Back-and-forth accusations between Islah and Houthis continue mounting
Accusations continue between the Houthis, a Shia group, and the Islah Party, Yemen’s main opposition party, which encompasses the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist factions. The two groups have waged a campaign against one another regarding violence and human rights violations.
Certain officials in the Islah Party say the Houthis resort to frequent violence when dealing with locals in Sa’ada—a governorate in northern Yemen that borders Saudi Arabia—and that there are continuous detentions of those who don’t support Houthis in all Sa’ada districts. The Houthis deny any violations in Sa’ada, saying stability and security is prevalent in all areas of the governorate.
Adnan Al-Odaini, the deputy head of the information department in the Islah Party, said there are clear human rights violations committed against people in Sa’ada owning to the political situation, which triggered rifts between armed groups of some political parties in the governorate and the Houthis. Violations occur in Sa’ada because of the ideologies and the different political viewpoints, Al-Odaini said.
Al-Odaini said feeble government presence in areas including Sa’ada governorate has led to the increased power of armed groups. Citizens cannot exercise their rights through state institutions, and this human rights situation heralds further danger, he said.
Islah-owned media outlets have published many reports saying Houthis launched a broad detention campaign in Sa’ada districts and stormed houses, turning them into military barracks; the Houthis launch continual attacks on the Islah Party headquarters in Sa’ada.
Mohammed Al-Makaleh, a writer and a political activist, said Islah has committed several violations against Houthis in Sana’a’s Change Square, the most recent being months ago at dawn when an Islah group and the First Armored Division assaulted the tents of Houthi campers in the square.
“We have heard the Islah Party accuses the Houthis of committing human rights violations in Sa’ada,” Al-Makaleh said. “Yet we are not certain of the accuracy and veracity of such charges.”
He went on to say, “The Islah Party’s claims are many, which indicates that this party attempts to capitalize on these events to serve its purpose in this dispute.”
Al-Makaleh said the Islah Party thinks the “freedoms and human rights card” could defeat the Houthis, particularly following military confrontations.
“We are against any human rights breaches, be they Houthis or from the Islah Party.”
Citing an example of the Islah Party’s “unfounded” accusations, Al-Makaleh said the Islah Party claimed Houthis murdered a man because of his clothing (trousers) and his good command of the English language.
“In the end, it was discovered that some members of the Islah Party engineered a mortar attack on the man’s house.”
A recent, local report published by the Civic Initiative Support Withaq Foundation disclosed reported crimes and violations against Sa’ada and Hajja civilians from 2004 until 2012, and many of the reports suggested Houthis were responsible for the violations.
The report disclosed that 13,905 violation cases were reported in Sa’ada governorate from June 2004 until December 2011. Reported Houthi-responsible violations in Hajja reached 4,866 from August 2011 to June 2012.
According to the report, death cases allegedly committed by Houthis reached 531, among them 59 children and 48 women. Four hundred ninety-seven houses were reported as either looted or sabotaged.
In Haja governorate, located southwest of Sa’ada, 124 civilian murder cases were allegedly committed by Houthis, the report found. These crimes made up 2.55 percentage of a grand total 4,866 violations.
Abu Hashim, a leading Houthi figure, refuted the claims of the human rights violations in Sa’ada governorate.
“Sa’ada lives in a state of stability and security. What is brought forth by the media is only rumors for the purpose defaming the Houthis.”
The local council, not the Houthis, governs Sa’ada, Hashim said.
Political analyst Ahmed Al-Zurka said the Houthis and Islah Party exchange accusations that could spark future political dispute as the two sides have religious and doctrinal agendas and hope to make political gains through the accusations.
“The exchange of charges could drive to the breakout of further military clashes claiming the lives of innocent civilians,” Al-Zurka said.
He said the ongoing accusations exchange between the two sides is emblematic of the absence of press discipline, which breeds the aggravation of turmoil and doctrinal differences.
He said some attempt to depict the situation in Sa’ada as a doctrinal conflict, and others attempt to project it as a regional conflict between the supporters of Saudi Arabia and Iran. The conflict has grave repercussions on Yemen, Al-Zurka said, asserting that President Abdu Rabu Mnansour Hadi and the National Dialogue Preparatory Committee, as well as political parties, ought to find a solution prior to large conflicts.
“If these disagreements and agitation go on unresolved, it could turn to violence and a military confrontation.”
Murad Al-Saeedi, a human rights activist who launched a campaign against Houthis on Facebook, said there are gross human rights violations committed by Houthis against Sa’ada residents, affirming that there are hundreds of civilian detainees in Houthi prisons.
Saleh Mahfal, the head of the information unit of the Islah Party in Sa’ada, said the Houthis constantly commit human rights violations in the governorate. He said there are attacks, detentions and investigations and months-long torture of some detainees.
“Every day, violations take place in all the districts of Sa’ada because of the spread of the Houthi armed men and the absence of the local council and the public security,” Mahfal said.
Mahfal said he hoped there would be dialogue and understanding in order to establish peace, though there are differences in ideology and standpoints.