Houthi leader Ali Al-Emad to the Yemen Times
Ali Al-Emad, a well-known Houthi leader and representative of Houthis in Sana’a’s Change Square, became known as a leader of the Houthi movement during the 2011 uprisings. He spoke with the Yemen Times about the National Dialogue Conference, disagreements between the Islah Party and Houthis, the Southern issue and the U.S. role in Yemen. Al-Emad also discussed how Houthis see the transitional government’s current performance.
To start: you removed yourself from the preparatory committee of the National Dialogue due to the presence of U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein. Is this justification for your withdrawal accurate?
We have several comments on the American role in Yemen. We think that the U.S. administration doesn’t respect Yemenis and is managing everything in the Yemen. The U.S. ambassador wanted to hold the lead in the Yemeni scene by visiting Abyan after the so-called “war on Al-Qaeda.”
Even his statement regarding military performance and army reorganizing indicates that he controls everything in Yemen. Therefore, it seems that inviting the ambassador to the meeting was just to restore him after the American-made film mocking Prophet Mohammed.
It is said the U.S supports Yemen’s peaceful transition of power. So is it suitable to oppose the U.S.in this deteriorating situation?
Each one has to obtain an attitude toward any colonial country that doesn’t want stability in his country. We know that the U.S. pays lip service to democracy, but they are against it and against stability in the country. It is known that the U.S. brought great problems to all countries it set foot in. Explosions and violence in any country coincides with the presence of Americans. Therefore, what is said is only the opposite of what is done.
As a Houthi, what is your priority: to make the National Dialogue successful or to boycott the U.S. ambassador and the National Dialogue committee?
The issue must be understood in the right way. We didn’t boycott the National Dialogue but rather refused to attend the [preparatory] meeting in the ambassador’s attendance.
We’ll take part in the National Dialogue, and we hope it’ll be concluded with positive results. The National Dialogue is the only way out of this situation and the most suitable solution for Yemen. However, some changes that took place in the National Dialogue Committee intended to foil the dialogue. Some people are affecting the dialogue negatively and trying to impose certain powers on the committee as happened in the reconciliation government.
Who are those powers?
Unfortunately, decision-makers in Yemen are following what external powers want. Several changes and appointments took place, and all the powers affected by the former regime resented them.
As you see, the Nasserites, Socialists, Houthis and Southerners (Harak) had no real partnership with the former regime, and they resented these changes. However,some powers that had common interests with the former regime and were part and parcel of it benefited from these changes and were able to regain control due to the American interference.
But aren’t President Hadi’s latest decrees, adding members from the Southern Movement to the dialogue committee, important because the southern issue is a priority in the National Dialogue?
I understand that the southern issue is very essential and we’ll never be able to construct a civil country unless we solve it, but the names that have been added to the committee such as Abdullah Al-Nakhibiare known to be so close to the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), and their statements since the beginning of the revolution serve their attitudes.
It is true that we can’t talk about the Southern Movement, but by observing it, I found that Al-Nakhibi doesn’t follow the same track as the Southern Movement.
Al-Nakhibi follows the track of Harak, which doesn’t call for separation. Do you oppose him because he doesn’t call for separation?
I follow the Harak factions and its big alliances, and I believe that people like Al-Nakhbi don’t serve the south—or in other words, they may serve it, but they don’t coincide with the demands of southerners.
It is said the Houthis obstruct Hadi’s decrees in the National Dialogue Committee because Abdulmalik Al-Houthi refused Hadi’s appointments of Saleh Habra and Mohammed Abdulsalamto the committee and replaced them with Mohammed Al-Bokhaiti and Ahmed Sharaf Al-Deen?
It is our right to choose whomever we like. At the same time, it is known that Sana’a is divided between forces that follow Ali Abdullah Saleh, Ahmed Ali or Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, and the security situation doesn’t help a third party to exist.
How will the National Dialogue change if each person refuses Hadi’s decrees concerning members of the committee?
As I told you earlier, each one has to know the security threats against the Houthis since Sana’a is still controlled by certain people. We also think that the people we chose are qualified. For instance, Doctor Ahmad Sharaf Al-Deen is well known and more qualified to serve the Dialogue than anyone else. I think we made good choices.
I follow the Dialogue sessions, and I can say that they performed well and were accepted by all parties. I think there is no problem in replacing two members based on their qualifications.
Politicians said that the assassination attempt on Doctor Yaseen Saeed Noa’man is media hype. They say what really happened is a soldier affiliated with the First Armored Division shot his gun in the air when he was driving near the area.
I heard some claims like that. The latest was the head of the Islah Party saying that it was an unintentional attempt. But, Noa’man is the only one talking about it, and he said in an interview with a Lebanese newspaper that it was an assassination attempt. I wonder about the things other people are saying, contrary to what Noa’man said.
Previously you said that some people control Sana’a. Who are they?
It is very clear and anyone in the street can answer this question. Sana’a is divided into two parts between Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Republican Guards on one side and the First Armored Division and Islah on the other.
But, the Houthis can move freely in Sana’a. Sources reported that they were able to reach the U.S. Embassy and spread their influence to different areas in Sana’a. Does this contradict what you said?
As for the U.S. Embassy, the protesters belonged to many different groups in Yemeni society and not just the Houthis . I think it would be a great honor if the Houthis were the only ones to organize and start the protest, but I don’t claim this because members from the Socialist Party, Islah Party, the Houthis and independent individuals participated because the call to protest was made via the Internet.
