Who Are The Houthis Of Yemen?

Houthi fighters rolling through the the Yemeni desert landscape.
Houthi fighters rolling through the the Yemeni desert landscape.

Yemen is an Arabic country located in the southwestern region of Asia on the Arabian Peninsula. The country is currently ruled by a provisional government which took over after a political crisis that started in 2011.The interim government has its capital in Aden city. The largest city in the country, Sana’a had been serving as the capital until the political instability. The religion in the country is Islam with Sunni making 65% of the population while the Shia makes 35%. Other religions make less than one percent of the total population. The political instability in Yemen was brought by a Shia Islamic group known as Houthis. The official name is Ansar Allah, which means Supporters of God. The group has been fighting the government of Yemen since 1990. In this article, we will discuss the origin, beliefs, history, and the status of the Houthis group.

History of the Houthis

The group was formed by Shia tribesmen in the northern parts of Yemen who have become well known for their sharpshooting abilities and bravery in combat. The group started as a moderate school club that preached peace and tolerance. Some scholars argued that the primary goal of forming the Houthis grouping was a reaction of the US government alliance with the Yemen government despite high corruption rates in the local government. After the US invasion of Iraq, the group leader started radicalizing the youth in the group. They began organizing demos chanting, “Death to Americans, death to Jews, curse to Israel and victory to Islam." The group caught the attention of the Yemen government, and many of the group members were arrested. The arrests angered the Houthis and a fight broke in 2004 and ended in 2010 after a ceasefire agreement. They took part in 2011 revolution and successfully captured several cities including the capital city.

Religious Beliefs and Political Ideology

Houthis belong to the so-called "Fivers" sect of Islam. This sect had ruled Yemen for more than a 1,000 years before it was brought to an end in 1962. During their reign, they defended their independence fiercely against foreign powers. The Yemen government has accused the group of continuously trying to destabilize it. Others have accused them of being followers of the Twelver sect, as their approach to things similar to the Lebanese group Hezbollah. However, they have disputed the claims and have insisted that their aim is to fight against Salafism in Yemen. They have accused the government of being backed by Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda. On the other hand, the government has asserted that the Iranian government backs the Houthis.

Timeline of Events

Ansar Allah was formed in 1992 by the Houthis brotherhood, and started as a group of school clubs teaching Islamic doctrine on peace. The radicalization of the group began in 2003 when the US invaded Iraq. Their leader, Hussein al-Houthi was killed by the Yemen forces in 2004 but the resurgence he had begun continued. In 2011, the Houthis led a revolution that eventually resulted in the ousting of the president in 2015. The group took control of the country officially in February 2015. In March the same year, ISIS launch two suicide attacks in two mosques killing 142 Houthi worshipers. The Houthis accused the United States' and Israeli governments of working with the terrorists.

Rival Factions

The group has been said to be allied with the Hezbollah, Russia, North Korea, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. However, the group has many rival factions including states and other groupings. Rival countries include the portions of Yemen under the Hadi government, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Senegal, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates. Al-islah, Hirak, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), and various black-water mercenaries are among some of the terrorist and rogue groups that have expressed opposition towards the Houthis.

Current Status

The group was said to have more than 100,000 fighters as of 2010. This number has increased with time and ha also included one of the most powerful tribes in the country known as the Hamdan. According to wiki leaks, Houthis have established a very stable government which the locals favor. They provide security and demand protection fees from the locals. The have also created courts and prisons in the areas that they control.


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