Who are Houthis of Yemen


The Houthis (Arabic: الحوثيونal-Ḥūthiyyūn), also known as Ansar Allah (anṣāru llāhi أنصار الله “Supporters of God”), are a Zaidi Shia group operating in Yemen.[14] The group takes its name from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who launched an insurgency in 2004 and was reportedly killed by Yemeni army forces that September.[15] Led by Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the group succeeded in a coup d’état in 2014/15 and currently retains control of the Yemeni capital Sana’a and the parliament.[16]


Current territorial situation in Yemen as of March 22nd 2015. Houthi forces are shown in green.

The Houthi movement began as the Believing Youth (BY), which was founded in 1992 in Saada Governorate[17]:1008 by either Houthi family member Muhammad al-Houthi,[18]:98 or his brother Hussein al-Houthi.[19]

According to Ahmed Addaghashi, a professor at Sanaa University, the Houthis began as a theological movement that preached tolerance and peace that held a considerably broad-minded educational and cultural vision.[20] Western sources report that BY established school clubs and summer camps[18]:98 in order to “promote a Zaidi revival” in Saada.[19] By 1994–1995, 15–20,000 students had attended BY summer camps.[18]:99

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, BY-affiliated youth began chanting anti-American and anti-Jewish slogans in theSaleh Mosque in Sana’a after Friday prayers. This led to confrontations with the government, and 800 BY supporters were arrested in Sana’a in 2004. President Ali Abdullah Saleh then invited Hussein al-Houthi to a meeting in Sana’a, but Hussein declined. On 18 June 2004 Saleh sent government forces to arrest Hussein.[21]Hussein responded by launching an insurgency against the government, but was killed on 10 September 2004.[22] The insurgency continued intermittently until a ceasefire agreement was reached in 2010.[23]

The Houthis participated in the 2011 Yemeni Revolution, as well as the ensuing National Dialogue Conference(NDC). However, they rejected the provisions of the November 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council deal, which included immunity for former president Saleh and the establishment of a coalition government.[24]

As the revolution went on, Houthis gained control of greater territory. 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),[25] which would enable them to launch a direct assault on Yemeni capital Sana’a.[26] In May 2012, it was reported that Houthis controlled a majority of Saada, Al Jawf, and Hajjah governorates; they had also gained access to the Red Sea and started erecting barricades north of the capital Sana’a in preparation for more conflict.[27]

By 21 September 2014, Houthis were said to control parts of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, including government buildings and a radio station.[28] While control of the capital expanded to the rest of the Sana’a, as well as other towns such as Rada’ City, control was strongly challenged by Al-Qaeda. It was believed by Western states and Saudi Arabia that the Houthis had accepted aid from Iran while Saudi Arabia was aiding their Yemeni rivals [29] Al-Qaeda.

On 20 January 2015, Shia Houthi rebels seized the presidential palace in the capital. While President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was in the presidential palace during the takeover, he was safe.[30] The movement officially took control of the Yemeni government on 6 February, dissolving parliament and declaring itsRevolutionary Committee to be the acting authority in Yemen.[16] On 20 March 2015, The al-Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques came under suicide attack during midday prayers. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant quickly claimed responsibility. The blasts killed 142 Houthi worshippers and wounded more than 351, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Yemen’s history.[31] In a televised speech on March 22, Houthi leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi accused US and Israel of supporting the terrorists attacks. He also blamed regional Arab states for financing terrorist groups operating inside Yemen.[32] On 27 March 2015, in response to perceived Houthi threats to Sunni factions in the region, Saudi Arabia along with Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan led a gulf coalition airstrike against Yemen.[33] The military coalition is supported by the Untied States and Turkey.[34]


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