Will Yemen Become A Houthi Republic? The Houthis Have Knocked On The Door Of The Gulf
16 January 2015
By Mshari Al-Zaydi
What the Houthi militia—or Ansar Allah as they like to call themselves—has
done in Yemen amounts to a fully-fledged coup d'état. It is a coup against
Yemen's constitution and people; above all, it is a coup against the
historical and cultural identity of Yemen.
After a string of attacks in Sana'a, Houthi militants stormed the Yemeni
presidential compound while President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi continued to
issue statements and calls for dialogue. Meanwhile, former Yemeni Foreign
Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi calmly and rationally responded on Twitter: ''When
the sound of gunfire rises, the sound of reason must silence it.''
With the rise of the Caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),
the [Houthi] Imam of Sana'a and the so-called Caliph in Constantinople [Recep
Tayyip Erdoğan], one does not know where this obsession with reviving our
political Islamic heritage is coming from.
Will Yemenis accept being ruled by a Shi'ite Zaydi Imam almost half a century
after the end of the rule of Yemen's Imams? Badreddin Al-Houthi, Abdul
Malik's father, tried to put himself forward as an Imam during the era of
Yemen's Imams. Beyond that, will the Houthi movement even be able to
administer the affairs of Yemen, which has a population of approximately 24
It is no easy task for any figure or group to rule a country that is as
impoverished as Yemen. Yemen is an Arab state constantly under threat of
division and disintegration, thanks to Al-Qaeda's terrorism, the corruption
of warlords and the Houthis' obsession with seizing power.
The Houthis undermined the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative which
Saudi Arabia sponsored in 2011, and which later served as a launchpad for
international efforts to resolve the political crisis in the country. It is
little wonder that President Hadi has called, repeatedly, on all Yemeni
parties to participate in national dialogue.
Rumors of conspiracies abound. Some say that Hadi himself is implicitly
backing the Houthis in the hope that they will support him against his
political opponents. Others believe former president Ali Abdullah Saleh is
backing and facilitating the Houthis in order to use them against his
enemies. In reality, the Houthi movement has its own political and
ideological agenda that supersedes both Hadi and Saleh. This combines
elements and dimensions of Iran's Islamic revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood,
and Yemen's Zaydi legacy.
Anyone familiar with the writings of Hussein Al-Houthi, the founder of the
group and Abdul Malik's elder brother (killed in 2004) would find the Houthis
overreaching agenda obvious. Hussein Al-Houthi's Malazim Al-Qu'ran (Essays on
the Qu'ran), includes provocative sectarian discourse, including claims that
the defeats that Sunnis have suffered throughout history are due to their
failure to back Ali Ibn Abi Talib as Islam's first caliph. ''It would be
folly to associate ourselves with them [Sunnis],'' he writes in his
commentary on Surat Al-Ma'ida (the fifth chapter of the Qu'ran). In the same
essay he reverently describes Ruhollah Khomeini as ''possessing divine
qualities'' and being the right person to build the Ummah [international
The only silver lining regarding Yemen's current tragedy is that this has
completely altered the status quo, and everything now is out in the open. The
Houthi dream is unlikely to come true. What would be worse, however, is if
this dream becomes a nightmare for Yemen and its Arab neighbors.
The Houthis have knocked on the door of the Gulf. We must wait for the
A Saudi journalist
and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi
affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsat's opinion page Editor, where he also
contributes a weekly column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying
several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others. He has been a guest on
numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic.