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The Houthi group’s expropriation and confiscation of citizens lands in Hodeidah is a serious violation and forced displacement that must be stopped and the perpetrators should be held accountable

  
  
  
    
16/09/2022

Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties said that the Houthi group is committing a serious violation of the property rights of citizens living in several areas extending from Al-Qasra to Al-Jaruba area, southeast of Bait Al-Faqih District, south of Al-Hodeidah Governorate. SAM stressed that the expropriation of land and private property constitutes a grave violation of the basic rights guaranteed by both international and Yemeni law, and the Houthi group must immediately stop escalation by using force and intimidation against civilians to expropriate land and private property.

"SAM" indicated in a lengthy statement issued by it today, Friday, that the beginning of the matter was in 2014, according to eyewitnesses from the areas that suffered from the takeover of the Houthi group where the Houthi group made several attempts to seize about 90 km in the coastal soil area of the Bajel Directorate on the Red Sea coast. However, their efforts failed at first, and these militias returned after years through a policy of intimidation and fear to extend their control over several areas and villages in the Hodeidah Governorate.

The organization indicated that its team met with a number of victims and affected people whose lands were confiscated, in addition to obtaining testimonies that proved the expropriation of entire lands and the benefit from the strategic locations of those lands and areas, which the organization confirms is a blatant and unacceptable violation and a clear attack by the Houthi group on guaranteed and protected rights.

One of the eyewitnesses mentioned to SAM in his testimony, “What is happening can be described as a campaign of forced displacement of the people of 4 villages extending from Al-Qasra area to the Al-Juroba area, in the southeast of Bait Al-Faqih District, south of Al-Hodeidah Governorate as these areas are considered some of the most fertile agricultural lands in Al Hudaydah Governorate.” He added, "A person named (Faisal Al-Hatfi Abu Al-Batool), appointed by the Houthi militia as director of the Endowment Office of the Bait Al-Faqih District, issued leases to expatriates and influential personalities in partnership with (Yahya Sahl) the director general of the district and Abu Yassin, the supervisor of the southern square, and they sent dozens of military pickups to displace the residents of the villages of: Al-Ma’arif, Al-Hadariah, Bani Al-Sahel, Al-Sabahi, and scattered villages as far as Al-Joruba in the east.”

He also stated in his testimony that "the Houthi militia committed the most horrific crimes against the people of those areas since they burned homes and prevented the injured from being take to hospitals, and arrested dozens of residents of those villages and took them to unknown illegal detentions. They attacked women, including Aisha Abdul Rahman Sabahi and Aisha Muhammad Abdo Mistehi where 12 bulldozers destroyed homes and removed the barriers separating the lands.”

The human rights organization indicated that the Houthi group worked to significantly intensify its control over large areas of the country and prevented access to the Jaruba junction on the Al-Hodeidah - Al-Hussainiya road in the southeast of the Bait Al-Faqih district, south of Al-Hodeidah Governorate as the militia deployed its gunmen at Al-Jaruba Junction and prevented access to the villages extending from the junction to Al-Jaruba in the east, where the agricultural nursery and the Agricultural Research Center of the Tihama Development Authority are located.

Information obtained by “SAM” from several sources showed that the Houthi group issued a warning to the residents of those villages that they should leave their homes and farms on the basis that these lands belong to the Economic Corporation and the Endowments, and that it concluded lease contracts for expatriates from Saada and Hajjah and influential figures in the governorate.

The Houthi militia launched a fierce military campaign with dozens of pickups, and committed terrible and serious violations, and arrested more than 30 people - including women - from the people of those areas. It also prevented the injured from being treated including 18 women, as it detained most of the victims in buildings belonging to the Al-Taqwa Mosque in the south of Bait al-Faqih city.

For his part, a resident of those areas told the “SAM” team in his testimony, “What is happening in the southeast of Beit al-Faqih district can be described as plowing the land, which is similar to the behavior of Iranian militias in other countries. The Houthi militia has isolated hundreds of inhabited villages from their external surroundings, in addition to the excessive use of force while preventing aid for victims, including women, and the campaign of arrests and the use of about 12 bulldozers to destroy homes and water barriers, in conjunction with the forced displacement of hundreds of families whose ancestors lived in areas that they reclaimed and cultivated for decades.”

The organization highlighted that the Houthi group attacked the women of those areas, beat them with rifle butts, prevented medical staff from entering and providing first aid to them and the rest of the injured and arrested dozens of the individuals including "Muhammad Bakhit Mshikhi, Muhammad Abdo Mshikhi, Ali Tammam Mshikhi, Hammoud Tammam Mshikhi, the liquidator of Abdullah Yahya, Badr Abdullah Yahya, Fahd Ahmed Fatini, Muhammad bin Muhammad Mshikhi, Aseel Ayyash Mshikhi, Ismail Msheikhi" and other citizens and arrested and detained them without a judicial order to do so.

