The Heart of Agate

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This film examines the 20 years of Yemen's political history with a focus on the Houthis and their performance.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration:

At midnight on Thursday, April 1st, 2015, the thunder of warplanes accompanied by massive explosions woke the children of Yemen. Saudi Arabia had initiated a war against Yemen, which, as claimed by the Saudi Ambassador to Washington Adel al-Jubeir, sought to reestablish the legitimacy of deposed Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi; and also to prevent the Ansarullah movement from dominating the Arab Peninsula country.

The sudden invasion, which took place after receiving a green light from the United States and Britain, was the most visible and blatant instance of the Saudi regime’s interference in the fate of the Yemeni people over recent years - an overt war, waged after Al Saud’s ever-duplicitous goals and policies had been met with defeat.

But what had taken place within Yemen’s political environment that had forced foreign powers to undertake all but open military invasion in order to change the balance of power in Yemen and secure their aims?

How had Ansarullah transformed from a small group to such power that Saudi Arabia contravened international law, acting preemptively to preserve the interests of itself as well as those of its Persian Gulf allies?

These questions can be answered with reference to a decade of tension in Yemen’s political atmosphere, which featured barbaric acts such as the six-fold wars, which the incumbent government unleashed upon the Ansarullah, the consequence of which gave Ansarullah greater sophistication and experience by the day. This chronicle dates back some 20 years.

On May 22nd, 1990, the Republic of Yemen was born out of the union between North and South Yemen and Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of the former country, was officially sworn in as the new nation’s head of state. However, his discriminatory policies led to discontent among the people and leaders of the south, as well as numerous tensions and crises, eventually causing a civil war in 1994.

The war, which is viewed by some as a war of unification and by others as a war of separation went on for two months. During the war, the central government massacred the people of the south and destroyed the area’s facilities and infrastructures, enjoying the jurisprudential and spiritual support of Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood, a.k.a. the reform movement, and having received the requisite go-aheads and fatwas of the muftis affiliated to the Brotherhood to accuse the southerners to a postasy. Soon after on July 7th, 1994, Saleh’s government conquered Aden, defeating the movement of the south, forcing its leaders to flee.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “It was then that the northerners started establishing dominance over the southerners. They saw it fit to gain dominance over everything and Ali Abdullah Saleh managed to fully demolish the south and completely expand his control there.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Salam Abbas, Secretary General of Yemeni Scholars Association: “Saleh embarked on many things. He assumed control of many power centers and spent a lot of money on them.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Of course, these things were not Saleh’s doing alone. These were done by the coalition of politicians from his family in Sanhan and Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar’s family in Hashid.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “Saudi Arabia’s interference in Yemen continued in a direct manner. For instance, it was Saudi Arabia, which always supported Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, and it was the kingdom, which helped him rise to this military authority.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Shamsan Mohsen: “Having weaving their in-roads and after attaining control over the situation, they - especially al-Ahmar - were seeking to become the main puppeteers in Yemen.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar: “Wealth was drawn around these people and the hypocrites around them and the country turned into an arena for ransacking and plunder.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And, following Saleh’s victory, he was faced with the demand to form a national unity government. The formation of such government would appease the losers of the war. The winners, however, rejected the proposal.”

Narration: One of those severely insisting upon national unity was Seyyed Badr al-Din al-Houthi, the leader of Zaidi Houthis.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “...who was a great erudite belonging to the city of Houth, south of the Sa’ada governorate. He is one of the pillars of the Zaidi sect.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

Narration: Seyyed Badr al-Din is one of the Zaidi sect’s prominent scholars and jurisprudents. He is also the father of Seyyed Hussein al-Houthi, and the current leader of the Houthi movement is Seyyed Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Shamsan Mohsen: “And they conspired against the brothers, whom they considered to be their opponents and real enemies, although those brothers were the followers of the House of Mohammad (PBUH), the Zaydi sect and the noble people from the south, and much oppression and torture was brought about.”

Narration: It had been going on for a while that some of those around Saleh, who had supported him in the war, were throwing tantrums. They were subjects of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and this was an element, which was a potential threat to Saleh’s government in the long run. From Saleh’s perspective, Zaidis were the only people, whom he could pit against the Brotherhood, should he see fit.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And since Saleh new this fact, he resorted to the divide-and-rule policy, which was being used by Britain at the time. He called the policy “dancing on the heads of snakes,” through which, he would support one side against the other and, in most cases, support both of the sides.”

