Houthi militia raid women's clothing shops and cafes in Sanaa

The group says the venues, which have long operated in Yemen's capital, breached Islamic values

Yemeni women walk past shops in the old city market of the capital Sanaa, on March 2, 2020. - In recent months, a series of incidents in the rebel-held north illustrates the Huthis' determination to impose their own moral order on Yemenis who have already endured five years of grinding conflict: restaurants where men and women mingle have been shut down, scissor-wielding militia have policed men's hairstyles, and rebel forces have patrolled college campuses to enforce dress codes. (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)
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Dozens of shops in Yemen's capital Sanaa selling western-style women's attire last week reported being raided and ransacked by Houthi militia.

“Houthi security patrols raided all the clothing shops in our street and destroyed the mannequins we use to exhibit the outfits, claiming that such models violate Islamic conduct,” said Sami Qaid, who owns a women’s clothing shop in Sanaa.

"They claim that selling western-style outfits, which have been available in Sanaa city for many years, is a violation of Islamic morals and a matter that delays victory in Yemen, according to them," Mr Qaid told The National.

The Houthi militia also raided a restaurant in southern Sanaa last week because of its name, the Rainbow Restaurant. The group’s security patrol stormed the restaurant and closed it, claiming that the restaurant’s name symbolises the LGBT community.

The Houthi minister of information said in last Friday’s sermon that they closed the restaurant because they believed using the rainbow name indicate it “was serving” LGBT people.

In September 2014, the Houthis in Yemen expanded their control from a stronghold in Sada province, northern Yemen and took over the capital of the country. The group has subsequently stamped its control on the city.

In December 2019, Houthi militia raided women-only cafes in Sanaa city and closed them, claiming that such places ruin women’s morals.

"They have raided all the women's cafes in Sanaa. They forcibly closed women's cafes in Hada city and in Al Misbahi area in central Sanaa and turned them into cafeterias to serve snacks for males only," Bardeis Al Saiyaghi, a female former detainee who fled Houthi detention in Sanaa and now lives in Egypt, told The National.

Ms Al Saiyaghi said that Houthi militiamen raided shops and sewing centres selling abayas, burning the colourful ones or those with waist belts, claiming that such clothing items do not suit the morals of Muslims and have a corruptive influence on young women.

The raids ignited a wide range of outcry among Yemenis, many of whom said the Houthis share the same extreme ideology as ISIS.

“Houthis are a radical group just like ISIS. They are as brutal as ISIS and they are trying to create their own Islamic state where women are oppressed and the society is segregated,” said Nadwa Al Dawsari a conflict analyst on Yemen.

"The Houthis as an ideology, carry extremist ideas against all aspects of life and civilisation. The campaigns of storming stores in Sanaa and the segregation of males and females in universities and the closure of cafes is a practical application of this ideology – they are the worst thing that happened in Yemen," said Hussam Al Molaiki, a Yemeni political analyst.