(accused by Saudi-led coalition and allies)
* General People\'s Congress
Ahrar al-Najran Movement (allied themselves with invading Houthis
and allies against
Saudi Arabia and
* Republic of
Hadi government )
Other state opponents
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant –
BATTLES AND WARS
HOUTHI INSURGENCY IN YEMEN
Operation Scorched Earth
Operation Blow to the Head
Operation Blow to the Head
* Battle of Sa\'dah
Siege of Dammaj
* Battle of Sana\'a
* Yemeni coup d\'état
Conflict in Najran, Jizan and Asir
Conflict in Najran, Jizan and Asir
YEMENI CIVIL WAR
* Battle of Ad Dali\'
Battle of Aden
Abyan campaign (March–August 2015)
Shabwah campaign (March–August 2015)
* Sana\'a governorate campaign (2015-present)
Battle of Port Midi
Battle of Taiz (2015–present)
The HOUTHIS (Arabic : الحوثيون _al-Ḥūthiyyūn_ IPA:
), officially called ANSAR ALLAH (_anṣār allāh _ أنصار
الله "Supporters of God"), is a Zaidi predominantly
religious-political movement (though the movement also includes Sunnis
) that emerged from Sa\'dah , northern
Yemen in the 1990s and has
fought against the government of the ousted president Ali Abdullah
Saleh on and off since 2004.
Tension between the
Houthis and the central government steadily grew
in the 1990s, with war breaking out in 2004 with the group's founder,
Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi , leading a rebellion against then
Ali Abdullah Saleh . The group is now led by Abdul-Malik
al-Houthi , brother of the first leader, who was reportedly killed by
Saleh's Yemeni army forces in 2004. In late 2014,
their relationship with the ousted president
Ali Abdullah Saleh , and
with his help,
Houthis took control of the capital and much of the
Like many of Iranian-backed military militia such as
Hezbollah , the
Houthi movement attracts its Zaidi-
Shia followers in
promoting regional political-religious issues in its media, including
the overarching US-Israeli conspiracy and Arab "collusion". In 2003,
the Houthi's slogan "God is great, death to the US, death to Israel,
curse the Jews, and victory for Islam", became the group's trademark.
Tُhe movement claims that they fight for ending the economic
under-development and political marginalization in Yemen, as well as
autonomy in only the areas where they are predominant not all of
Yemen. They also claim that they strive for establishing a more
democratic non-sectarian republic in Yemen.
Houthis took part in the 2011
Yemeni Revolution , participating
in the street protests and coordinating with other opposition groups .
Houthis also had joined
National Dialogue Conference in
Yemen which is
part of the
Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative. However, after they
took over the government with the help from the former president Ali
Abdullah Saleh , they announced their rejection of the provisions of
the November 2011
Gulf Cooperation Council deal, claiming that it did
not fundamentally reform governance. and that the proposed
Yemen into poor and wealthy regions" and saw
it as a blatant attempt to weaken them by dividing areas under their
control between separate regions.
Houthis took over the government in Sana\'a with the
help of the former president
Ali Abdullah Saleh , and announced the
fall of the current government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur
Hadi . "Saudi
Arabia considers the
Houthis a terrorist group." The ambassadors
crisis also seriously threatened the GCC’s activities, adversely
affected its functioning and could arguably even have led to its
Houthis have gained control of most of the north part of
Yemen's territory and are currently resisting the Saudi-led military
Yemen that claims seeking to restore the
internationally recognized Yemeni government to power. Houthis, Saleh
forces, Yemen’s government, and the forces of Saudi Arabian-led
coalition, have been attacked by the Islamic State militant group.
