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Yemen's Houthis-From broadminded to extremely aggressive

By Vicky

Take the first flight out of Yemen is what the Indian Government has advised all Indians in Yemen.

The third advisory was issued by the Indian government and observers of the Yemen crisis in India say that there is no solution in sight and the situation will only turn from bad to worse from now on. [Yemen conflict: Third advisory for Indians issued]


The Yemen crisis is worsening with each passing day with the Houthi rebels threatening to overthrow Yemeni President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

The situation is so bad today that the President Hadi had to flee from his palace as the Houthis advanced. [Yemen's president flees his house in Aden as rebels advance]

Who are the Houthis and what exactly is their demand? In a nut shell the Houthis are part of a movement who have accused the Yemen government of being puppets. They have been demanding a more representative form of government.

An extremely broad minded group once upon a time:

The Houthi rebels were initially known as Ansarallah or the partisans of God. Started in the early 1990s, they began as a theological movement and only preached tolerance and peace. They were an extremely broad minded group which told the people that the only way forward was education.

Attached to the Zaydi Shia sect, there was no sign of violence initiated by this group for a long time after it was established.

The primary line that was adopted by the Houthis was to stick to what it had been preaching. They wanted to change the mindset of the youth and urged them to take up education in a bid to move forward in life.

What changed then?

It was around the year 2003 when two thought processes emerged. One group sought to question the government while the other decided to stick to what it was doing. The first signs of the Houthis taking up arms was witnessed in the year 2004. The group which wanted a change came out and became the Houthi rebels.

This group which took up arms felt that they needed it for self defence. The Yemen government which was then headed by Ali Abdullah Saleh felt that this group was a threat to his government. It was at around the same time that there was a protest staged by the Houthis in several Mosques in Yemen.

The protests were against the way of worship and this movement appeared to be getting stronger.

President Saleh ordered a crack down on the protests and even ordered the arrests of several leaders of the Houthi group. All hell broke loose after this and the Houthi rebels have been up in arms against the government ever since.

The battle for the Saada province:

The Houthis who considere the Saada province as their stronghold were irked when the Yemen government through the National Dialogue Conference recommendations decided to link the Saada province to the Saana region.

The battle with the government worsened in the year 2011 when the government once decided that it would transform Yemen into a six region federal state. This also included the linking of Saada to Saana.

The battle that began after this started gaining a lot of momentum with the Houthis questioning every move of the government. Right from the rise in fuel prices and also the growing proximity to the US, the Houthis had not only managed to wage a bloody battle against the establishment but had also begun to garner support from the public.

Are the Houthis a proxy of Iran?

There have been allegations that the Houthi rebels are being funded by Iran which has the largest number of Shias Muslim population. The Houthis are inclined towards Iran which in turn is helping them, experts would suggest.

The Houthis have however rubbished these allegations and say that they have no foreign help what so ever.

While the Houthis have maintained that they are only fighting the unjust regime in Yemen, security experts would say that the final goal is the restoration of the situation prior to 1962. Yemen was ruled by the Zaydi imamate until 1962.

The Houthis feel that there is a need to restore Zaydism as the influence of Salafism is growing.

One sign of the Houthis trying to outdo Salafism was when they destroyed a religious school of the Salafis in the Saada region.

The involvement of Iran was spoken about by the current President Hadi. He had said that his government had seized large cache of arms which were brought in from Iran.

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