Houthi Leader Declares Successful Revolution in YemenSeptember 25, 2014 in Yemen
24 September- Abdul Malik al-Houthi, leader of Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels, has announced a “successful revolution” as Houthi supporters have taken key parts of Sana’a, forcing the government to “answer to popular demands.” The Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels agreed to a UN brokered deal after weeks of violence that left over 200 people dead in Yemen’s capital.
UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, announced Saturday that the deal was reached after “intense consultations with all the political parties”, including the Houthi rebels. He adds that the treaty would be a “national document that will advance the path of peaceful change, and will lay the foundations for national partnership and for security and stability in the country.”
While the details were not released, it is expected that a new government will be formed in coming days. The Houthis have been invited to play a role in the formation of the new government. In addition, Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi also agreed to reverse an unpopular decision to remove fuel subsidies.
The Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), are a rebel movement stemming from a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism. The name “Houthi” originates from the group’s first leader, Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi, who led the rebel group’s uprising in 2004, with the aims of obtaining greater autonomy in the Saada province of Northern Yemen and protection of Zaidi traditions, which were perceived as threatened by Sunni encroachment. Zaidis comprise a third of Yemen’s population, and ruled North Yemen for nearly a millennia until 1962.When Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi and was killed by Yemen’s military in 2004, his family took over operations.
At first glance, it appears as though the fighting is based in the broader Shi’a-Sunni divide, however the battles are more accurately defined as localised war with a regional and cultural dimensions. Over the past two years, Houthi appeal has spread beyond the Zaidi population, and they have grown to become Yemen’s most popular opposition group, gaining support from Salafi and tribal members. Currently, Houthi rebels and supporters carry enough power to impose their desires on the government and the Yemeni population.
The most recent rebellion began in mid August, after Abdul Malik al-Houthi called upon President Hadi to reverse his decision to remove fuel subsidies. Hadi’s unpopular and poorly implemented decision to raise the cost of fuel had an immediate and detrimental impact Yemen’s poor. By 18 August, the Houthi rebels had set up armed protest camps around Sana’s, and al-Houthi called for replacing the government with a new body that was representative of Yemen’s various factions.
Under pressure, on 2 September, Hadi agreed to dismiss his government, reduce fuel prices by 30%, and allow for appointment of a new prime minister. Hadi agreed that the various Yemeni factions could submit nominations from within their own ranks. The Houthis rejected this move, calling it ‘insufficient’. A week later, security forces clashed with Houthi supporters in Sana’a, resulting in several deaths. Negotiations were suspended on 15 September but resumed days later.
On Thursday 18 September, the Houthis began a four-day onslaught through areas of Sana’a. While According to witnesses, clashes initially centred on the campus of Al-Iman University, a stronghold of Sunni Islamists. By Saturday, the group had taken over state television headquarters in Sana’a, pulling broadcasts off the air and trapping employees in the building. The group also seized government headquarters and overran a military camp, as well as homes belonging to Yemeni General Ali Mushin al-Ahmar, and tribal sheiks loyal to him. Al-Ahmar is the former head of the disbanded (yet still operational) First Armoured Division, and has led Yemeni forces in clashes against the Houthis since their inception. The General appears to have escaped the fighting; his whereabouts are unknown.
On Saturday, Yemen’s Supreme Security Commission imposed an after dark curfew in parts of Sana’a. The Ministry of Education announced school closures until fighting subsided, and the Yemeni Defence Ministry has put security forces on high alert. Meanwhile, on the Interior Ministry’s website, Interior Minister Hussein al-Terb urged security forces to “cooperate” with the Houthis “to strengthen security and stability, preserve public property and guard government installations… and to consider Ansar Allah friends of the police”.
On Sunday, Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa resigned amid peace talks. In his resignation letter he states, “The partnership between myself and the president in leading the country only lasted for a short period, before it was replaced by autocracy to the extent that the government and I no longer knew anything about the military and security situation.”
Despite the confusion and violence, the fragile peace agreement was signed on Sunday. The deal essentially gives the Houthi rebels a greater stake in mainstream politics. Under the UN-backed deal, Yemen will form a new government, and the Houthis and southern separatists will nominate a new prime minister. Al-Houthi stated, “If it is implemented, this agreement will also change the government, which the people called to fall, to fail, because it stood on an unjust, non-consensual basis.” Al-Houthi called for cooperation between the Houthi rebels and Islah, the main Sunni party in Yemen.