Narration: In 1993, the Zaidis, who included a group of scholars - among whom were Seyyed Majd Al-Din Mohammad Al-Mu’ayyidi and Seyyed Badr al-Din al-Houthi - and whom mostly resided in the Sa’ada Governorate, created the Al-Haqq Islamic party. It is clear that Saleh’s policy at the time was to accommodate developments of this type and institutions like the Al-Haqq party were able to stand in the face of extremist and radical ideologies in Yemen, including al-Qaeda, and this was a plus for Saleh’s government, which was under pressure from the United States to confront al-Qaeda.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar: “The party however, roused the opposition on matters of religious emulation by embarking on innovation and being influenced by the Revolution of Imam Khomeini. In other words, they mobilized, while those sources of emulation merely espoused jurisprudence, scholarship and things of that nature.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Therefore, a rift came about between the conservatives and the open-minded. The former comprised the Zaidi scholars and the elder ones, while the latter was led by Mohammed Azzan.”

Narration: But, for how long could this go on? There was a need for a moderate point of view to converge the two lines of thought and prevent further divison and unease. Hussein al-Houthi, a like-minded friend of Azzan’s, who maintained a moderate position, undertook to do this. While engaging in political activity, Seyyed Hussein started to write and propogate his ideology, especially among the young generation.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “Hussein al-Houthi was a parliamentarian; a strong personality, who maintained innovative thoughts. He had a special charisma, which awarded him popularity and fame among Zaidis, especially in Sa’ada.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And Seyyed Badr al-Din al-Houthi maintained a moderate position, which caused everyone to find solace in him.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Shamsan Mohsen: “And this made him similar to other notable personalities - great people and religious personages, who undertook to promulgate ideology and educate people.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Salam Abbas, Secretary General of Yemeni Scholars Association: “A time had come that oppression in Yemen had come to a head and the country was experiencing intellectual, economic, and military invasion and war on its own soil.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “After returning from Sudan, he tried to resolve the problems, which had grown deeper between the open-minded and conservative movements.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar: “He said this studying of yours is just for show. While you’re thumbing through books, oppression has thrown its clutches over the country.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “In his mind, the problem resided in divergence from the Noble Qur’an. Hence, he started to invite people to return to the holy book.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Seyyed Hussein al-Houthi: “We return to the Noble Quran as we return to the reality.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “With every policy that would be issued, he would circulate some Qur’anic verses and compare the meaning to the existing circumstances.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “And then the ideology of revolution and change and refusal to accept the present circumstances was engendered in his mind.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar:“Seyyed Hussein al-Houthi resided in al-Maran in northern Yemen on a mountain that overlooked Saudi Arabia. He embarked upon contemplation as well as addressing and preparing the youth, who developed a strong admiration toward Seyyed and were influenced by him.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “So, at that time, he created a group in Sa’ada, named al-Shabab al-Mu’men and adopted a number of slogans as well as political and cultural inclinations.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert:“The movement is essentially a cultural one. In other words, it maintains a cultural plan of action and perspective for its activities and presence.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Salam Abbas, Secretary General of Yemeni Scholars Association: “The movement rose up, devoted to the seeking of justice, and it rejected all foreign intervention as well as oppression, callousness and tyranny.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert:“He possessed an authoritative presence in Sa’ada. This was alarming for the central government in Sana’a and Yemen’s northern neighbor, Saudi Arabia.”

Narration: Saudi Arabia was the US’s main ally in the region; a fact that had made the kingdom a source of concern for Yemen’s government. Saleh was being gradually pressured to act against the Zaidis. What he did though was to begin suppressing the main allies of the Saudis - namely Salafis - instead of fighting the Zaidis.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And after the events of 9/11, the relations between the US and Saudi Arabia became strained since most of the people who carried out the operation, possessed Saudi passports. It was then that Saleh thought he could become the US’s premier ally in the region.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Saleh tried to ally himself with the US in a coalition against terrorism.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Therefore, he speedily undertook to eradicate Salafis, especially those who had returned from Afghanistan.”

