Houthis Sack Group’s Tourism Minister

With infighting among Houthi officials on the rise, the Iran-backed militia announced on Thursday the sacking of Tourism Minister Nasser Baqzouz in the group’s self-proclaimed government in Sanaa.

Baqzouz, a hardline Houthi loyalist who has backed the group’s insurgency in Yemen since 2014, received the news of his firing by a squad of gunmen who blocked him from entering his office.

Sanaa sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Baqzouz was removed over a dispute he had with a senior group official, Ahmed Hamed, who is assigned with collecting ministerial proceeds. 

The minister apparently refused handing over revenues after suspecting Hamed wanted to appropriate a large cut of the funds for his personal use.

He had submitted his resignation more than once, the latest letter being handed over in October, in protest against Hamed’s “illegitimate” interference in the affairs of the ministry.

Baqzouz also accused the head of the Houthi government Abdulaziz bin Habtour of being weak and unable to defend his ministers against militia leaders.

Houthi leaders enjoy great leverage over the group’s Sanaa-based government institutions and have been controlling funds they collect.

Many Sanaa-based Houthi politicians have come under intense pressure from the group’s leaders based in Sadaa, the Houthi movement’s birthplace and stronghold. 

Militia members have manipulated and intervened on several occasions in ministerial work in Sanaa, forcing many Houthi administrative officials there to flee.

In one example, the Sanaa Houthi-run agriculture ministry was ordered by the Sadaa leadership to introduce 50 pesticides previously banned from use due to their toxic side effects.

Hamed, according to insider sources, is considered one of the wealthiest Houthi members and has enjoyed unrestricted access to assets seized by the group and funds collected from the Yemeni people living in Houthi-run areas.

The sources confirmed that Habtour does not enjoy any real powers that could be wielded against Houthi militant leaders, hindering his ability to monitor or even regulate ministerial work.

The group's harassment of its own loyalists led to the resignation of its former media minister and deputy minister of education, who defected from the militia and fled to Aden, the interim capital currently controlled by the internationally-recognized Yemeni government.