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THE LEVANT – Abdel Malek Al Houthi’s call for mobilization has been answered by hundreds of thousands of Yemenis this Friday. As Houthi militants and supporters of the movement have flooded the streets of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, one cannot deny the striking parallel with Yemen 2011 Arab Spring uprising; only this time the Houthis stand at the helm.
A former rebel group based in the northern province of Sa’ada, the Houthi movement was born under the impetus of one tribal leader, Sheikh Hussein BadrEddin Al-Houthi back in 2004. A politician, a cleric, a man of letters and a nationalist, Sheikh Al Houthiturned dissident in 2004, following a decade of what he described as state oppression against Yemen’ Zaidi community in northern Sa’ada.
The Houthi rebellion ended in a series of war in between 2004 and 2009, each more bloody than the other.
Almost a decade after Sheikh Al Houthi’s death, his son, Abdel-Malek Al Houthi, has successfully transitioned the group into mainstream politics, under the denomination – Ansar Allah.
Often compared to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Houthis have become in three short years Yemen’s kingmaker.
Ever since the Houthis stepped out of the shadows in 2011, their main goal has been to oppose Sunni radical Islamists. Determined to wean Yemen off of Saudi Arabia’s influence the Houthis have advocated a clean break from what they perceive as nefarious foreign influences – mainly pointing the finger at Saudi Arabia and the United States of America.
Labelled as Shia fanatics by their detractors, the Houthis’ political message is nevertheless one of political inclusion, social partnership and unity. While they remain proud of their Zaidi heritage – a branch of Shia Islam – the group has affirmed it does not seek to impose any form of religious dogma over Yemen, or map itself on Iran’s Islamic Republic. But their enemies claim they have been converted to the Ithna Ashari Shiisme and became Iranian puppets seeking to give Tehran a foothold on the Red sea.
What the Houthissay they strive for is to turn Yemen back into a strong independent nation, away from the grip of Al Qaeda.
The Houthis have actually accused al Islah, which account members of the Muslim Brotherhood within its ranks, their main political and tribal foe to harbour ties with terrorists, allegations which have been backed by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Al Islah has benefited from Saudi Arabia support ever since 1994, when the kingdom offered then-President Saleh military and political support against Al Harak secession bid in South Yemen.
The only faction to have dared openly oppose Yemen’s Sunni extremist, the Houthis have systematically work to cut off Al Islah’s political and military network, reclaiming the very ground which President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi could not.
These one-time pariahs of Yemen’s political arena have captured Yemenis’ imaginationas they have stood up to one of Yemen most prominent tribal family, Al Ahmar and won. Very much the underdogs, the Houthis stroke a cord within Yemen.
Today the Houthis’ incredible rise to power can be witnessed in the streets of Sana’a, as thousands have chosen to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who chose to fight and stand for Yemen and its independence.
Mohammed Nasser al-Bogheti a Houthi’ spokesman recently noted, The Houthis’ message is simple – A free Yemen for all Yemenis! No foreign powers allowed.