Who are Houthis?

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TheHouthis( Arabic:‎al-Ḥūthiyyūn) are a Zaidi Shiainsurgent group operating in Yemen. They have also been referred to as a “powerful clan,” and by the title Believing Youth(BY; ash-Shabāb al-Mū‘min).

The group takes its name from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, their former commander, who was reportedly killed by Yemeni army forcesin September 2004. Several other commanders, including, Ali al-Qatwani, Abu Haider, Abbas Aidahand Yousuf al-Madani(a son-inlaw of Hussein al-Houthi) have also been killed by Yemeni forces. The Houthi brothers’ father Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi is said to be the spiritual leader of the group.

Membership of the group had been between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters as of 2005 and between 2,000 and 10,000 fighters as of 2009. In the Yemen Post it was claimed, however, that they had over 100,000 fighters.

According to Houthi Expert Ahmed Al-Bahrithe Houthis had a total of 100,000-120,000 followers, including both armed fighters and unarmed loyalists.

Territorial control
Through their armed uprising, the Houthis have managed to gain control over all of Saada Governorateand parts of ‘Amran Governorate, Al Jawf Governorate and Hajjah Governorate.

By 9 November 2011, Houthis were said to be in control of two Yemeni governorates (Saada and Al Jawf) and close to taking over their third governorate (Hajjah), which would enable them to launch a direct assault on Yemeni capital Sana’a.

By May 2012, it was reported that Houthis controlled a majority of Saada, Al Jawf and Hajjah governorates, had gained access to the Red Seaand had started erecting barricades north of the capital Sana’a in preparation for new conflict.

By 21 September 2014, Houthis were said to control parts of the Yemen capital Sanaa including government buildings and a radio station.

Houthis belong to the Zaidi branch of Shia Islam, also known as Fivers, a sect of Islam almost exclusively present in Yemen. They are distinct from the Shi’ite majority, the Twelvers found in mainly in Iraq, Lebanonand Iranand are known for being most similar to Sunni Muslims in matters of religious law and rulings. They do however, believe in the concept of an Imamate as being essential to their religion, which makes them distinct from Sunnis.

The Houthis have asserted that their actions are for the defence of their community from widespread and systematic discrimination, whereas the Yemeni government has in turn accused the insurgents of intending to overthrow the regime out of a desire to institute Zaidi Shia religious law, destabilising the government and stirring anti-American sentiment.

The Houthis have told people they are “praying in the wrong way” by raising their arms, as is the custom among Sunnis in Yemen.

The Yemeni government has also accused the Houthis of having ties to external backers, in particular the Iranian government, as Iran is a Shia-majority country.
In turn, the Houthis have countered with allegations that the Yemeni government is being backed by virulently anti-Shia external backers such as al-Qaeda and the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that former President Ali Abdullah Salehwas also Zaidi.

*. Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi- Ex-leader (killed in 2004)
*. Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi- Leader
*. Yahia Badreddin al Houthi- Senior Leader
*. Abdul-Karim Badreddin al-Houthi- High ranking commander
*. Badr Eddin al-Houthi- Spiritual Leader (died in 2010)
*. Abdullah al-Ruzami- Ex-military commander
*. Abu Ali Abdullah al-Hakem al-Houthi- Military commander
*. Mohammed Abdulsalam
*. Saleh Habra- Political leader
*. Faris Manna- Houthi appointed governor of Saada and former head of Saleh’s Presidential committee.

Houthis and their massive base of support rely mainly on peaceful methods of campaign most notably civil disobedience. In a new series of protests which was provoked by Yemenis government’s decision in July 13, 2014 to increase fuel prices, Houthi leaders succeeded to organize massive rallies in the capital San’a to protest the decision and to demand resignation of the incumbent government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadifor “state-corruption”.

Thousands of Yemenis responded to the Houthi Leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi’s call to “erect tents, carry out sit-ins and organize marches” in the capital.

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About qualandar

I am a lawyer and social activist based in Delhi the capital of India. I report the nuances of our culture and life.
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