Yemen's religious police target massage parlors
Chinese restaurants, massage parlors accused of prostitution
Yemeni religious police were out in force Tuesday in a major crackdown that saw many massage parlors and Chinese restaurants in the capital Sanaa shut down for allegedly promoting prostitution and vice.
The Yemeni religious police, modeled after Saudi Arabia's Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, targeted popular tourist areas in Sanaa.
Authorities dragged Chinese women working in several spas and restaurants to the streets and sealed the businesses after posting a sign reading "closed by the authorities," an eyewitness told Al Arabiya.
The number of Chinese restaurants and spas in the capital has increased significantly in the capital despite the fact that none of them have a legal work permits or Ministry of Health authorization, said an official who supervised the clampdown but spoke on condition of anonymity.
"The way those places were increasing was very suspicious, too," he told Al Arabiya. "Within two months, around 50 of them were opened in Sanaa and all of them are run by foreign women who entered the country illegally."
Another official who also requested his name be withheld also confirmed that there are documents and evidence that massage parlors were used as a façade for prostitution and that this is the main source of income.
"These spas are not equipped like other health centers," he told Al Arabiya. "All that they are equipped with is Asian half-naked women and rooms with spot lights that are supposedly for massage but in fact are used for prostitution and drinking."
The crackdown comes in the wake of a new committee established in June 2008 to alert police about violations of Sharia, or Islamic, law and help track down places and people who spread “vice” in society.
The special panel of Islamic scholars and tribal chiefs, known as the Virtue and Vice Committee, is headed by Sheikh Abdul-Majeed al-Zindani, head of the Imam University in Sanaa and founder of the Saudi-based Commission on Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunnah.
The committee's mission was to alert the Yemeni police to violation of Sharia, Islamic law and to track down places and people who spread vice in the society.
Zindani, who is on the united State’s wanted list of suspected terrorists, previously issued a fatwa sanctioning the demolition of a house in a Sanaa suburb whose owner was accused of running a prostitution network. Members of the committee joined forces with neighbors to demolish the house.
The way those places were increasing was very suspicious. Within two months, around 50 of them were opened in Sanaa and all of them are run by foreign women who entered the country illegally
Corruption on the rise
Some 62 Yemeni MPs have come out recently to condemn what they call spreading moral corruption in Yemen. They accused officials of running shady businesses and police of turning a blind eye to citizen complaints.
Corruption has been spreading all over the country in all its forms, said Mohamed al-Hazmi, member of the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, Yemen's Islamist group and its main opposition party.
Hazmi, who led the indignant MPs’ demand for an anti-corruption motion, complained that alcohol, drugs, prostitution and bars were becoming increasingly common in Yemen's main provinces, like Aden, Sanaa, Taizz and al-Hudaydah.
"This laxity is what caused these places to spread and prosper," he said in a request for a meeting with officials to discuss corruption.
This laxity is what caused these places to spread and prosper
Mohamed al Hazmi, Yemeni MP