* 1 History
* 2 Membership and support
* 3 Ideology
* 3.1 Flag and slogan
* 3.2 Charges of harassment against
* 4 Leaders
* 5 Motives and objectives
* 6 Activism and tactics
* 6.1 Political
* 6.2 Cultural
* 6.3 Combat and military
* 7 Armed strength
* 8 Allegations of Iran\'s support
* 9 Allegations of human rights violations
* 10 Governance
* 11 Areas under administration
* 12 References
* 13 External links
Houthi insurgency in Yemen
Houthi insurgency in Yemen and Houthi takeover in
Territorial situation in
Yemen in 2017. Houthi forces are shown in
Houthis belong to the
Shia tribesmen of North
Yemen who are
renowned among Yemeni tribes for their ruggedness, sharpshooting
abilities, honour, and bravery in combat. This is while they are also
disregarded as being ignorant or backward, by more metropolitan
Yemenis, such as Sana'anis or Adenites. They have been known for being
very moderate and are the closest to Sunni
Islam of all the Shi'a
According to Ahmed Addaghashi, a professor at
Sanaa University , the
Houthis began as a moderate theological movement that preached
tolerance and held a broad-minded view of Yemeni people. Their first
organization, "the Believing Youth" (BY), was founded in 1992 in Saada
Governorate :1008 by either Mohammed al-Houthi, :98 or his brother
The Believing Youth established school clubs and summer camps :98 in
order to "promote a Zaidi revival" in Saada. By 1994–1995,
15–20,000 students had attended BY summer camps. The religious
material included lectures by Mohammed Hussein Fadhlallah (a Lebanese
Shiite scholar) and
Hassan Nasrallah (Secretary General of Lebanon's
Hezbollah Party) " :99
The formation of the Houthi organisations have been described by Adam
Baron of the
European Council on Foreign Relations as a reaction to
foreign intervention: shoring up Zaidi support against the perceived
threat of Saudi-influenced ideologies in
Yemen and a general
condemnation of the former Yemeni government’s alliance with the
United States, which, along with complaints regarding the
government’s corruption and the marginalisation of much of the
Houthis’ home areas in Saada constituted the group’s key
Although Hussein al-Houthi, who was killed in 2004, had no official
relation with Believing Youth, according to Zaid, he contributed to
the radicalisation of some Zaydis after the
2003 invasion of Iraq .
BY-affiliated youth adopted anti-American and anti-Jewish slogans
which they chanted in the
Saleh Mosque in Sana\'a after Friday
prayers. According to Zaid, the followers of Houthi's insistence on
chanting the slogans attracted the authorities' attention, further
increasing government worries over the extent of the al-Houthi
movement’s influence. "The security authorities thought that if
Houthis chanted `
Death to America ’, tomorrow they could
be chanting `Death to the president ". 800 BY supporters were arrested
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. Hussein
responded by launching an insurgency against the government but was
killed on 10 September 2004. The insurgency continued intermittently
until a ceasefire agreement was reached in 2010.
Houthis participated in the 2011
Yemeni Revolution , as well as
National Dialogue Conference (NDC). However, they
rejected the provisions of the November 2011 Gulf Cooperation Council
deal on the ground that "it divide
Yemen into poor and wealthy
regions" and also in response to assassination of their representative
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), which would enable them to launch a
direct assault on Yemeni capital Sana\'a . In May 2012, it was
reported that the
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. Yemen's former president Ali Abdullah Saleh
has openly allied with
By 21 September 2014,
Houthis were said to control parts of the
Yemeni capital, Sana'a, including government buildings and a radio
station. While control of the capital expanded to the rest of Sana'a,
as well as other towns such as Rada\' , control was strongly
Al-Qaeda . It was believed by the Gulf States that the
Houthis had accepted aid from
Saudi Arabia was aiding their
On 20 January 2015, Houthi rebels seized the presidential palace in
the capital. President Abd Rabbuh Mansur
Hadi was in the presidential
palace during the takeover but was not harmed. The movement
officially took control of the Yemeni government on 6 February,
dissolving parliament and declaring its Revolutionary Committee to be
the acting authority in Yemen. On 20 March 2015, The al-Badr and
al-Hashoosh mosques came under suicide attack during midday prayers.
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
In a televised speech on 22 March, Houthi leader Abdul Malik
al-Houthi accused the US and
Israel of supporting the terrorists
attacks. He blamed regional Arab states for financing terrorist groups
operating inside Yemen. 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, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan
led a gulf coalition airstrike in Yemen. The military coalition
United States which is helping with the planning of air
strikes, as well as logistical and intelligence support.
According to a 2015 September report by Esquire magazine , the
Houthis, once the outliers, are now one of the most stable and
organised social and political movements in Yemen. The power vacuum
created by Yemen’s uncertain transitional period has drawn more
supporters to the Houthis. Many of the formerly powerful parties, now
disorganised with an unclear vision, have fallen out of favour with
the public, making the
Houthis — under their newly branded Ansar
Allah name — all the more attractive.
MEMBERSHIP AND SUPPORT
Allah fighters in Yemen, August 2009.
There is a difference between the al-Houthi family, which has about
20 members :102 and the Houthi movement, which took the name "Houthi"
after the death of
Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi in 2004.
Houthis avoid assuming a singular tribal identity. Instead, the
group strategically draws support from tribes of the northern Bakil
federation, rival to the
Hashid federation which had been a
traditional ally of the ousted central government. The Houthis’ lack
of centralised command structure allows them to generate immense
support, as Yemenis from diverse backgrounds have joined their cause.