Narration: Then the time came when Saleh finally pit the Houthis against the Salafis. But things did not go according to his long-time plans. Instead of confronting and taking revenge on Wahhabis and Salafis, Hossein al-Houthi turned the confrontation into one against the US.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “He did so by declaring he would not accept that US interrogators come and interrogate Yemeni civilians.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement:“Bush started an international war on Islam - he called it war on terrorism - Seyyed Hussein, however, denounced it as a war on Islam.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And he said the US was doing this on a global scale so that we may face a moral defeat and that the killing of Muslims would turn into an everyday matter. He said moral defeat was more dangerous than military defeat and, therefore, started to chant this slogan.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Seyyed Hussein al-Houthi:“Is it not the US and Israel and all of its mercenaries, against whom all of our words are directed against?”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar:“Therefore, Seyyed Hussein said he would alienate the people from the slogan of fear. And if the government became angry, he would ask them, “Why do you lose your temper over the US and Israel?”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Accordingly, he sought to popularize moral slogans so we do not face moral defeat and these slogans were aimed to counter that of Bush’s, who deceptively said, “Anyone, who is not with us, is against us.”Ali Abdullah Saleh came to the conclusion that this undertaking of Seyyed Hussein had robbed him of the opportunity to become the US’s preferred ally in the region.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement:“And he escalated oppression, tyranny, destruction, torture and imprisonment.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Shamsan Mohsen:“Since then, the government has sought their ‘desired version’ of Islam and their desired personalities and scholars, whom they can remotely control.”

Narration: On January 18th, 2004, thousands of soldiers, backed by tens of aircraft, hundreds of tanks, cannons, and other heavy and semi-heavy military equipment, attacked the areas of el-Nashour, Al Saifi, Maran, and Zahyan in the Sa’ada Governorate. It was the government’s first war on the Houthis, which lasted for three months.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert:“The person, who directed the wars against Zaidi Shias or al-Shabab al-Mu’men was named Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and was among those close to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He, however, was inclined toward Wahhabism. Known to maintain such inclination, he received his orders from Saudi Arabia.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary: “The civil war lasted for some time and then Seyyed Hossein was martyred and his body was confiscated. The body was placed in one of the central prisons in Sana’a in order to be out of reach of his followers; so that his followers could not erect a tomb for him; and so that Seyyed, who was the leader of a movement, could not be paid tribute to.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: However, prior to the fall of Maran, Seyyed Hossein had ordered Seyyed Abdul-Malik al-Houthi to be transferred from the area to another. He secretly knew of Abdul-Malik’s importance, without divulging this to anyone else.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

Narration: The death of Seyyed Hussein al-Houthi, the leader of the Zaidis, and many of his aides, dissipated Saleh’s and Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar’s concerns regarding the situation in Sa’ada, especially in light of the fact that the movement had lost its leader.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “The al-Shabab al-Mu’men movement, however, did not go disband, but lived on thanks to the support of Hussein’s father and martyr, Allameh Badr al-Din al-Houthi.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “At the time, negotiations were underway between Ansar and the government. The talks were led by Seyyed Badr al-Din al-Houthi, who represented Ansarullah.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary: “The government, though, did not live up to its promises. Seyyed Badr al-Din consequently returned to the area of al-Nashour.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Following Seyyed Hussein’s martyrdom, all eyes turned towards Abdullah al-Ruzami, his former colleague in the House of Representatives, with no one even thinking of Abdul-Malik.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Abdullah al-Ruzami was residing in al-Nashour and thus Ansarullah members made their way to that area, gathering there.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “The area of al-Nashour is very small and surrounded by mountains on every side.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “At the time, Seyyed Abdul-Malik said it was a mistake for the Ansarullah to congregate in the area as it is too open and also it is close to a major garrison. He said that it was incumbent upon the movement to spread out and ordered each member to start operating independently in the area. Al-Ruzami disapproved of this idea.”

Narration: Towards the end of January, 2005, Abdullah Saleh waged his second war on the Houthis. On this occasion, al-Ruzami was the leader of the Ansarullah movement’s military wing and undertook to direct its defense. Despite the efforts and martyrdom of many of his brethren, this war too ended with the movement’s defeat and his arrest on March 27, 2005. As their enemy closed on, Badr al-Din al-Houthi retreated through the impassable mountain range of Sa’ada together with his remaining fighters.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Some of these fighters would actually tie themselves up to force themselves to stand their ground and there they fought until they were martyred.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “After this second war, leadership was passed down to Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, who is now considered the leader of the Ansarullah.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Seyyed Abdul-Malik departed for Matran, which is a strategic area, geographically reinforced. On his departure, he was accompanied by a small number of people, but, with time, others joined with him, believing in his cause.”

