The director-general of Houthi-affiliated radio station Sam FM, Hamoud Mohammad Sharaf, (L) is seen leading a chant, praising a fundraising campaign for the Iran-backed Lebanese militia group, Hezbollah. (Screen grab)

July 23, 2019

Houthi rebels in Yemen have announced that they have raised nearly $300,000 in the latest stage of their campaign for Hezbollah.

In a video published on Saturday, the director general of Houthi radio station Sam FM posed with wads of cash as the team celebrated raising 74,010,000 Yemeni riyals (Dh1.1 million, or $296,000) for the Lebanese militants.

“From Yemen the faith to Lebanon’s resistance, salute to the well-being of Yemen,” they yell.

“Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews.”

The funds would “support, aid and assist the resistance in Lebanon”, said a statement published by Sam FM alongside the video.

The donations for Hezbollah from the third stage of the “Live for the good of Yemen” campaign add to about $200,000 raised this year and in 2018 for the Houthis’ general military spending in Yemen, according to documents seen by The National.

If the Houthis’ self-reported figures are accurate, it means more than half of the fund raised by the Iran-backed rebels has gone to Tehran’s Lebanese proxy. The National could not independently verify the fundraising claims.

Hezbollah has come under increasing pressure from US sanctions, and in March its secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, called on support for the group as it launched campaigns to raise funds in Lebanon.

Iran-backed Hezbollah is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the GCC, the US and the UK, and is widely believed to be providing training and advice to the rebels in Yemen.

“Houthis view their support to Hezbollah now as a sign of support and payback to Hezbollah,” said Fatima Alasrar, a senior policy analyst at the Arabia Foundation in Washington.

“It is a clear message of solidarity. The Houthis are basically saying, ‘You can count on us to support you’.”

Sam FM defended the amount raised for Hezbollah as Yemen suffers widespread poverty, starvation and frequent cholera outbreaks.

“This is what Yemeni donors prefer of their own will, despite the siege and the cutting-off of their salaries,” a source at the station told The National.

But Afrah Nasser, chief editor of Sanaa Review website, said the Houthis sometimes took “donations” for their military action from Yemenis without their knowledge.

“Houthis have masterfully milked the population under their control with unbelievable taxation and many times forcibly deducted money from businessmen, and through corrupt methods,” Ms Nasser said.

“The main method, though, has been mobilising the population into buying this idea to donate for the ‘military effort’, meaning to the Houthi army. And many people do donate many times without realising it.

“For instance, the Houthis force mobile telecommunications companies to deduct 10 per cent of a purchase of a Sim card or internet unit card.

“So if you want to refill your mobile and you buy a card worth $10, automatically, 10 per cent will be deducted and you will receive an auto reply saying, ‘Thank you, you donated to the military effort’.”

Aid organisations raised concerns over large sums of cash apparently being shipped out of Yemen, as humanitarian support falls short.

UN tracking report shows only about a third of Yemen’s $4 billion funding needs are met.

Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al Houthi “will deliver the proceeds of the campaign to Hassan Nasrallah, on behalf of the campaign’s management and all those involved”, Sam FM said.

Hezbollah’s media office was not able to confirm if that meant the Houthi leader would travel to Lebanon to deliver the cash.

The ties between Hezbollah and the Houthis run deep, analysts say.

Hezbollah supports the Houthis on its media platforms.

Affiliated messaging apps provide regular military updates while its press office provides round-ups of Yemen-related humanitarian and security news.

The Houthi-affiliated Al Masirah television station is based in a Hezbollah-dominated southern suburb of Beirut.

“Many important analysts still refuse to see the links between the two groups, despite the evidence and disruptive impact it has on the sociocultural Yemeni environment,” Ms Alasrar of Arabia Foundation said.

“Ignoring these links distorts policy analysis and has a serious impact on our understanding of the conflict in Yemen.”

The National

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.