Yemen: Clearing a few misconceptions on Yemen

By Catherine Shakdam. February 5, 2016. Alistair Reign News Blog.

Ali Nujood, Yemen, 2009. (Photograph by Stephanie Sinclair, National Geographic). Ali Nujood, Yemen, 2009. (Photograph by Stephanie Sinclair, National Geographic).

So much ink and breath have been spent on Yemen since 2011 that one can easily get lost in the labyrinth media built up … while I will concede that opinions largely differ when it comes to what should and needs to happen in Yemen in order for “order” to be restored: ie – political direction, I’d like to believe that facts are immovable.

Facts actually are absolutely vital when it comes to understanding Yemen’s current state of affairs. In true imperialistic fashion Saudi Arabia and Western powers have worked to manipulate truths and redact history to better rise tyrants over a people.

At the epicentre of it all lies one important, crucial truth:

Yemeni children August 1979. (Photo: National Geographic).

Yemeni children, 1979. (Photo: National Geographic).

The Houthis did NOT overthrow former President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi – hell this man was not even democratically elected.

I still recall with which ridiculous pomp Western diplomats and GCC stooges paraded their congratulations before the Yemeni people in the face of such a “democratic victory”.

How on and on they went on detailing the breakthrough Yemen had secured against despotism and nepotism now that “real” presidential elections were taken place.

  • Yemen was always a democratic state – maybe not a functioning one, but semantically speaking Yemen has been a democracy since 1962.
  • Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi was elected in 2012 in one-man farce election which aimed to herald and facilitate Yemen’s political and institutional emancipation. Yemen was never given the courtesy of a choice. Instead it was made to suffer the rule of a man whose allegiance was not to his people but his own pocket.
  • President Hadi resigned, not once, but twice under his own volition – this idea Saudi Arabia has floated that Hadi’s presidency was stolen by the devilish Houthis is nothing short of a fantasy. It needs to be noted that while Hadi was never ousted, his mandate had in fact long expired anyway.

His presidency was meant was no more than a 2-years period – his stay in office was actually the infraction, not the Houthis’ calls for constitutional accountability.

Those facts alone put this war on Yemen in a different light.

Riyadh cares absolutely not for Hadi’s presidency, or even the sanctity of his office – it cares for control over Yemen – which control was denied by the arrival of the Houthis on the political scene.

Let me clear a few things too when it comes to the Houthis:

Though many women in Yemen shroud themselves completely in black, colorful head scarves and veils (sitara) are often seen in the markets. (Photo/credit: National Geographic).

Yemen: Colorful head scarves and veils (sitara) are often seen in the markets. (Photo/credit: National Geographic).

1). The Houthis are tribesmen from northern Yemen whose allegiance is to their Sheikh: Abdel-Malek al-Houthi. As a tribal faction, the Houthis have no political ambitions of their own, only a desire to defend their clan’s rights. It is Ansarallah which carries political ambitions – and while of course many Houthis are members of Ansarallah, the two represent very distinct entities.

2). The Houthis never besieged Sana’a, nor did they impose their diktat onto the capital. I recall very clearly President Hadi ordering for his ministers to relinquish all authorities to the Houthis since they were the carrier of popular legitimacy. Yes, you read correctly, it was Hadi who ordered all state offices to open up to the Houthis – both police and military were then ordered to stand down.

3). The Houthis are not fighting Saudi Arabia alone! In fact, they are but one factions within the Resistance.

4). The Houthis are NOT carrying, representing or implementing anyone’s agenda – certainly not Iran – in Yemen. The assumption that the Houthis are necessarily agents of Iran on account they both share religious ground is so beyond the sectarian pale I actually refuse to get into it. Ludicrous and slanderous is all I will say on the matter.

Yemen Resistance movement is a rainbow coalition of tribes and political factions united against imperialism.

The Houthis and Ansarallah are but members of this movement.

Understand this and you will understand that this fight against the kingdom is one people’s stand against oppression and not the manifestation of one tribe’s ambition.

Another thing worth pondering over – Why is it that under Riyadh’s rule, Aden has been turned into a festering radical hotspot?

Have we learnt nothing from Syria and Iraq?


First appeared in Shafaqna News 2/5/2016: Clearing a few misconceptions on Yemen.

Catherine Shakdam

Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen. The Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She authored Arabia’s Rising – Under The Banner Of The First Imam.

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