 billion grant to finance the public budget and prop up the value of the Yemeni rial (see Economic section). The support comes at a critical time for the government: Houthi missile and drone attacks on oil export terminals halted hydrocarbon sales last fall, denying the government access to what was by far its largest source of revenue. The government’s fiscal deficit was further compounded when Houthi authorities began pressuring commercial importers to redirect imports from Aden to Hudaydah in mid-January, costing the government some YR45-50 billion per month in customs duties. The Central Bank of Yemen in Aden confirmed on August 3 that Saudi Arabia had deposited 1 billion Saudi riyals (nearly US$267 million) into its account at the Saudi National Bank in Riyadh. The deposit is the first tranche of the grant and appears to consist of completely new funds unrelated to previous pledges.

Blackouts Persist in Aden

Amidst soaring summer temperatures, the energy crisis in Aden, Abyan, and Lahj governorates continued as fuel for electricity generation ran out. Blackouts in Aden reached nearly 18-20 hours per day, causing massive protests in the Al-Mansoura, Sheikh Othman, Al-Mualla, and Khormaksar districts. Protests broke out in Abyan, which witnessed a total blackout for four consecutive days, and in Lahj, where residents took to the streets to demand immediate government intervention.

Taiz Security Cracks Down on Criticism

Military and security forces in Taiz attacked two activists and a journalist in three separate incidents in retaliation for their social media activity. Security forces in Al-Salou district in southern Taiz assaulted a human rights activist and abducted his son to pressure him to stop posting on Facebook about the recent assassination of a World Food Programme (WFP) official in Al-Turbah city. In Taiz city, security forces arrested a journalist for similar Facebook posts. Military police at a checkpoint at the entrance to Taiz city stopped a truck driver and social media activist, confiscated his phone, and beat him for publicizing arbitrary levies imposed on truck drivers at security checkpoints between Taiz and Aden.

Aden Officials Condemn Mine Clearing Assistance

On August 11, Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat reported that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had sent nearly US$750,000 worth of minesweeping equipment to Houthi authorities in Hudaydah, sparking outrage among Aden-based government officials and humanitarian agencies who highlighted that Houthi forces are the main culprits behind mine planting in the country.

Women Inmates Criticize Abuse

At the Central Prison in Sana’a, women inmates raised complaints of abuse and violence by the Zainabiyat, an all-female Houthi security unit known for its harsh practices. The complaints include physical and emotional abuse, forced labor, and cutting prisoners’ clothing in ways designed to humiliate them.

WFP Cuts Food Assistance

The World Food Programme (WFP) announced on August 10 that it has been forced to curtail aid to Yemen due to budget shortfalls. Rations were cut to 65 percent of the standard food basket per cycle, and the WFP said further cuts may be necessary during the final three months of the year unless urgent additional funding is secured. Currently, the WFP is aiming to provide assistance to 13 million Yemenis during each distribution cycle (approximately 45 days).