Yemen’s dual economic war
Hanan Al-Hakry, , Saturday 25 Jan 2020
The horrors of war are not nightmarish enough for Yemenis; they have to suffer renewed Houthi attacks, a dual economic war, and empty pockets

A double attack on the military camp of Al-Nasr and a military training base was reported on Sunday. The two sites are located nearby Farda Mount, affiliated to Nahm directorate, east of Marib, Yemen. The attacks were conducted using ballistic missiles and drones.

President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi said the terrorist Houthi group stood behind the attacks, before pointing his accusing fingers at the militia for attacking Marib’s Fourth Brigade camp.

Saudi Arabia denounced the attacks, saying that shelling soldiers during their prayers at a Marib mosque reflected the Houthis’ disregard for the sanctity of mosques and value of Yemeni blood.

According to the Yemeni news agency Saba, President Hadi said, “The Houthis’ atrocious deeds are telling of their rejection of peace and that they are not good at anything except death and destruction, being a cheap tool for Iran’s agenda in the region.”

The Houthi attack targeted the camp’s mosque in Marib, during maghreb prayers, killing more than 75 and injuring over 150.

Al-Muntasif Net website reported that Brigadier Tarek Saleh, the commander of the National Resistance and member of the Joint Command of the West Coast, tweeted: “A painful catastrophe shakes every free Yemeni who watches his countrymen get slaughtered by Iranian missiles.

“Our condolences go out to the martyrs of dear Marib, martyrs of Houthi brutality against the Yemenis,” he added. The attack “is a crime that proves what we repeat everyday: Houthis are the enemies of all Yemenis.”

Yemen’s internal war seems to be targeting the citizens themselves. Al-Youm Al-Thamen newspaper reported that the warring parties embarked on a new battle, in the five-year-conflict, on 18 January regarding new and old banknotes, looming from the existence of two economic systems in Yemen.

The Houthis that control Sanaa banned the possession and use of the new Yemeni riyal, which was issued by their opponents in the internationally recognised government, headquartered in the coastal city of Aden, in south Yemen.

The terrorist group said Yemenis are allowed to use the old banknotes only, claiming that a curfew was imposed to counter inflation and the government’s excessive issuing of banknotes. The government said the curfew was designed as a measure of economic sabotage. As is always the case, the Yemenis found themselves torn between the two sides.

A source told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Houthis took by force the new banknotes from the people and exchanged them for old, torn banknotes, with the aim of buying foreign currencies to purchase more weapons. Yemenis from both sides said the curfew resulted in conducting transactions with the old and new banknotes, with each having a different monetary value. This led to more turmoil in a war-torn country governed by two forces.

The banknote problem furthered the troubles of businessmen and merchants, causing them to shoulder extra expenses as they have to buy two kinds of Yemeni riyals. This resulted in turbulence in the price of the dollar which had stabilised at 650 riyals to the dollar across Yemen before the ban was announced mid-December. “Before the ban went into effect, we used to go to the exchange and they would refuse to take the new currencies, asking the people to wait from three days to five days,” Abdullah Saleh, 27, from Sanaa, told Al-Youm Al-Thamen.

Meanwhile, employees in the vital health and education sectors, from Aden to Sanaa, are facing starvation and non-payment of their salaries since the end of 2019. An unnamed source told the Weekly that there are approximately four million Yemeni riyals stolen from the legitimate government, comprising the salaries of education and health personnel in Taiz, while the Houthis stole $165 million from the Internet sector. The source added that the government had taken a loan from Alkuraimi Bank to pay the salaries of September 2019. When the government didn’t pay its dues, the bank took the money sent for December to settle the government’s debt, leaving health and education sector employees without salaries.

Taiz employees in the city demonstrated in demand of their salaries after it became clear to them that their salaries were stolen from the bank of Taiz governorate. An official in Taiz’s education sector explained that the salaries were not paid due to the inability to bring liquidity from Aden to Taiz as a result of sit-ins at the Central Bank in Aden, which caused its closure. He added that the government was waiting for the bank to open and liquidity to be sent to pay the salaries of the employees.

The Yemeni Tahdeeth Net website reported that Alkuraimi Bank in Taiz refused the resumption of paying the salaries of employees of the Ministry of Interior in the governorate under the control of the Brotherhood’s militia. The website said that local sources reported that the bank’s administration in Taiz was attacked Sunday by gunmen affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood leaders, as a result of the bank’s refusal to pay salaries to non-residents of Taiz. Alkuraimi has limited its operations to its branches in Torba City, Shamayatain directorate, and Al-Nashama city in the Maafar directorate. The bank also restricted payments only to those directly entitled to them.

The website reported that the reason the bank was attacked is the presence of statements containing hundreds of fake names listed by Brotherhood leaders in the city of Taiz.

Yemen’s domestic front is complicated and is crushing the citizens, who have been enduring much. The elite are taking their and others’ rights. The banks are suffering violent, irresponsible behaviours. Is there ever an end to the humanitarian violations against people suffering the horrors of war? The war seems to be an opportunity for some people to steal what the Yemenis should be earning. These people think they are invisible and that the world knows nothing about them. But the world knows.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 January, 2020 edition ofAl-Ahram Weekly.