Narration: It was during this sojourn that people began to be drawn to Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, the younger son of Seyyed Badr al-Din despite there being an older brother, named Yahya.. Abdul-Malik, born in 1979 in Sa’ada Governorate, rose to a leadership rank of Shabab al-Mu’men owing to his psychic abilities and personal characteristic.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Once his popularity was apparent, Abdul-Malik started to preach some ideological themes to initiate people with Seyyed Hussein’s ways and credos.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar: “He then dispatched youth to Sana’a to spread his ideology. These emissaries were met by the brutality of security forces and thrown into security, political prisons or other kinds of prisons.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “The government commanded them to stay in the mountains and even offered to pay them to do this. But Seyyed Abdul-Malik rejected these demands and hence a third war began, which was the beginning of victories.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“It could be interpreted from the measures the government implemented during this third war that it sought to utterly annihilate the movement.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Meetings took place between Saudi Arabia and the US over how to steer the war toward achieving the total eradication of the Houthi movement once and for all. Houthis were bombarded with false accusations and subjected to a massive propaganda campaign.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And when the third war started, most all of the fighters followed the lead of Seyyed Abdul-Malik.”

Narration: The third war took place in March, 2006 under the command of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. But this time it was the Houthis that won, delivering a heavy toll upon the aggressors. The victory further affirmed the position of Abdul-Malik and the Houthis as heroes among the people, while causing deeper concern for the Yemeni government and consequently, the Saudis. Saleh put on a public face, but in secret he was planning vengeance.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Then they released all the prisoners as part of their plan to prepare themselves for a fourth war, which was indeed a war of eradication. Since it was not tactful to kill 800 inmates whilst incarcerated, they released them so they could be killed on the battlefield.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Then commencement of the fourth war was violent and severe. Just imagine a sudden onslaught of aggression directed at a single location with all the weaponry in their possession with around-the-clock attacks. But, by the grace of God the Almighty the defenders withstood this aggression and claimed victory. Warfare ended, leaving the government in defeat, and weakened.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“The victors were Ansarullah. The win enabled the group to capitalize on their position and on their wartime experience to negotiate an agreement with the government.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“But there was a fifth war and it was during this that the Ansarullah movement increased their claim, managing to free al-Maran and forcing the government to withdraw from the area as well as many other areas in Sa’ada.”

Narration: The fifth war began in March, 2008 and ended in January the following year with a resounding victory for the Houthis. Their momentum led to a significant growth in awareness of the people who were all invited to become acquainted with the al-Shabab al-Mu’men’s movement - thereafter identified as Ansarullah.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“The movement grew and spread beyond Sa’ada Governorate into Hajjah, Al Jawf, and 'Amran, capturing greater influence in other governorates, expanding remarkably quickly.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And the fighters’ faith in Seyyed Abdul-Malik’s ability to direct the group, grew at every stage.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar: “Each time the aggressors started their wars, the Yemeni youth became more resistant, more determined. This was very noticeable following the third war, the fourth and fifth wars. We could not predict such a phenomenon would occur. “

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Al Arabiya reporter: “In the most recent developments to take place near Saudi Arabia’s border area, media broadcaster Al-Arabiya goto wind that skirmishes had taken place, especially in the region overlooking al-Dukhan Mountain.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Then there came a sixth war between the government and Ansarullah, with Saudi Arabia and the US ready prop up the government and join in. Eventually 28 countries became involved in this war.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“Saudi Arabia had supported the Yemeni government in all of its previous wars on Ansarullah. In this sixth one, the Wahhabi kingdom used their own fighters in direct confrontations.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “And they sought to enter Sa’ada governorate with military forces in an attempt to destroy outright the al-Shabab al-Mu’men movement.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Saudi Arabia entered the war directly, decimating suburbs, dropping bombs from their planes, from their American aircraft.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“More than 20,000 houses were destroyed and thousands of people were killed, particularly among the civilians - women, children, and the elderly. In fact, they intentionally destroyed homes while the people were still inside, and in some cases these civilians lived outside the confrontation zone in peaceful residential areas, which did not have relevance to the battleground.”

Narration: The Yemenis had to understand how dearly it would cost them to adhere to Ansarullah’s ideology. Many people were massacred by the bombardment of Saudi and American warplanes, and many infrastructures and property were destroyed. Compared to the previous wars, the sixth war was the most vicious and most complicated one for Ansarullah.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“The sixth war was basically a massacre, which the Yemeni government was carrying out assisted by Saudi Arabia, and even American aircraft had come to the fray. They carried out indiscriminate killings of civilians, and their aim was to inflict the most possible amount of loss and damage.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“However, the loss suffered by the aggressors: Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other countries, which confronted the Ansarullah movement, was so apparent that it made our victories greater.”

