Houthis are tyrants, not rebels

In the current lack of interpretation surrounding events in the Red Sea, it is important to dispel the myth that the Houthis are grassroots rebels who stand up for the oppressed of the earth. ‘Houthis’ are a privileged upper class that has oppressed the people of Yemen for a thousand years.

  1. Houthis are not rebels, a tribe, group or movement. The al-Houthi family is part of the Hashemites, a caste, or upper class, in Yemeni society. Hashemites can trace their ancestry to Banu Hashim, the family of the Prophet Muhammad. Hashemites are – depending on the school and strictness – highly regarded within Islam, as a kind of aristocratic scribes.

  2. Pope and king. The Yemeni branch of the Hashemites is of the Shi’ite Zaydi school, which combines worldly and spiritual power to the extreme in a theocracy; they are pope and king in one in Yemen. Hashemite families have ruled northern Yemen for a thousand years. Only in the revolution of the 1960s was their ‘imamate’ broken down and chased away. From being a ruling class of nobles, they suddenly became second-class citizens. Hashemite friends (you are born that way and cannot escape it) whom aspired to become pilot told me that in their twenties they were refused to the aviation academy, because of their origins.

  3. Counter-revolution. Members of the Houthi family – until then not a prominent family within the Yemeni Hashemites – rebelled against such marginalization in the late 1980s. At the beginning of this century they took up arms and what followed were six guerrilla wars – this is probably where the term rebels was born – against the central government of Ali Abdallah Saleh. The Houthis’ territory grew with each war and after 2010 they gained control in the far north. In the political vacuum following the Arab Spring, the Houthis entered into a (unholy) alliance with deposed ruler Saleh. In 2014, they seized power in all of North Yemen in a coup d’état.

  4. Regime. Since 2014, the old upper layer of the Hashemites – under the leadership and flag of the Houthis – has once agian become the ruling power in North Yemen, where three-quarters of the population lives, after an interruption of four decades. Over the past decade, the Houthi regime has rolled out an ultra-conservative regime where women are under strict tutelage of men and minorities are without rights. The Houthi regime has wormed its way into all economic and social organizations through so-called mushrifeen; overseers who ensure that everything that happens, happens in the interests of the Houthis. Many highly educated Yemenis have left for the diaspora, resulting in the collapse of many institutions in Yemen.

  5. Mutahawith. Yemen has thus been transformed into a machine that generates revenue for the Houthis. There are levies on everything, imports, exports, fuels, if necessary artificial shortages are created in order to generate greater profits. Of the billions in aid that flowed into Yemen, a significant portion has ended up in the pockets of Houthis. Yemen is known as a humanitarian disaster, but the bewildering reality is that shops are well stocked and there is great wealth. There has been a building boom in Sana’a for years. Palaces are rising, the latest carmodels cruise the streets. One who wants to benefit, can join the Houthis, a new verb for this has been invented: Mutahawith: to Houthify. However, without proper origins you will never become a real Houthi, you will remain a second-class citizen. If you rebel against them – the real rebels – you will be slung in Houthi dungeons.

  6. Anti-imperialists and anti-colonials. Houthi’s have been supported for years by the global movement of anti-imperialists and anti-colonials, which does not always pay close attention to facts. Through their trolling, slick videos of ragged, sympathetic guerrillas and the use of terms such as rebels, the Houthi’s are now riding the wave of outrage about events in Gaza. But just as Israelis chase West Bank Palestinians off their land, Houthis chase ordinary Yemenis off their land every day, if they happen to want to build their homes there. Yemen’s third city Taiz has been under siege for seven years by Houthis, who block all supplies and attack the population with grenades and snipers, just like Gaza.

  7. Unpredictable. If peace returns to Gaza, don’t count on Houthis to settle. Chaos is their core business, because the past ten years of conflict brought them profit. Situation miracously fall into their laps, as if God is on their side. Houthis believe this wholeheartedly: their class has been chosen by God to govern. Not just Yemen, the focus is emphatically on Mecca, Medina, Al Quds (Jerusalem), even Andalusia. Great leader Abd al-Malik Badr al-Din al-Houthi is worshiped as a demigod.

  8. Nice Houthis. There are, of course, plenty doves among Houthi’s and Hashemites, but they have been sidelined or drifted off to the diaspora, due to violent bombing cmapaigns from first Saudi Arabia and now the allied fleet. This has put the hawks amongst Hashemites in commanding positions.

The above is all acquired and borrowed knowledge. Where I am wrong I am happy to be corrected. Hopefully colleagues who use terms such as rebels will finally allow themselves to be corrected.

Anthon Keuchenius is a political geographer and journalist whom has been visiting Yemen on and off since 1993.

Article above was translated by a bot, excuse the Duglish.  It was published in Dutch january 17th in leading Dutch newspaper NRC en january 18th in Belgian leading newspaper De Standaard.


Waardeer dit artikel!!

Bovenstaand stukje werd je gratis aangeboden. Als je dat waardeert en dat wilt laten blijken met een kleine bijdrage: dat kan! Zo help je onafhankelijke journalistiek in stand houden.

NB: Zonder kosten, elke cent komt in het journalistenbeursje
Naar doneren, veilig en in twee kliks. Thnx!

Geef een reactie