Hezbollah takes cash from starving Yemenis

The Houthis’ latest fundraising drive marks a new low for the Lebanese militant group

FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2014 file photo, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah addresses supporters ahead of the Shiite Ashura commemorations, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. The leader of Hezbollah says U.S. sanctions against two lawmakers from his group are an offense to Lebanese state institutions which would need to defend themselves. Nasrallah, in a wide ranging interview late Friday, July 12, 2019, said such tactics won't sideline the group, because Hezbollah is a "big force" that represents large segments of society and has widely popular elected officials. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
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Sam FM, a radio station affiliated with the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has announced that it has managed to raise half a million dollars since the launch of its crowdfunding efforts last year. The campaign organisers said that more than half the total amount will be donated to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is regarded as a terrorist organisation by the US, the UK, and Gulf countries. It is no surprise that Hezbollah and the Houthis would support each other. Both are Iran-backed proxies, which have caused chaos in their home countries and beyond.

This campaign was intended to raise funds for the Houthis' military spending while proving that the group could still count on popular support for their cause. Instead, the fundraising effort has highlighted just how desperate Hezbollah has become. The organisation is starting to feel the pinch of increased sanctions from the US and the UK. In February, the UK ceased to differentiate between Hezbollah's political and armed factions, and classified the entire group as a terrorist organisation. Meanwhile, the US has increased economic sanctions on Hezbollah and last year, the US Department of Justice decided to designate the group as a transnational crime organisation. US Sanctions against Tehran have also choked off the Iranian funds the group relies on to survive. This has forced Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to launch media fundraising campaigns in Lebanon, in March. Now, the group seems desperate enough to accept donations from on of the region's poorest war-ravaged nations.

In a video posted on social media on Saturday, the director general of Sam FM and his team posed in front of the huge piles of money they had collected, chanting "From Yemen's faith to Lebanon's Resistance" and "Death to America". It is morally repugnant to raise such vast sums of money, only to give it to a foreign terror group, especially when ordinary Yemenis are in dire need. Since the start of the civil war in 2015, the country's long-suffering people have lived through violence, starvation and deadly cholera outbreaks. Despite donations worth billions of dollars – chiefly from the UAE and Saudi Arabia – the situation remains bleak. The UN has described it as the world's worst humanitarian disaster. That the Houthis and their supporters have prioritised the financing of a faraway ally, instead of working to improve the everyday lives of their own people, is all the proof anyone could ever need that the rebel group does not have the interests of ordinary Yemenis at heart.