Membership of the group had between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters as of
2005 and between 2,000 and 10,000 fighters as of 2009. In 2010, the
Yemen Post _ claimed that they had over 100,000 fighters. According
to Houthi expert Ahmed Al-Bahri the
Houthis had a total of
100,000-120,000 followers, including both armed fighters and unarmed
As of 2015, the group is reported to have managed to pick up swaths
of new supporters outside their traditional demographics. On 5
February 2016, Iranian TV named
PressTV reported that Men of Hamdan,
one of Yemen's most powerful tribes, rallied to the north of the
capital, Sana'a, vowing to provide support in the form of potential
mobilisation for the country's fighters resisting the current elected
Yemeni government. In a gathering held in the capital, hundreds of
tribesmen from the southern parts pledged union against what they
described as a U.S.-Israeli initiative targeting the country, which
was being implemented by Saudi Arabia.
Houthis belong to the Zaidi branch of
Islam , also known as Fivers, a
Islam almost exclusively present in Yemen.
Zaydis make up about 25 percent of the population, Sunnis make up 75
percent, and there are also tiny minorities of Muslims who are members
Shia sects — the
Twelver communities. Al-Houthi
Zaydis are estimated to make up about 30 percent of the Shiite
population, according to Hassan Zaid, secretary-general of the al-Haq
opposition party. The Zaydis ruled
Yemen for 1,000 years up until
1962. During this time they ferociously defended their independence
and fought off foreign powers (Egypt, the Ottomans) who controlled
Yemen and tried to extend their rule to the north.
Shia Muslims in matters of religious law and rulings, the
Houthi belief in the concept of an
Imamate as being essential to their
religion makes them distinct from Sunnis. As of 2014 it has been
observed that "The Houthi group's approach is in many ways similar to
that of Hizbollah in Lebanon. Similarly religiously based and
Iran-backed, both groups follow the same military doctrine and glorify
the Khomeini revolution in Iran".
As a consequence, the
Houthis have regularly been accused, even by
many fellow Zaidis, of secretly being converts or followers of the
Twelver sect, which is the official religion of their ally and backer
Iran. Ethnoreligious groups in 2002. Zaidi
make up over 42% of Muslims in Yemen.
Houthis have asserted that their actions are to fight against the
expansion of Salafism in Yemen, and for the defence of their
community from discrimination, whereas the Yemeni government has in
turn accused the insurgents of intending to overthrow the regime out
of a desire to institute Zaidi religious law, destabilising the
government and stirring anti-American sentiment. The Yemeni
government has also accused the
Houthis of having ties to external
backers, in particular the Iranian government. In turn, the Houthis
have countered with allegations that the Yemeni government is being
backed by al-Qaeda and
Saudi Arabia , The discord has led some
publishers to fear that further confrontations may lead to an all-out
FLAG AND SLOGAN
Flag of Houthis
The group's flag reads as following: "_God Is Great , Death to
America , Death to
Israel , Curse on the
Jews , Victory to
This motto is partially modelled on the motto of revolutionary
which reads "Death to U.S. and death to Israel".
Some Houthi supporters stress that their ire for the U.S. and Israel
is directed toward the governments of America and Israel. Ali
al-Bukhayti, the spokesperson and official media face of the Houthis,
tried to reject the literal interpretation of the slogan by stating
that in one of his interview "We do not really want death to anyone.
The slogan is simply against the interference of those governments ".
However, in the Arabic Houthi-affiliated TV and radio stations they
use religious connotations associated with jihad against
the US. They also call
Saudi Arabia a U.S. puppet state.
CHARGES OF HARASSMENT AGAINST JEWS
Houthis have been accused of expelling or restricting some
members of the ancient and impoverished rural
Yemen . There
have been also reports about supporters of the
Houthis bullying or
attacking the members of the Yemeni Jewish community. Houthi
officials, however, have denied any involvement in the harassment,
asserting that under Houthi control
Yemen would be able to
live and operate freely as any other Yemeni citizen. "Our problems are
with Zionism and the occupation of Palestine, but
Jews here have
nothing to fear," said Fadl Abu Taleb, a spokesman for the Houthis.