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “Al-Shabab al-Mu’men adopted a new form of self-defense in their fighting, which led to the defeat of the Saudi Army, laying bare its weaknesses, and disgracing it amongst the other armies of the world. Despite Saudi Arabia possessing highly sophisticated weaponry and equipment bought mainly from the United States, the kingdom did not manage to conquer anything on the ground.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “Instead, al-Shabab al-Mu’men - otherwise known as the Houthis - managed to advance onto Saudi soil, especially in al-Dukhan and the al-Jaberi mountains where they stayed and left only after signing an agreement with the Yemeni central government. This was an important juncture in the progress made by the al-Shabab al-Mu’men movement.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“Thank God, the movement was victorious out of the war and defeated the invasion forces. Thousands of people, tired of the oppression they were living under, gathered around the movement.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Saudi Arabia’s reputation took a beating, its international stature suffered a freefall. However, we left their soil afterwards as our goal was not to occupy, but to defend ourselves. Saudi Arabia dispatched sheiks and tribal leaders, who were on its payroll saying it was ready to come to terms for the war to stop. They airdropped leaflets, which asked the people to return to their homes and offered them concessions for this and that.”

Narration: Nevertheless, the cessation of the war between Ansarullah and the central government did not mean the cessation of tensions. The Saleh government had had its stature broken also and the ideology of Ansarullah was expanding further and further. This development was intolerable for the ruling regime, the Saudis, and the US. They, however, needed time to plan and develop new conspiracies.It was then that a great storm started.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “The wave of the Arab Spring or Islamic Awakening, which marched over the Arab lands…when the breeze of change reached Yemen, the people from all the classes, tribes, and religions in the country took to the streets. In other words, the people of Yemen completely agreed that the country’s governmental system had to change…”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And Ansarullah were the first political faction that announced their commitment to join the popular revolution in Sana’a.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “It was then that other political parties emerged, late to join the revolutionary wave. Those were not the ones inviting others to the revolution from the very beginning so sought at best to ride on the wave.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “Hence, the reform movement, its leaders and sheiks, its political, religious and tribal factions, all rallied around the revolution and band together to challenge the ruling system in Yemen in the name of the revolution.”

Narration: The waves of revolution removed all obstacles and hurdles in its wake and was not far from victory. Its opponents of course, particularly the Saudis, were, not willing to accept this as inevitable and thus implemented their plan of disruption.On a Friday, which became known as the Friday of Dignity, a group, who has not to-date been identified, initiated riots, set ablaze property, and carryed out murders and even massacres.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) for the video of killings of people: “The Yemeni president deplored the death and wounding of fellow countrymen and formed a committee to investigate the matter. He made some comments regarding the Friday of Dignity incidences in Sana’a.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh: “The police were, in no way, involved in the incidents and did not fire a single shot on the day. The confrontation took place between members of the public and unidentified gunmen.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “One of the analyses of the incidents that occurred on that Friday concludes that the attacks were masterminded by Yemeni army general, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar because he was seeking to dissociate himself from Ali Abdullah Saleh, adopt a revolutionary mask, and manipulate the revolution to enable his rise to power.”

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar: “When al-Ahmar joined the ranks of the revolutionaries, it was not because he was interested in furthering the revolution, but because he was seeking to save himself and his master. His attempts to control the revolutionaries and interfere with its course caused the revolution to rupture.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “They started to assume control of Sana’a, using their military force, upon which they depended, namely al-Ahmar’s command over the First Armoured Division, and managed to take control of the revolution and become its spokesperson.”

Narration: A short time later news emerged, which gave the Yemenis hope regarding the potential victory of their revolution: “Saleh has been assassinated and killed in the Presidential Mosque.”It became known afterwards that this news was exaggerated and that Saleh had been taken to Saudi Arabia having suffered an injury. The incident against the president weakened him, and he was prepared to accommodate any moderate solution.

It was then that the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council plan, which had been prepared under Saudi leadersip, was placed before the Yemeni head of state. The plan would help Saleh avoid prosecution, but oblige him in return to step down; a move that would convince the people of Yemen that they had won.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “The plan also entailed a power-sharing agreement between the Joint Meeting Parties and Saleh. And that was precisely what happened. It, however, did not allot a place to the Zaidi movement, namely the Ansarullah, who were completely left out of the political equation.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“The positions and ministerial offices were distributed between the two sides to the agreement; the youths of the revolution were ignored and begrudged any and every credit.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert:“In other words, imagine a country undergoing a revolution, but nothing in fact changes.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Of course, we rejected the plan as it only sought to redistribute power and preserve the status quo of the pillars of the former administration, and had not been devised to resolve the ordeal of the people.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “The situation continued like this when Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi seized power under the condition that he retains power for two years until new elections are held in 2014.”

