Will Yemen succeed in closing the Al-Houthi file? [Archives:2007/1025/Opinion]

February 15 2007

By: Nassr Taha Mustafa
Confrontations between the Yemeni government and the militias of Abdulmalik Al-Houthi have renewed in the past two weeks after those militias benefited from the period of the general pardon President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They benefited in the re-arrangement of their situations in order to prepare for a new stage of armed confrontations in several areas of the governorate of Sa'ada that is situated in the north of Yemen and considered their major stronghold. Despite of all government initiatives, those armed groups known for their ideological hardliner think by carrying arms in the face of the government and the state is part of their religious duty taking into their consideration that the regime, in their view as pro to America and Israel and that to fight it is a legal duty until it falls and then the right to rule will return to its owners. It seems that the government has, this time, decided to put an end to this file for good and to close it because of the moral damage with regard to security image and to stability in Yemen. That damage was a result of the continuation of this rebellion for three years, beginning from June 2004.

Some local media are exaggerating the subject and the event, visualizing it as targeting a sectarian or political group or may be related to a ruling dynasty. It is in fact the determination of the state to emphasize the stability it is experiencing, which is truly a fact, in order to provide atmospheres convenient for attracting investments in its bid to activate the Yemeni economy and to lead it out of the state of stagnation it is suffering.

The government thinks it has succeeded in an unprecedented way in dealing with other armed organizations such as Al-Jihad and Al-Qaeda without possible losses and also managed to close them through the security performance and intellectual political dialogue with members of those currents. It allows them to accommodate and absorb most of those socially and rehabilitation of some of them psychologically, as well as conviction of most of them to abandon the resort to violence as a means for expression of opinion. So the government has taken the same steps with the followers of Al-Houthi without any avail and now want to eliminate this tumor, as termed by Abdulkarim Al-Eryany, political advisor to the president.

President Saleh, as those close to him know, hates resorting to violence and prefers dialogue with the other parties whatever the matter as long as he has not decided to end his other options towards the use of violence.

Undoubtedly, the killing of the Youthful Believers' Hussein Badrudin Al-Houthi in the confrontations of 2004 and then the disappearance of his father and almost his death after the confrontations of the year 2005 and his son Abdulmalik Badrudinn Al-Houthi taking over the leadership of the organization, give many implications and indications on the nature of this organization. The family is the dominating power on the organization, as it is clear from the leadership chain. The loyalty of its members is purely to the Al-Houthi family as it is affiliated to the Alawite descent and they consider what is issued by one of its members as an obligation of blind obedience without any hesitation. Moreover many members of the organization do not believe that its founder Hussein had died actually. The affiliation of this family to one of the districts of Saada has made most of the organization members are from the sons of the governorate although it has simple extensions in other three or four governorates but that had been contained since the rebellion of 2004. Of important indicators is that most of those who established this organization with Hussein Al-Houthi in the mid-1990s with political members have abandoned him after the decision of rebellion and the resorted to violence. No one remained with him, but members of the military wing who insist on rebellion with him without comprehending the impossibility of achieving their goals in a large country like Yemen whose population exceeds 20 million people. The republican system managed during 45 years to melt the sectarian fanaticism through dissemination of education and unification of religious law visions in the school curricula and valid laws derived from Islamic Sharia, let alone that the process of social incorporation made in the past five decades has melted many of factors of sectarian fanaticism, though it did not eliminate it completely.

Finally, one of the important indicators is that this organization cannot, as it seems, change into a recognized political party, as the Yemeni government offered that to it as an alternative to resorting to violence as a means for expressing its political ideas. This organizations inability to change into a political party results from the Yemeni law of parties that prevents the establishment of any political party based on tribal or sectarian basis. It seems that realization of its leadership of that constitutes one of the factors for continuing violence and refusal of handing over its weapons and members to the state authorities in return for safety with exception of those who have perpetrated crimes of murder of offence.

Usually, the price the states to pay for ending such ideological organizations will be high. Yemen has sustained more than 500 killed and more than 2,000 wounded and material losses exceeding $600 million during the three months of confrontations in 2004 with Al-Houthi. Those confrontations destroyed the essential structure of that organization, but present confrontations, if they aim at closing the file for good, their cost will be high, not necessarily at the human level, but a material one. This now means that the army will endeavor to control all the positions the Houthis possess and become the permanent military presence in those areas in order to prevent the return of the rebellion. Then Al-Houthis will have no other choice but to return to dialogue or the return ordinary life, as was the case in the establishment of this ideological organization.

Source: The Gulf