But despite insistence by Houthi leaders that the movement is not
sectarian, a Yemeni Jewish rabbi has reportedly said that many Jews
remain terrified by the movement’s slogan. As a result, Yemeni Jews
reportedly retain a negative sentiment towards the Houthis, who
committed persecutions against them. According to
Ayoub Kara , Houthi
militants had given an ultimatum telling
Jews to "convert to
leave Yemen". In April 2017 it was reported that 40 of the last 50
Yemen were in an enclave next to the American Embassy in
Sana\'a subject to
Houthis threats of ethnic cleansing
Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi
Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi – former leader (killed 2004)
Abdul-Malik Badreddin al-Houthi – leader
Yahia Badreddin al-Houthi – senior leader
* Abdul-Karim Badreddin al-Houthi – high-ranking commander
* Badr Eddin al-Houthi – spiritual leader (died 2010)
Abdullah al-Ruzami – former military commander
* Abu Ali Abdullah al-Hakem al-Houthi – military commander
* Saleh Habra – political leader
* Fares Mana\'a – Houthi-appointed governor of
Sa'dah and former
head of Saleh's Presidential committee
MOTIVES AND OBJECTIVES
When armed conflict for the first time erupted back in 2004 between
the Yemeni government and Houthis, the then-Yemeni President accused
Houthis and other Islamic opposition parties of trying to overthrow
the government and the republican system. However Houthi leaders for
their part rejected the accusation by saying that they had never
rejected the president or the republican system but were only
defending themselves against government attacks on their community.
Zaidi Shi'ites compose one-third of the population of
Houthis have often voiced the grievances of the Zaidi population.
The group has also exploited the popular discontent over corruption
and reduction of government subsidies. According to a February 2015
Houthis are fighting "for things that all Yemenis
crave: government accountability, the end to corruption, regular
utilities, fair fuel prices, job opportunities for ordinary Yemenis
and the end of Western influence".
Hassan al-Homran, a former spokesperson for Ansar Allah, has said
Allah supports the establishment of a civil state in
Yemen. We want to build a striving modern democracy. Our goals are to
fulfil our people's democratic aspirations in keeping with the Arab
Spring movement." In an interview with _
Yemen Times _, Hussein
al-Bukhari, a Houthi insider, said that Houthis' preferable political
system is a republic with elections where women can also hold
political positions, and that they do not seek to form a cleric-led
government after the model of Islamic Republic of
Iran for "we cannot
apply this system in
Yemen because the followers of the Shafi (Sunni )
doctrine are bigger in number than the Zaydis."
Ali Akbar Velayati , International Affairs Advisor to Supreme Iranian
Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, stated in October 2014 that "We
are hopeful that Ansar-
Allah has the same role in
Yemen as Hezbollah
has in eradicating the terrorists in Lebanon".
ACTIVISM AND TACTICS
During their campaigns against the ousted
Hadi government, Houthis
used civil disobedience. Following the Yemeni government's decision in
13 July 2014 to increase fuel prices, Houthi leaders succeeded in
organising massive rallies in the capital
Sana'a to protest the
decision and to demand resignation of the incumbent government of Abd
Hadi for "state-corruption". These protests developed
into the 2014-2015 phase of the insurgency. Similarly, following 2015
Saudi-led airstrikes against
Houthis which claimed civilians lives,
Yemenis responded to the
Abdul-Malik al-Houthi 's call and took to
streets of the capital, Sana'a, in tens of thousands to voice their
anger at the Saudi invasion.
Houthis have also held a number of mass gatherings since the
revolution. On 24 January 2013, thousands gathered in Dahiyan, Sa\'dah
and Heziez, just outside Sana'a, to celebrate
Mawlid al-Nabi , the
birth of Mohammed. A similar event took place on 13 January 2014, but
this time at the main sports stadium in Sana'a. On this occasion, men
and women were completely segregated: men filled the open-air stadium
and football field in the centre, guided by appointed Houthi safety
officials wearing bright vests and matching hats; women poured into
the adjacent indoor stadium, led inside by security women
distinguishable only by their purple sashes and matching hats. The
indoor stadium held at least five thousand women — ten times as many
attendees as the 2013 gathering.
COMBAT AND MILITARY
In 2009, US Embassy sources have reported that
increasingly more sophisticated tactics and strategies in their
conflict with the government as they gained more experience, and that
they fought with religious fervor and courage.
Situation in March 2012
Saudi and former Yemeni officials have claimed that the
received significant support from
Iran in the form of weapons, money
and training since 2004, while Houthi leadership denies having
received weapons or financial support from Iran. Also, Tehran denied
the allegation of
Houthis arm support by Iran. A December 2009 cable
between Sanaa and various intelligence agencies disseminated by
WikiLeaks states that US State Dept. analysts believed the Houthis
obtained weapons from the Yemeni black market and corrupt members of
the Republican Guard. On the edition of 8 April 2015 of _PBS Newshour
Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the US knew
providing military support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, adding that
Washington "is not going to stand by while the region is
Late in 2015,
Houthis announced the local production of short range
Qaher-1 on Al-Masirah TV. On May 19, 2017 Saudi
Arabia intercepted a Houthi fired ballistic missile targeting a
deserted area south of the Saudi capital and most populous city
ALLEGATIONS OF IRAN\'S SUPPORT
In April 2015, the
United States National Security Council
Bernadette Meehan remarked that “It remains our
Iran does not exert command and control over the
Houthis in Yemen".
Gulf Arab states have accused
Iran of backing the
and militarily, though
Iran has denied this, and they are themselves
backers of President Hadi.
Phillip Smyth of the pro-
Israel Washington Institute for Near East
Policy told Business Insider that
Shia groups in the Middle
East as "integral elements to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
(IRGC)." Smyth confirmed to Business Insider the strong bond between
Iran and the Houthi uprising working to overthrow the government in
Yemen. According to Smyth, in many cases Houthi leaders go to
ideological and religious education, and Iranian and
have been spotted on the ground advising the Houthi troops. These
Iranian advisers are likely responsible for training the
use the type of sophisticated guided missiles fired at the US Navy.
For Iran, supporting the revolt in
Yemen is "a good way to bleed the
Saudis," Iran's regional and ideological rival. Essentially,
Houthis to fight against a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf
States fighting to maintain government control of Yemen.
In 2013, photographs released by the Yemeni government show the
United States Navy and Yemen’s security forces seized a class of
shoulderfired antiaircraft missiles not publicly known to have been
out of state control.
According to Saudi-owned
Al Arabiya ,
Fars News Agency , which is the
official news agency of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has
admitted to arming
Houthis with missiles and training. The agency
quoted “a prominent analyst” Seyed Sadeq al-Sharafi as saying that
militias “are developing their missile power to target Riyadh and
Dubai in the future, after they increased their missile and military
capabilities and expanded the range of their military operations
against the enemies"
In April 2016, the U.S. Navy intercepted a large Iranian arms
shipment, seizing thousands of weapons, AK-47 rifles and
rocket-propelled grenade launchers that likely were headed to Yemen.
Also, the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in
conflicts with them for 2 decades and currently allied with them, has
Iran of supporting the Houthi many times. Saleh stated in a
New York Times' interview that "The real reason they received
unofficial support from
Iran was because they repeat same slogan that
is raised by
Iran death to America, death to Israel". He also said
"The Iranian media repeats statements of support for these Houthi
elements. They are all trying to take revenge against the USA on
ALLEGATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Houthis have been accused of violations of international humanitarian
law such as using child soldiers , shelling civilian areas, forced
evacuations, executions and human shielding . According to the Human
Houthis have inclined up their recruitment of children in
2015. The UNICEF mentioned that children with the
Houthis and other
armed groups in
Yemen comprise up to a third of all fighters in Yemen.
Human Rights Watch has further accused Houthi forces of using
landmines in Yemen’s third-largest city of Taizz which has caused
many civilian casualties and prevent the return of families displaced
by the fighting. HRW has also accused the
Houthis of interfering with
the work of Yemen’s human rights advocates and organizations.
Yemen Times _ reported that most children working for the
Houthis are not combatants.
An HRW researcher, quoted in 2009 US embassy report, has downplayed
the repeated allegations by the former government of
Houthis of using civilians as human shields, by saying that they
did not have enough evidence to conclude that the
Houthis have been
intentionally using civilians as human shields.
According to the 2009 US Embassy cable leaked by
WikiLeaks , Houthis
have reportedly established courts and prisons in areas they control.
They impose their own laws on local residents, demand protection
money, and dispense rough justice by ordering executions. AP 's
reporter, Ahmad al-Haj argued that the
Houthis were winning hearts and
minds by providing security in areas long neglected by the Yemeni
government (currently ousted) while limiting the arbitrary and abusive
power of influential sheikhs. According to the Civic Democratic
Houthis help resolve conflicts between tribes and reduce
the number of revenge killings in areas they control. The US
ambassador believed that the reports that explain Houthi role as
arbitrating local disputes were more likely than the sinister
AREAS UNDER ADMINISTRATION
Map last updated 30 January 2015
Houthis exert _de facto_ authority over the bulk of North
Yemen was united with South
Yemen in 1990; the
has repeatedly suppressed separatist protests by force. The Houthis'
direct administration includes the following territories:
* All of
* All of \
* Majority of
Al Jawf Governorate , including:
Al Hazm District (presence)
Al Maton District
Az Zahir District
Al Matammah District
* All of
* Majority of Sana\'a Governorate including strong presence in:
Arhab District (partial control)
* All of
* All of
Al Mahwit Governorate
* All of
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