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Exclusive – Houthis Accused of Destroying Yemen’s History, Landmarks

Exclusive – Houthis Accused of Destroying Yemen’s History, Landmarks

Saturday, 18 May, 2019 - 08:15
A woman walks on a bridge in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen. (Reuters)
Sanaa – Asharq Al-Awsat
Since their coup in Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi militias have waged a barbaric war against all forms of life in the country. Its cultural and historic heritage has not been spared with monuments being destroyed and artifacts being looted and sold for the militias’ war effort.

An official at an authority to preserve historic cities in Sanaa said that the Houthis have targeted more than 150 historic locations since 2014.

He accused Iran of being behind the “crimes committed against the Yemeni and Arab collective memory.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity over fears of reprisals, the source listed numerous locations that have fallen victim to the Houthis. They include the Cairo Castle in Taiz city, Dar al-Hajar palace in Hamdan and the Qassemi neighborhood in Old Sanaa, among others.

Museums have also been targeted by the Houthis, including the national and military museums in Sanaa, two of the oldest in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula.

An employee at the Military Museum in Sanaa told Asgarq Al-Awsat that the Houthis have removed the artifacts and all traces of the leaders of Yemeni revolts during the past 100 years. They looted historic documents and rare military artifacts and weapons.

The Houthis moved several of the artifacts to their homes with the knowledge and supervision of the General Authority for Antiquities and Museums, which is currently controlled by the militias. The artifacts were moved under the pretext of protecting them, but they were in fact removed in order to tarnish and erase the history and identity of the country, said the museum employee. They were also smuggled outside of Yemen.

Visitors of the Military Museum said that they were shocked to realize that several artifacts from sections that cover the September and October revolts were removed. Prominence was instead given to the period when the Imams ruled Yemen. This period history came to an end with the 1962 revolt.

One visitor said: “The Houthis transformed the museum into a shrine for their dead after it used to be a museum that documented the Imams’ oppressive rule.”

Yemen used to be a treasure trove of historic landmarks boasting 20 museums. Twelve of those museums have been looted and destroyed by the Houthis, said a former official at the antiquities authority.

He revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that some 13,000 treasures have been stolen from Dhamar Museum, some 16,000 historic documents and artifacts have been stolen from the Military Museum in Sanaa and more than 120,000 from the National Museum in the capital. Houthi violations have also targeted museums in Taiz, Aden, Zinjibar and Zabid.

Moreover, the militias have ruins historic landmarks in the Old City of Sanaa, by painting sectarian slogans on the walls of buildings. According to experts, the paint cannot be removed without damaging the buildings.

In November, the Mwatana for Human Rights group, which is close to the Houthis, revealed some of the violations committed by the militias against historic landmarks in Yemen. It justified them, saying that the Houthis were keen on capturing old castles and fortresses due to their strategic importance in battles.

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