Ramadan Loses its Holy Luster as Houthis Pile on Misery in Sana’a
September Net – Asharq Al-Awsat
The residents of Sana’a continue to suffer under the rule of the Iran-backed Houthi militias, with little respite even as the holy fasting month of Ramadan approaches. Normally meant to be a month of spirituality and joy, this year’s month will be met with misery and dread as the Houthis continue their starvation tactics against the people.
Asmaa, a teacher and mother of three, smiles ruefully when replying to whether she was looking forward to Ramadan: “The children and I have been forced to fast for a year now since we have sought refuge in Sanaa from Taiz.”
She speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat about the lack of food and water in Sanaa, saying that the majority of the locals live on a one meal a day. She also complained about skyrocketing prices, which were already high, but crept even higher as Ramadan quickly approaches.
Asmaa has not received her salary in years and is living off charities.
Another local approached by Asharq Al-Awsat sighed wearily when asked if he was looking forward to Ramadan, wondering: “Is it too much to ask for us to be allowed to live in peace and security?”
“Don’t ask me how I will spend Ramadan,” he said, revealing that he has four children who were growing thinner by the day due to lack of food.
The skyrocketing prices of food have left many people unable to afford them, which has in turn affected shop-owners.
One owner said that his shop has witnessed a 75 percent drop in sales compared to previous years. Another owner said that people can no longer afford to buy their daily food needs.
He revealed that a five-kilogram bag of rice used to cost 1,500 rials before the Houthi coup and it now stands at 4,500. A 20 kg bag of wheat used to cost 6,000 rials and is now sold at double the price. Even the prices of dairy products and vegetables have doubled and tripled (1 dollar is equivalent to 500 rials).
A report on Yemen’s economy for March revealed that the cost of basic goods in the war-torn country have risen by 2 percent despite an improvement in the rial exchange rate against the dollar. The report, a copy of which was obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat, showed that Sanaa was the most expensive city in the country, followed by the Hodeidah province.
The people’s misery at the hands of the Houthis is not just limited to their basic food needs, but has also reached their spiritual and religious practices. The advent of Ramadan will only highlight this misery.
Since their coup four years ago, the Houthis have sought to eliminate the Yemenis’ religious customs during the holy month and replaced them with their own alien ones.
A Sanaa mosque imam and preacher said that the holy meanings of Ramadan are lost to the Houthis. The month is supposed to preach tolerance and compassion with the poor, but with the militias, this message has been turned into one that advocates death, starvation and sectarianism, he lamented.
Ramadan has not been celebrated in the city for years and this year will be no different, he told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity.
Moreover, he said that Sanaa will not hear the chants of the “tarawih” prayers that are practiced during Ramadan, but they will be replaced by Houthi curses and calls for death and incitement through mosque loudspeakers.