SOUNDBITE (English) Obama, US President: “President Hadi obviously faces enormous challenges, but because of his leadership, he’s been able to initiate a national dialogue that could potentially bring the parties together in Yemen….”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “But he actually did not manage to secure the people’s faith. In other words, Yemenis did not feel that those parties actually represented them and that the parties’ only concern was the people’s progress, lives, and pains. And so the people did not trust these political parties.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Consequently a government full of corruption and insecurity took form in Yemen. And, thus, the people’s plight was exacerbated.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Shamsan Mohsen: “After a while corruption in government impacted negatively upon the people and their economic situation, which further exacerbated the entire relationship between the government and the people, which had come to a head in the country and had deteriorated Yemen into a serious dilemma.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “The same situation, which existed during the Saleh rule, continued under Hadi. In other words, the economic situation was bad and continued like that.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Salam Abbas, Secretary General of Yemeni Scholars Association: “And also there was corruption in all aspects of life even on a mental level.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “They tried to ignore all other political factions, and the Yemeni nation was still perceived as weak.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“The true forces, however, continued their revolution and stayed opposed to the policies of the government, which became known as the PGCC-proposed administration.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “We proposed that a national committee be formed, which would emanate from national dialogue meetings and that this committee act as the council of representatives of the people.But unfortunately the proposal was undermined by the Mu'tamir and Al-Islah parties, since they knew it would enable real participation.”

Narration: Although, Ansarullah had been omitted from Yemen’s political arena, the movement continued its political activities. They asked for Martyr Seyyed Hussein Badr al-Din’s body to be returned - a demand that was met by the government. The people’s reaction to Hussein Badr al-Din’s funeral showed just how strong Ansarulla’s position among the people was.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Allameh Mahtouri, Religious Scholar: “Ali Saleh had intended to keep al-Din’s body hidden and forgotten, but around one million people turned up to the burial, which I, too, participated in. They said prayers at the burial site and built a dome over it.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “After 2011 and following Saleh’s ouster, Ansarullah managed to find itself in an atmosphere that featured greater freedom. They started political and cultural activities, expanded their presence into neighboring governorates where some confrontations took place with the Takfiri movement presented by Al-Islah party.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

Narration: Although, Ansarullah was known to uphold Shia thoughts and ideologies, they possessed positive influence among Yemen’s general public. The perspective maintained by Martyr Seyyed Hossein al-Houthi and later his brother Abdul-Malik entailed moderation and interaction with all the Yemenis, notwithstanding their inclination or political-religious interests. This feature had resulted in the speedy development of Ansarullah’s ideology and was in part responsible for attracting more supporters.

Their welcomed efforts guaranteed concern and fear on the part of the government, which was, as before, being supported by the Saudis. The administration, however, had points of weakness that had ruled out serious confrontation with Ansarullah. The instances of weakness did not simply concern the economic situation. In the security area, fragilities were enhanced by numerous assassinations of national personalities. In the political arena, smaller parties and factions have all been set aside save for two or three major political parties.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And they ignored the others. Hadi, however, was not holding a true grip on power and his domination was becoming more limited with time, be it as a result of Ansarulla’s expansion; al-Qaeda’s advancement in certain areas; development of the south’s movement; or the frustrations with security problems.

Matters worsened to a point where they even lost control of Sana’a and as a result, their only important task and mission became the eradication of their enemies, and eventually this situation could not go on anymore.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Salam Abbas, Secretary General of Yemeni Scholars Association: “They tried to destroy Yemen’s heritage and history as well as all moderate and coexisting ideas in the county, imposing their own Takfiri ideology.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council:“It was for this reason we were faced with a decision: Either leave everything as it is - let the corruption worsen; the people suffer more adversity; and the security situation worsen until things come to starvation and massacre of the people of Yemen; or, to actually do something. So we chose to take action and the people responded to this in a remarkable way.The corrupt parties in response to our actions sought to involve their foreign allies, namely the US and regional nations. We told them not to do so because they had already lost the support of the people.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary: “The revolutionary movement that had started from the people at the grassroots level, not the political parties, continued and rejected government policies with protests and staged strikes.”