In another testimony, an eyewitness said, ""The Houthi militia has looted the citizens' lands in Al-Qasra, Bait Al-Faqih District, Al-Hodeidah, which is considered a source of income for the citizens, with an area of more than 10 km2, from which more than 5,000 citizens benefit and they are watercourses and pasture for the citizens. The Houthi group and through a military force consisting of 30 military pickups attacked the lands and the population, and some of those pickups raided the neighboring villages and raided houses and took the men and frightened the women and children.”

He indicated in his testimony, that there are several Houthi leaders involved in the crime of forced displacement of the residents of those villages and regions, including 1- Abu Yassin: He is from Sa’ada and he is responsible for the security forces in the southern square in the Hodeidah governorate. 2- Abu Ahmed Al-Hadi, who is responsible for the Mobilization Committee for the fronts in Al-Hodeidah governorate. 3- Abu Amin, who is the intelligence official for the southern square in Al-Hudaydah governorate. 4- the Houthi leader Abu Atef, General Supervisor of Bait Al-Faqih District, Al-Hodeidah, 5- Abu Al-Muqtada, who is currently responsible for the farms of the Economic Corporation and the farms of the Central Security in Al-Jaruba previously.”

While the activist "Mahmoud Al-Otmi" mentioned in an article he published about the Houthi group's project to extend its control over the lands and villages of the citizens, as he said: “In January 2020, the Houthis launched the first operation of land extension of hectares and were able to control a vast land west of Bajil and north of Marawa’a, including houses, farms and homes. Unfortunately, this campaign was led by a person named (Ahmed Dasous). In February 2020, the oldest Houthi leader named (Mofaddal Al-Rasas) came from Hajjah Governorate with dozens of Houthi pickups to seize vast areas in the city of Al-Luhayah and its surroundings and claimed to have title deeds from the family of (Hamid Al-Din). In November 2020, the Houthi group confiscated lands in Al-Jarrahi district with an area of 11,000 square meters. In May 2020, the Houthi militia confiscated 400 square kilometers of citizens' lands and farms in the Al-Zaydiyah and Al-Mughlaf districts. In August 2021, the Houthi group confiscated 13 square kilometers of citizens' lands in the Zahwaniyah area in the Bajil district. In December 2021, the Houthi militia confiscated 200 hostiles in the Marawa’a district. In December 2021, the militia confiscated vast lands in the Bab al-Naqah area in the Bajil District.”

“Al-Otmi” stated that the Houthi group “in May 2022 issued an order to confiscate the lands of the city of Hodeidah as state property, and it was ordered to form a committee of the group’s elements to implement the ruling. In June 2022, the Houthi militia confiscated 600 hostile properties of citizens in Wadi Siham in the Bura District. In July 2022, the Houthi group confiscated 23 citizens' lands in the Bait al-Faqih district. In August 2022, al-Houthi confiscates the lands of citizens in the Al-Qusra area in the Bait Al-Faqih district and expels the residents. In September 2022, al-Houthi confiscated 360 returnees from citizens' properties in the Zabid district, and also confiscated citizens' lands in the Tuhayta District with an area of 16,500 returnees.”

Al-Otmi concluded his study by saying, “These areas are a small part of what I was able to track down and follow. There are many incidents of control, random sprawl, and forced displacement carried out by the Houthi militia against the people of Tihama in more than 20 districts.”

In turn, "SAM" organization confirmed that the Houthi group has, during the past few years, expanded operations of bulldozing, looting and confiscating the remaining lands and real estate of the state and citizens in Sana'a, the capital, and other cities under its control, which comes in conjunction with the launching of a large number of land and house owners in the group’s control areas appeals to lift the injustice against them, and to save them from the group’s campaigns that force them to pay exorbitant sums of money at times and confiscate their lands and homes at other times.

"SAM" stresses that what it heard from field testimonies, whether confiscating land or assaulting the population, especially women and children, explicitly contradicts the assertion of international law that a person's possession of real estate or land must be secured without fear of eviction or deprivation of home or land. It also means living in a place that matches the culture of the individual and enables him/her to access appropriate services and job opportunities, stressing that the Houthi group's practices in this context constitute a serious and unacceptable violation that must be stopped.

The organization concluded its statement by calling on the Houthi group to urgently release all people who were arrested on the issue of expropriation, stressing that priority should be given to ensuring the right of individuals to agriculture and housing, not to private interests. The organization also confirmed that that the Houthi group is required to bring the people involved in the policy of forced displacement against the villages and lands that it confiscated to a fair trial for their serious and unjustified violations.