Thursday, March 8, 2012

Shia-Sunni Ties in Post-revolution Yemen

March 8, 2012
For years, Yemen’s Shiite minority has taken up arms against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, complaining of the State neglect and aggression.
(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - Now, after Saleh’s departure and the election of a new president, questions are rising whether the armed Shiite rebellion would see an end in post-revolution Yemen.
"The fact that al-Houthis understood they could use politics to their advantage is an important psychological shift,” Ahmed al-Soufi, a Yemeni political analyst, told
"The group understood that rebellion itself would not serve their long term interests.”
For years, Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, took up arms against the government troops of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in northern Yemen.
The Houthis, a Zaidi tribal group from the Northern Province of Sa’ada, say that their rebellion was in response to government aggressions on their villages.
Houthis have recently announced plans to form a political party to participate in the country’s next election.
Analysts opine that the Houthis now could take their fight onto the political arena, leaving behind their warrior-like ways.
"Ultimately, Sheikh Abdel Mageed al-Houthi wants to have a voice in Yemen’s future and he knows that in order to achieve that he needs to become visible on a political level.”
Al-Houthi movement first emerged in Yemen in the 1990s when Sheikh Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi founded a political and paramilitary group called the Believing Youth.
Essentially, Badr al-Din sought to revive Shiitism in Yemen, advocating a return to the ancestral rule of the Imams.
At the time, the Houthis did not openly call for the overthrow of President Saleh, himself a Zaidi but rather sought a partnership in their calls for change.
But Saleh’s ally with the US in the so-called "war on terror” changed everything.
The Houthis, who see the United States as a direct enemy of Islam, violently opposed the government, calling for Saleh’s ouster.
The killing of the group’s leader Sheikh Hussein al-Houthi in 2004 in a government attempt to arrest him escalated the situation, prompting a widespread insurrection in Sa’ada.
For the next 5 years, the Yemeni army battled out the Houthis, deepening the resentment of Sa’ada residents towards the state and its amicable foreign policies towards the West.
Sunnis make up nearly 60 percent of Yemen’s population, while the Shiites account for 40 percent.
The two groups lived peacefully side by side, but political affiliations and regional game plans threw off the balance of the ideological truce, spurring violence.

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