Narration: Opponents of Ansarullah were seeking a way to strike back at the movement, while the distance and tensions between the people and the central government continued to grow wider. The ‘Siege of Damage’ provided the excuse for the government to stoke the people’s wrath against Sa’ada’s civilians, and actually the Ansarullah.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“Last year, and after the government’s failure in the sixth war, in-roads were made by fringe groups such as Al Islah, Takfiri forces, and also the military under the command of Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar. This influence grew and went on as far as the taking place of the Dammaj incident.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “Dammaj is a symbol for the wars that took place between Ansarullah and Takfiri forces in the area. In fact, Dammaj was not a seminary used for teaching science and Arabic language, but was a type of garrison, where terrorists coming from the four corners of the world gathered under the pretext of learning about religion and language….”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“They sought to confront Ansarullah, but eventually realized they were nothing more than bait and not equipped to stand in the face of Ansarullah. So they preferred to withdraw with all their equipment, leaving Dammaj populated by only its own residents, even if the remnants were Salafis. Seyyed Abdul-Malik sent them a letter to affirm that they were not in danger and were free to practice their ideology and belief provided they do not attempt to damage the security of the governorate.”

TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Al Islah party speaker: “And Dammaj awaits you O’ brothers. Dammaj is a bright candle, and if this candle goes out, Houthis shall win since the government has become afraid of them.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“Using Dammaj as a pretext, Takfiri forces came from the Ketaf area to the east of Sa’ada governorate and Al Malahit, which is located to the west of Sa’ada city in the city of Hajjah, and to the city of Hashid near Houth.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“They imposed a siege and sought to besiege Sa’ada plus whatever is inside it and terrorize its one-million-strong population.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“They prevented the entry of food and medicine. Travellers who would enter or leave would be executed by fire squad, which led to the deaths of scores of Sa’ada’s children.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mahtouri voice: “Commit to struggle…do so with your cries, hands, hearts, rifles, with whatever you can. Should there come a day when you are forced to stage a struggle with stone and soil, go ahead and do so.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“Popular forces stood in the face of the siege and Ansarullah managed to break it from the direction of the eastern front, which was an area in Ketaf. Takfiris have been operating out of there for about 30 years.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“They then rallied towards the Hashid front.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Arabic Russia Today: “Armed Houthis have managed to take control of the cities of Houth and Khemrin in the ‘Amran governorate and to the north of the capital; a development that took place after two months of bloody confrontation with men from the Hashid tribes. In January, the Presidential Council had reached an agreement for the cessation of confrontations between Houthis and Salafis in northern Yemen. However, a continuation of fighting by Hashid Front forces has overcome Takfiri-controlled Houth over the past hours and is now under the control of the Houthis.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“This front experienced defeat and the rest of the Takfiris withdrew from the area towards the city of ‘Amran.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “‘Amran is a governorate neighboring the capital Sana’a. Ansarullah maintains a cultural presence there.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“Ansarullah launched a youth revolution and sought to stage peaceful protest, but they were confronted by armed forces and were killed. They then adapted and mounted armed confrontations, which has manifested into a historical saga.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “The confrontation, which took place in ‘Amran, was of great importance and changed the power equation in Yemen.”

Narration: Withdrawing, the Takfiris took the battle to Jawf - a mountainous region, but despite being backed by Yemeni warplanes, the Takfiris lost the battle there to Ansarullah, who now have control of ‘Amran and much of the surrounding area.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “Many people are in a state of shock regarding Ansarullah’s capability to pull off these victories against the Takfiris, despite the latter being supported by regional countries and the US. When we achieved success in Rada’a, the United Nations Security Council and the United States issued a statement of threats against us.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “The situation in Sana’a was moving in a direction that held great promise for the presence of Ansarullah in the capital. Everything was progressing to where Ansarullah would be able to generate greater influence and undertake more serious endeavors.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“The people were against the government’s policies. They saw corruption in its worst form under Ali Abdullah Saleh. So, they had reached a stage of rebellion in their disappointment concerning this government. And then the Jar’ah law came into force and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The people could not take it anymore after that.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “The government decided to raise the price of gasoline and fuel and this action ignited the first spark of public revolt. The price of various essential fuels doubled in an instant, which exerted tremendous pressure upon Yemeni civilians, already suffering from an insufferable economic situation.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul-Malik speech: “And this is the deplorable state we Yemenis find ourselves in - This Jar’ah law will lead to further oppression, poverty and unemployment. Hence, I ask of the great and tolerant people of Yemen to take to the streets tomorrow, stage a glorious protest, make the world hear them, and gather at squares to say no to this law.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “Initially, Seyyed Abdul-Malik asked via the al-Massirah media channel for people to move on the capital city, Sana’a. This motivated the public to set up expansive camp sites outside of Sana’a in the areas of Sabahah, Haziz, and near the airport.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary:“In this revolution, people of different ethnicities and religions rallied around Ansarullah and the revolution moved forward in a speedy and organized manner.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert:“Ansarullah announced a popular action and movement in Sana’a, which brought three demands. The first was for the fuel prices to return to their previous rates; the second was for the formation of a popular government by worthy people to take the country out of the present crisis; and the third demand was that national dialogue take place for the next eight months.”

