Yemen’s Houthis launch fundraising drive for cash-strapped Hezbollah

A radio station donation drive aims to help the Lebanese militant group through its ‘current stage of distress’

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of the Houthi movement shout slogans as they attend a rally to mark the 4th anniversary of the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen's war, in Sanaa, Yemen March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
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A Yemeni radio station broadcasting in support of the Yemeni rebel Houthi movement has launched a fundraising drive on behalf of Hezbollah, which has come under pressure from ramped-up sanctions.

Sam FM (99.1) on Friday called on its listeners to “support the masters of the mujahideen in this world, the purest people, Hezbollah” and donate to the “From Yemen the Faithful to the Resistance of Lebanon” campaign during the final 10 days of Ramadan.

The pro-Houthi station’s effort presents an unusual about-face in the relationship between the Houthis and Hezbollah, which is usually the provider of support to its Yemeni allies.

Last July, an Arab diplomat told The National on condition of anonymity that Hezbollah fighters and advisers were working alongside the Houthis in parts of Yemen. Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has voiced support for the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents.

On Sam FM, broadcaster Hamoud Mohammad Sharaf said his station’s fundraising efforts for Hezbollah would “have a significant impact in strengthening the Axis of Resistance,” in reference to the Tehran-led alliance that includes Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

His comments were made in an interview with the Houthi-run Saba news agency, which was republished by Sam FM’s Telegram account.

Mr Sharaf, who has also worked as a correspondent for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar Television, said the campaign for Hezbollah was the latest in a series of fundraisers inspired by Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al Houthi.

The pro-Houthi station raised more than 200 million Yemeni rials (Dh2.93m) for rebel military efforts during Ramadan in 2018 and 2019, Saba said.

Last week, Sharaf tweeted a statement stamped by the Houthi rebels’ drone, missile, air defence, navy and military industrialisation departments thanking Sam FM for a donation of 30.3 million Yemeni rials (Dh445,097).

Saba news agency said it expected the radio station’s collection effort for Hezbollah would also attract wide participation from the public and private sectors “in light of Hezbollah’s current stage of distress following the financial sanctions imposed by the United States.”

Hezbollah is blacklisted by numerous countries, including the US, UK and Gulf states, as a terrorist group. The US Department of Treasury imposed more sanctions on Hezbollah-related individuals and entities in 2018 than in any previous year. That same year, US President Donald Trump signed into law a Congressional bill expanding sanctions on foreign entities that support Hezbollah and its agents.

Sham FM’s announcement of its fundraising drive directed the station’s listeners to donate to an account held at Houthi-controlled Yemen Post, which advertises money transfer services in addition to its postal work.

The Houthis have used Yemen Post in the past to facilitate their activities, including a fundraising campaign to support a rival institution to the Central Bank after the internationally recognised government of Yemen under Abdrabu Mansur Hadi moved the institution from Sanaa to Aden.

Even before the war that started in 2015, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East and North African region. It is now facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and fighting has devastated the economy, destroyed infrastructure and left millions on the verge of famine.