What Is All this Yemen About?


(Photo taken by Abdulrahman Jaber)

The Houthis (Arabic: الحوثيونal-Ḥūthiyyūn), also known as the Supporters of God (أنصار الله Ansar Allah) are a Zaidi Shia group operating in Yemen

I’m not sure about you, but as a Westerner, I had no idea what all of this meant until I did a little digging. Who this Houthis? What do they believe in? Where did they come from? And, most importantly, why are they so controversial?

Let’s break it down. In 1992, there was a rebel spiritual movement led by a couple of brothers (Muhammad and Hussein). The two began the Believing Youth (BY) in Saada (an area in northern Yemen) to encourage a “Zaidi revival” of Shi’a Islam. Essentially, it is another faction of Islam that has a strong following in Yemen, making up 30 to 40 percent of the population.  I would love to simplify the complexity of the religious tensions, but there are academic postgraduate programs that have yet to do this.

Let’s just say that the BY, later renamed the Houthi Movement after the death of Hussein in 2004, had a part in the Yemeni Revolution in 2011. Although, this revolution was pretty overshadowed by Egypt’s revolt, it was still a major part of the historical Arab Spring that occurred region-wide. Since most media eyes are on the Middle-East, Yemen is starting to garner a little limelight for its political overturn.

A few days ago, the Houthis declared that they have taken over most of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. By “taken over”, I mean a rebel-run coup. The group has dissolved government and is running a temporary one with an assembly and presidential council for up to two years.  What’s causing so much tension is that the Shi’a group from the north is taking control and there may be fears that the Sunni south won’t be included. These religious fears have crossed borders, too, as the Sunni-Saudis are now blaming the Shi’a-Iranians for financially supporting the Houthis rebels.

However, back within the country, most of the people are pretty peeved at the former government for multiple counts of corruption including food shortages, unemployment and military abuses. The previous government even issued an open-fire on some protesters that seriously upset the rebel group.

Real world problems.

So why is Western media refocusing its lens on Yemen? Have you seen the geopolitical position on Google?

Ok, so it’s not a GoogleMap, but look at where it is: The swoosh between two Middle-Eastern seas. Despite promises of trips to the moon, we still use water as a main medium of transport. Think oil, think resources.

Even though the conflict is being portrayed as a battle between the people, the government and various religious sects, the fundamental problem is still be who holds access and power of the space between the seas.

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