Narration: Upon Abdul-Malik’s invitation, protests would take place in Sana’a every week following Friday Prayers. At first, the government would not take this seriously and would think this would meet its end soon enough as was the case with the previous measures. But Ansarullah had a pre-organized plan: Demands had to be met with patience and perseverance, and of course, in a peaceful way.

TIME CODE: 45:00_50:00

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council:“Seyyed Abdul-Malik said clearly that should the government and its allies take up arms, they would face an armed response.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Seyyed Abdul-Malik: “We will fight should you fight us. We will take up arms against you, should you take up arms against us first.”

Narration: Benomar, the United Nations special representative tasked with calming the situation and finding a political solution, came to Yemen. Ali Mohsen and some of the commanders of the Al Islah party rejected any and all political solutions that would acknowledge Ansarullah’s demands and place the movement on equal pegging with the other political parties and groups.The killings of some of Yemeni civilians by forces who did not want to sit at the negotiation table forced Ansarullah to take up arms. Seyyed Abdul-Malik ordered the protection of the protesters against attacks by armed groups, and this meant the onset of armed confrontation.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “And their aim in using arms against the people was to instill fear into the protesters and force them to return to their homes.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary: Then Seyyed Abdul-Malik and his Ansarullah, as well as other popular forces stood in the face of the aggressors.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Najib Hussein, Member of Ansarullah Movement: “We only used force to destroy the enemies of the revolution and the centers of corruption.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “And it is true that these confrontations were limited only to certain areas, but they were very brutal and the civilians, whom were members of popular committees, attacked the base of the First Armored Division and cleared it out. The fall of the armored division was the fall of a symbol that had exercised hegemony over Yemen for decades.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Abdul Majid al-Houthi, Teacher at a Zaidi Seminary: The fall of the division, as well as the takeover of the television station and garrison, which defended it; the fall of the al-Iman society, which had turned into a military centre; and the complete fall of the city of Sana’a in one day against popular forces… …”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “The revolutionaries managed to take complete control of the situation in Sana’a before the other governorates.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Dr. Nashwan al-Assiri, Yemen Expert: “After the fall of the First Armoured Division and the escape of Ali Mohsen, who is currently in Saudi Arabia, all political parties and related groups knew then that the situation had changed and that Ansarullah was now considered the most powerful movement in Yemen.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Shamsan Mohsen: “Everybody was expecting that the fall of Sana’a would be followed by violence similar to what happened in the south, namely plunder, murder, encroachment upon people’s property, and attacks on banks. By God’s grace and thanks to resistance staged by popular forces, however, there were no degrading incidents or material damage.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Mohammad Al-Bakhiti, Member of Ansarullah Political Council: “It is common knowledge in Yemen that any party that holds power in Sana’a makes political decisions like a maverick. We, however, broke this rule and encouraged and directed everyone towards signing a peace agreement and national participation, which includes all political powers.”

Narration: The situation in the country calmed after the escape of General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar to Saudi Arabia. At the end of the day, all political parties and relevant groups, including Ansarullah and the movement of the south, put their signatures to the document of agreement that had been prepared prior to Sana’a’s fall and laid emphasis upon peace, reconciliation, and the participation of all groups in running the country.

Not everything went as the Yemenis had expected, however… The Saudis, a regime passed down hereditarily and not by virtue of election, remained afraid of an independent popular government near their borders. As the future showed, they targeted the legitimacy and democracy of the Yemenis under the pretext of preserving what they themselves lacked, and escalated their interference in Yemen’s internal affairs in the form of another proxy war to secure the goals of the United States and international Zionism. They are morbidly afraid of having popular governments in their neighborhood since such governments run counter to them usurping more foreign land for oil, power, and enforcing dictatorship.

   

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