Who shot and arrested them?
There are organized gangs, linked to certain groups, that don’t respect the freedom to think and still don’t believe in the revolution.
You don’t know who has done this thus far?
We cannot say a particular name. But, there are signs that indicate there have been obvious groups provoking sectarianism for years.
A recent report, released by the Aba’ad Strategic Center for Studies, said that the latest events at the American Embassy particularly served the Houthis’ expansion. The Houthis took advantage of the American film maligning the Prophet Mohammed. What do you think?
Those who say we leveraged the film to earn the sympathy of people ought to consider the rights of the Prophet and stand by him just as they pretend to side with his companions, may they rest in peace. I was really surprised to find all the condemning statements that denounced the assault of the embassy and then mention the slander of the prophet. These are negative messages that society should understand.
Some say there was a conspiracy between the Houthis and security forces to help the protesters approach the American Embassy.
I wish the observers would have been fair and had followed the protesters who broke into the embassy. They would have seen a large variety of people. It was analogous to the first days of the breakout of the youth revolution. No one can say it is one-sided. We reached the embassy and protested peacefully, and this is a great honor. But, the reports of looting computers and printers is planned and fabricated news.
We staged a demonstration on Friday. It was a sizeable demonstration that moved towards President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi's house. I can say it was one of the largest demonstrations.
There are criticisms about the performance of the government. As Houthis, how do you evaluate its performance?
To date, there is nothing called the "performance" of government. What is currently taking place is normal because the government was divided fifty-fifty between political stakeholders. There was no consideration for the eligibility criteria. Thus, I think the government has not done so much. I think disputes among the governmental powers are still ongoing either from the General People’s Congress and its allies and the Coalition Opposition Parties and its allies.
As we have noticed some ministers attempt to appoint a large number of employees in an unrestrained way. The government doesn’t care about people. It is concerned with jobs at the expense of the civil service law. The government is also a group of personalities affiliated with political parties whose concern is their parties. We don’t see any government performance. It is only a dispute.
Some say you turned down the Gulf Initiative to spite Saudi Arabia, who had a principal role in wording the initiative.
We have no strategic hostility toward Saudi Arabia. But, we know the Saudi supported the former regime during the Sa’ada wars. The Gulf Initiative wasn't popular with a lot of youth.
Has Iran been interfering in Yemeni affairs?
We hear about the Iranian interference in Yemeni affairs. We heard such news during the former regime. The current regime is saying the same now. It is petty that Saudi Arabia intervenes at donor conferences saying they have discovered an Iranian spy ring. However, to date, no Iranian spy ring has stood a trial or been prosecuted. No evidence has been provided. With regard to the interference of Saudi Arabia, media outlets have revealed lists implicating guilt. There are lists which prove that Saudi Arabia delivers 12,000 salaries to influential figures in Yemen without apology.
Is it true the Houthis executed a worker from the Taiz governorate under the pretext of espionage?
All that is said about Houthis is fabricated by the Islah Party. The man was killed in Amran, and we know who controls Amran. Amran is not under our control.
What is the state of government the Houthis aspire to have?
Our objective is but one: building a democratic civil state that guarantees the rights of everyone and is dominated by the law.
Will the Houthis hand over their weapons in case the civil state is established?
Houthis or any other people have no rights to hold weapons when: the rights of people are guaranteed, when people are secure, when the American drones are stopped from interfering in the region, when the partisan militants are disarmed, and when the country has a strong army, not shared between Ali Mohsen and Ahmed Ali.
When will the Houthis declare themselves a political party, considering many people don’t even know what the word ‘Houthi’ means?
Our main name is Ansar Allhah (the supporters of Allah). We have a hand in the political arena. We have our offices and our political tools. The difference is but the name.
What prevents you from establishing a political party?
When there is a wide democratic space for our political movement, we will be available as a political party.
Is there a relationship between the Al-Uma Party and the Houthis?
There are common ideologies that we share with many political parties. They have the option to establish a party. We support and welcome that. They are people that we hold in esteem.
Why didn’t the Houthis unite with the Al-Haq and the Al-Uma parties and form one political bloc, just as is the case with the Opposition Coalition?
It is not right to form a coalition with those who just believe in your opinions. In the end, a new system must be constituted. I think the experience of the Opposition Coalition is a historical precedence, and it must be finalized.
Some say that the Houthis kept in touch with Saleh’s security forces. Will you ally yourself with the GPC out of spite to the Islah Party?
Those who are spiteful are the Islahists, who joined Ali Mohsen in the revolution. They understand Ali Mohsen. They know his negative impact on the revolution. If we wanted to use such things, we could have done that earlier.
But, in the end, I believe the GPC is a national party bearing many obligations. The party must think in a new institutional way. The party must look for genuine, acceptable personalities. It must get rid of corrupt people and adopt a new vision.
Let's suppose you become a political party. Will you stop using your slogan “Death to America, Death to Israel….?”
When we prevent foreign interference in our affairs, when we stop people from violating our decisions, when we stop companies from controlling our oil, when we are able to control our gulf, when we know more about the dangers of America, I think we will be able to move to a state of development.
What will the new Yemeni state look like?
The options are many, including federalism. There was a clear vision disclosed by Mr. Abdulmalik Al-Houthi on the Prophet’s Birthday. I think it was clear; among the options is federalism.