Sectarian conflict leads to further displacement
About 1,000 familes have fled their homes in Hajja’s Kushr district over the past three weeks in response to fierce battles between Shiite Houthis and the Sunni Salafis, said Mohamed Solita, an officer at the Hajja’s Siraj Development Organization.
The violent clashes have taken place in Ahim in Hajja, which includes the Kushr, Mustaba, Shuham, and Aslam, where around 150,000 people live.
Fighting erupted two months ago after the Houthis entered a dispute with local Salafis who, loyal to the Islah Party, run a Quranic school in Kushr. Armed clashes in Damaj in Sa’ada between Salafi students and Houthis followed, which fueled further battles in Hajja. More local Salafi tribesmen proceeded to fight against the Houthis, Mohammed Al-Wadee, a local citizen in Sa’ada, told the Yemen Times.
People who left their homes in Ahim now live in tents close to Al-Mazraq refugee camp in Haradh in Hajja, and lack food, shelter and other living items, according to Solita.
Other displaced peoples have moved to Hayran, a district close to Haradh, while others have been hosted by relatives in non-violent areas, according to Siraj.
“Until now, no organization has given any aid to the new displaced people,” Solita said.
Four violent fronts
According to Al-Wadee, three other war fronts remain active in Sa’ada and Hajja, this despite a ceasefire brokered by local tribal leaders in January. The sectarian conflict first arose in November 2011.
Tribesmen from Sa’ada, now displaced, sided with the government in their six years of war against the Houthi rebels. They have now joined battles against the Houthis in the Kutaf district.
“Because many tribesmen were forced to leave their homes because of the Houthis, their farms were taken, and they have now joined the war against the Houthis,” Al-Wadee said.
According to Al-Wadee, prominent tribal leaders from Sa’ada who supported the government’s war against the Houthis now live in Sana’a. These include Sheikh Othman Mojali, Sheikh Bin Mugeet, Ali Dhafer, Bin Azeez, and Abdulqader Shawit.
Hajja’s Ahim front remains active after erupting into violence just three weeks ago. Houthis have since taken control of a Salafi school.
The final front is in Sa’ada’s Munabh, where one prominent Salafi figure was assassinated ten days ago by the Houthis. Although no clashes have yet been reported at this new front, they are expected to break out following increased tension and acts of incitement.
Houthis show off
On Friday, around 2,000 cars have arrived in Sa’ada city from many other governorates to join the Houthis in celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed. Sa’a’da has been under Houthi control since March 2011.
A huge crowd consisting of Houthis and their supporters attended the celebration. An impassioned speech was delivered by their leader, Abd Al-Malik Al-Houthi.
“A large number of Houthi militants were killed in recent clashes, and this made them to hold this celebration to cheer up their militants,” said a Salafi media representative from Damaj.
He added that some of the arrivals in Sa’ada for the celebration were from Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and that all of them share the same religious ideology. In a telephone conversation with the Yemen Times, the Houthis’ media office denied the above claims by the Salafi media representative.
“It is not true that we showed off at our assembly. The people of north Yemen have been celebrating this religious occasion for a long time,” the Houthi spokesperson said.
“There is no war front in north Yemen. There are only mercenaries in some areas that are paid by Saudi Arabia to carry out foreign agendas in north Yemen,” he added.